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Facts about Cyprus


Area: 9,251 sq km
Capital: Nicosia
Language: Greek, Turkish
Currency: Euro
  Turkish Lira
Population: 784,301
Coastline: 648 sq km

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Union with Greece

Enosis, union with Greece which would have taken place had Greece accepted the British offer in 1915, now become an issue of paramount importance to the local people. An issue that was encouraged by the Orthodox Church, resulting in ferocious riots in 1931 when Government House was burnt to the ground.

After the rebellion had been crushed, the local voice of the people was silenced by the abolition of the Legislative Council. World war II saw an estimated 30,000 Cypriots fighting in the British forces with great loyalty and fervour. At the end of the war the call for Enosis was renewed. A plebiscite engineered by Archbishop Makarios in 1950 showed 96 per cent of Greek Cypriots in favour of Enosis. However it is doubtful , even if the voting percentage was accurate, that the majority of Cypriots knew what they were woting for.

EOKA and Armed Struggle

They did not want any nore colonial rule, and the offer of a new constitution triggered to start of the armed offensive by EOKA (National Organization of Cypriot Fighters) led by George Grivas against continuing British rule. This battle for self-rule started in April 1955 with the b lessing of the Archbishop Makarios.

The request for Enosis was outlawed and Makarios was exiled to the Seychelles in June 1956. His exile was brief and he was allowing to return to Cyprus in 1957.

Greece applied in 1957 and 1958 to the United Nations to grant the right to self-government. The Turkish Cypriot minority, had not been considered of any importance by the Greek Cypriot majortity in their plans for the island, which resulted in Turkey calling for the participation of the island.

An eventual solution was formulated in the Treaty of Zurich, by by which time Grivas and his EOKA rebels had conducted a mission of massacre and terror resulting in a death toll in excess of 500.

The London Accord granting independence to Cyprus was signed on 19th February 1959 by Makarios, Dr Fazil Küçük (on behalf of the Turkish Cypriot Community), and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Greece and Turkey. The aggrement was constructed in such a way as to provide safeguards protecting the minority Turkish Cypriot community, including powers of intervention to Britain, Turkey and Greece.

The Truth Obscured

The Republic of Cyprus became an actuality in August 1960, also joining the United Nations and the British Commonwealth. So much propaganda has been written about the Cyprus problem that at times it becomes very difficult to seperate fact from fabrication. In particular the period from independence in 1960 to the Turkish armed forces intervention of 1974, has suffered from distorted half-truths being spread by the media.

The simple facts are thus: the constitution frovide for a Greek President and Turkish Vice President, each with supposed powers to veto government decisions. This in fact did not happen because of the majority being firmly in favour of the Greeks. The civil service also employed a majority of Greeks. The balance in government and civil service being seventy to thirty per cent, armed forces and police sixty to forty per cent. There was no agreed structure for the army and Makarios decided there should be no armed forces on Cyprus. The legislation vote in the Cyprus House of Representatives required separate majorities from the Greek and Turkish members and the system proved unwieldy and impossible to administer effectively because an honest, simple democracy with majority rule would have had the end result of no voice for the Turkish people.

Towards the end of 1963 Grivas strengthened his pursuit of ENOSIS and heavily criticised Makarios and his government, provoking the EOKA rebels into action which he hoped would achieve the ultimate goal of complete union with Greece. Just before Christmas 1963 (it must be remembered that Christmas is the most important of the Christian festivals, celebrating as it does, the birth of Christ who came into the world to save it from evil), armed Greeks made a foray into the mostly Turkish suburb of Omorphita (now Küçük Kaymakli) in Nicosia and opened fire on the Turkish inhabitants. They killed, captured and then tortured anyone who could not escape. This included the old, children and women.

The turkish people took up arms to defend themselves and formed enclaves in which they could be as secure as possible.

The british set up a buffer zone dividing the city but this attempt to keep the two sides apart proved largely unsuccessful.

In March 1964 the UN troops took over with no better result. Makarios had renounced the conditions of the London Accord making it clear that he intended to pursue the cause of total self rule for Greek Cypriots which would end almost certainly with Enosis. Considerable pressure was applied by the other two guarantor powers with the result that Makarios withdrew his announcment in a radio broadcast. It made little difference, as the Greeks continued in their attempts to crush and exterminate the Turks. If they couldn’t kill them then they would blockade the enclaves and cut off their supplies resulting in widespread hardship.

Continuing armed conflict forced Turkey to threaten military reprisal which was stalled by the military coup in Greece. Now Enosis suddenly became less attractive. There followed a sharp increase in the economy of Cyprus as the island became a favourite holiday destination and the building of new hotels and the development of seaside resorts underwent a major boost.

Grivas returned to Cyprus in 1974 with the intention of heading the armed forces and EOKA-B, but died suddenly of a heart attack. Makrarios was re-elected as President after he renounced the call for Enosis and demanded the withdrawal of mainland Greek officers. This provoked the National Guards into storming the Presidential Palace in Nicosia. Makarios escaped the attempted military coup, which had been supported by the junta in Greece, and Turkey felt it had the right to intervene to prevent further bloodshed.

Early settlers

Expansion and trade

The Iron Age

Persian Rule

Hellenistic Period

Roman period

Byzantine rule

Three Hundred years of French Rule

Venetian Rule

Ottoman Rule

British Control

Union with Greece

The country remains divided

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