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What Should I Know About Cyprus?

Great Britain held control of Cyprus from 1878 to 1960.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 April 2014
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The Republic of Cyprus is an island country that is located in the Mediterranean Sea. Positioned to the south of Turkey, it is one of the largest islands in the region, with a reputation as a popular tourist destination. Cyprus used to be a British Colony, but it gained independence in 1960, achieving commonwealth-republic status one year later. The country joined the European Union in 2004.

Cyprus dates back to prehistoric times, and scientists believe its earliest human presence existed on the island of Aetokremnos. From discoveries in this location, scientists have been able to deduce that early inhabitants of the island were hunter/gathers. Over many years, people spread out on Cyprus, and various civilizations and cultures emerged. The island country was ruled by a variety of different countries at various times, including Egypt and Persia, eventually ending up in the hands of the Ottoman Empire.

In 1878, Cyprus fell under British rule. This was the result of a trade between the Ottoman Empire and Britain. In exchange for British support during the Russian-Turkish war, the Ottoman Empire gave control of the island to the British. This was not a smooth and uncomplicated change, as the people of Cyprus nursed a desire to be united with Greece. In fact, the British were only able to entice Cypriots to join the British army by promising them this unification.

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The Cypriots were to remain unsatisfied for quite some time. It was not until the 1950s that they were able to make strides towards independence from Britain. In 1955, the National Organization of Cypriot Fighters engaged in an armed battle with Britain, struggling to put an end to colonization. The struggle lasted until 1960, when Cyprus achieved independence. However, it was unsuccessful in achieving its bid for annexation with Greece.

Turkey invaded the island in 1974 and was successful in claiming approximately one third of the island. Numerous native Cypriots were displaced as a result of this invasion, and a Turkish political presence was formed on the island. Over the years, this invasion and the resulting changes remained a source of tension between the Greek and the Turkish Cypriots. In fact, the Turkish established a separate governmental entity, called the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Today, Cyprus is still independent, with a government that is headed by an elected president. Each president serves a term of five years. It also has a House of Representatives and a Council of Ministers who are appointed by the president. The island has a system of courts that is used to doll out justice to its citizens.

For visitors to Cyprus, it is best to prepare for a Mediterranean climate. The summer months tend to be extremely hot while winters are wet with mild temperatures that usually hover between 44 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit (five to 15 degrees Celsius). Summers are typically dry. They are often marked by drought conditions.

The majority of the people on the island are of Greek descent. They make up about 78 percent of the population. About 18 percent of the population is Turkish. Most of the island’s citizens belong to the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Cyprus. However, the majority of the Turkish Cypriots are Muslim.

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