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Cyprus's Information

Flag of Cyprus
Land Area 9,241 km2
Water Area 10 km2
Total Area 9,251km2 (#162)
Population 1,205,575 (#159)
Population Density 130.46/km2
Government Type Republic Of Cyprus - Presidential Democracy; Turkish Republic Of Northern Cyprus (self-declared) - Semi-presidential Democracy
GDP (PPP) $29.26 Billion
GDP Per Capita $34,400
Currency Euro (EUR)
Largest Cities

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades announced march 18th 2014 that he is battling against eurozone demands that all Cyprus bank customers pay a one-time levy in return for a bailout. Mr Anastasiades said he shared people's unhappiness with the terms, whereby ALL BANK CUSTOMERS would pay a levy of 6.75% or 10% on their bank deposits. The EU and IMF have demanded the levy in return for a 10bn-euro ($13bn; £8.6bn) bank bailout. Mr Anastasiades said it was the worst crisis since Turkey invaded in 1974. The worst crisis is that politicians are in charge!

Cyprus, a onetime Greek colony and the site of many military incursions over the centuries, is still today, an island in conflict between two opposing factions.

It all began some 12,000 years ago, as archeologists have confirmed hunter-gatherer activity on the island, with some settled villages around 8200 BC.

The island was part of the Hittite empire, a late Bronze Age force from Turkey, until the arrival of Greek traders who started visiting Cyprus around 1400 BC.

If you're familiar with Greek mythology, you'll know that Cyprus played a very important role as it was the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite and Adonis, and home to King Cinyras and Pygmalion.

Until it became a part of the Byzantine Empire near 400 AD, Cyprus was part of the Assyria Empire, ruled briefly by Egypt, controlled by the Persians, then annexed by the Romans in 58 BC.

As for Byzantine (or the Eastern Roman Empire) rule, it was an era of debilitating raids and wars that continued for hundreds of years. Many thousands were killed and many cities were destroyed, never to be rebuilt.

Adding to the on-going intrigue of this much-coveted island, Richard I of England captured it during the Third Crusade (circa 1191) and used it as a supply base. He later sold it to the Knights Templar.

At the end of 12th century the King of Cyprus asked the Pope in Rome to establish the Catholic church in Cyprus in order to facilitate the conversion of the population who belonged to the Greek Orthodox Church.

And then the powerful Venetians paid a lengthy visit, they snatched control of the island and formally annexed Cyprus into their growing empire in 1489.

The Venetians fortified many cities and used Famagusta and Nicosia as important commercial hubs. During that time their main adversary - the Ottoman Empire - frequently attacked the island trying to seize control.

It was during the Venetian era that two distinct societies emerged; one consisted mostly of Italian merchants and their families, while the other segment was comprised of Greek Cypriots - the majority of island population.

At the height of its power the Ottoman Empire (Turks) controlled territory in southeastern Europe, southwestern Asia, and North Africa, and in 1570 (with an overwhelming force) brought Cyprus under its control.

It was a brutal transition as in Nicosia alone, tens of thousands of locals were executed and all public buildings (and churches) were looted. The Catholic Church was eliminated but the Greek Orthodox Church was allowed to continue.

Turks began to arrive in great numbers and settled on the island. This migration caused two separate communities to form, one of mostly Greek Cypriots, and the other comprised of Turkish Muslims.

By the middle of the 19th century the population was near 150,000, and of those, some 100,000 were Greek Cypriots. Unhappy with the repressive Turkish rule and the on-going poverty, a strong feeling of nationalism surfaced within the Greek population.

In 1878, the Turkish Sultan ceded Cyprus to the British in exchange for guarantees that Britain would use the island as a base, and protect the Ottoman Empire from the Russians; they agreed.

The island consequently served Britain as a key military base along its crucial main route to India, which was Britain's most important colony of that time.

In 1914, when Turkey entered World War I on the side of Germany, Britain offered Cyprus to Constantine I of Greece on condition that Greece join the war on the side of the British; Constantine declined.

This page was last updated on July 10, 2020.

About the Author

John Moen is a cartographer who along with his wife are the orignal founders of worldatlas.com. He and his wife, Chris Woolwine-Moen, produced thousands of award-winning maps that are used all over the world and content that aids students, teachers, travelers and parents with their geography and map questions. Today, it's one of the most popular educational sites on the web.

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