The present Cyprus (the Greek-Cypriote republic) is a rather young
state. The island became an
independent republic in 1960. Its situation close to Europe, Asia Minor
and Africa makes it easy to understand that things have not always been
quiet in Cyprus. Indeed, during the course of time the island has been
occupied and ruled by almost everyone who had some kind of political or
economic interest in the Mediterranean basin.
Already around 5.800 BC people were living in Cyprus. Because of the
presence of cupper the island very quickly became an important trade
center. Egyptians, Mycenaean's, Phoenicians, Persians, Macedonians and
Romans : all have used it either for political or for economic purposes
(and sometimes in a rather oppressive way). The Greek influence, however,
has always been the most dominant.
In 45 AD Saint Paul and Saint Barnaby brought Christianity to Cyprus,
which resulted during the Roman Empire in the construction of numerous
churches and monasteries. Salamis became the new capital. When in 488 AD
the tomb of Saint Barnaby was discovered, Anthemios the then archbishop of Cyprus, managed to have the
Cypriote church declared as
"autokephalos" (or : equal to the church of Constantinople).
From 647 until 965 Cyprus was regularly invaded by Arabs. The Byzantine
Emperor Nicephorus II succeeded in chasing the Arabs again from the
island. This event was the start of the golden Byzantine era for Cyprus.
By this time Nicosia, which had been founded at the end of the 7th
century, became the most important city of the island.
After 1191 Cyprus was conquered by Richard
Lion heart, who
gave it to the Knights of the Temple. Later, rule over the island was given to
Guy de Lusignan, de deposed king of Jerusalem. The Lusignans brought the feudal
system to Cyprus and enslaved the inhabitants. After the crusades,
the island was flooded by Christian refugees. The economy continued to
flourish which caused more rivalry with Genoa and Venice. The last king of
the Lusignans, James II, made a pact with Venice and married the Venetian
Catharina Cornaro. Shortly after his marriage James (as well as his son)
died in mysterious circumstances. In order to withstand the attacks of the
Osmans, Catharina then ceded her throne to Venice.
meantime Venice had lost its dominant trade position because of the
discovery of new trade routes in the Atlantic Ocean. In 1570 the
Ottomans took advantage of the weakened position of Venice and captured
Cyprus. The Ottoman Turk abolished the feudal system, recognized the
Greek-Orthodox religion en changed the catholic churches in mosques.
However, local Turkish civil servants milked the population and the
economic outlook of the island weakened. In 1641 the population had gone
down to 25.000. In 1754 the Sultan recognized the orthodox archbishop as
leader of the Cypriote church, thereby making him the leader of the
Greek-Cypriote people. During the Turkish rule a lot of uprisings took
place to make the island independent.
the war between Russia and Turkey in 1828-1829 the British choose the
side of Turkey. As a result Great-Britain received the rule over Cyprus
as reward. The taxes, however, continued to go to the Sultan. The
socio-economic situation improved considerably, but discontent among the
inhabitants against the British grew because self-rule failed to come. When
Turkey choose the side of Germany in 1914, the British annexed Cyprus.
Two years later the island became a Crown
colony. After the second World
War the cry for "Enosis" (= union with mainland Greece) became
louder and louder. There was an increase of armed rebellion against
British rule. The Turkish Cypriots became more an more afraid that
Cyprus would be dominated by Greece, thereby making them a minority. On
the 16th of August negotiations in the UN resulted in Cyprus becoming
independent. Archbishop Makarios became president and Fazil Küçük
vice-president. In the following period mistrust between the two
populations continued to grow.
July 1974 the
staged a coup d'état to remove Makarios.
Turkish troops invaded Cyprus to protect the Turkish Cypriots. Very
quickly the Turkish held 37% of the island. About 200.000 Greek-Cypriots
had to leave their villages and houses in the north and move south. A
demarcation line (passing through Nicosia) split the island in two
parts. In 1987 the Turkish Cypriots declared themselves independent.
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