Cyprus country profile

  • 23 February 2016
  • From the section Europe
Map of Cyprus

By legend the birthplace of the ancient Greek goddess of love Aphrodite, Cyprus's modern history has, in contrast, been dominated by enmity between its Greek and Turkish inhabitants.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded the north in response to a military coup on the island which was backed by the Athens government.

The island was effectively partitioned with the northern third inhabited by Turkish Cypriots and the southern two-thirds by Greek Cypriots. United Nations troops patrol the "Green Line" dividing the two parts.

Reunification talks have proceeded slowly.

Cyprus successfully diversified its largely agrarian economy into one based on services - including a large tourism sector - and light manufacturing. More recently it has also developed into an important financial hub, especially for investors from Russia and Eastern Europe.


Republic of Cyprus

Capital: Nicosia

  • Population 1.1 million (combined)

  • Area 9,251 sq km (3,572 sq miles) (combined)

  • Major languages Greek, Turkish

  • Major religions Christianity, Islam

  • Life expectancy 78 years (men), 82 years (women) (UN)

  • Currency euro; Turkish lira in the north

Getty Images


President: Nicos Anastasiades

Image copyright Getty Images

Conservative Democratic Rally candidate Nicos Anastasiades won the February 2013 run-off election by one of the biggest margins for many years, promising to do whatever was needed to secure a financial rescue package.

He pledged to hammer out a quick deal with foreign lenders and bring Cyprus closer to Europe, in a shift from the policies of the outgoing Communist government that first sought aid from Russia before turning to the European Union.

He quickly reached agreement with the UN and IMF on a 10bn-euro bank bailout, which was equally quickly amended to safeguard smaller bank accounts after parliament rejected the deal.

On the question of reunification with the separatist Turkish Cypriot north, President Anastasiades welcomed the election of pro-unity Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci in 2015 and immediately agreed to the resumption of hitherto stalled talks.

Turkish Cypriot leader: Mustafa Akinci

Image copyright Getty Images

Mustafa Akinci, a social democrat, swept to victory in the Turkish Cypriot communal presidential election in 2015, promising to push harder for a peace deal in Cyprus. He beat the nationalist incumbent Dervis Eroglu.

As long-serving mayor of the Turkish Cypriot municipality of North Nicosia between 1976 and 1990, Mr Akinci had pioneered cooperation with his southern counterpart on practical sanitation and heritage projects.

This experience illuminates his later devotion to the cause of Cypriot reunification. He founded the Peace and Democracy Movement in 2003 in support of the UN's Annan Plan for a united Cyprus within the European Union, and also advocates a policy of greater independence from Turkey in policy matters.

The Cypriot government welcomed his election.

The status of Northern Cyprus as a separate entity is recognised only by Turkey.


The Cypriot media mirror the island's political division, with the Turkish-controlled zone in the north operating its own press and broadcasters.

Some 95% of Cypriots were online by 2015 and 70% on Facebook.


Some key dates in the history of Cyprus:

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tension between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots degenerated into violence not long after independence

1914 - Cyprus annexed by Britain, after more than 300 years of Ottoman rule. Britain had occupied the island in 1878, although it remained nominally under Ottoman sovereignty.

1955 - Greek Cypriots begin guerrilla war against British rule. The guerrilla movement, the National Organisation of Cypriot Combatants (EOKA), wants enosis (unification) with Greece.

1960 - Britain grants independence to Cyprus under a power-sharing constitution between Turkish and Greek Cypriots, holding intervention rights over the island along with Turkey and Greece.

1963 - President Makarios raises Turkish fears by proposing constitutional changes which would abrogate power-sharing arrangements. Inter-communal violence erupts. Turkish side withdraws from power-sharing.

1974 - Military junta in Greece backs coup against Makarios, who escapes. Within days Turkish troops land in north. Coup collapses. Turkish forces occupy a third of the island. Greek and Turkish Cypriots flee in opposite directions.

1983 - Rauf Denktash declares the breakaway state of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognised only by Turkey.

2003 - Turkish and Greek Cypriots cross island's dividing "green line" for first time in 30 years after Turkish Cypriot authorities ease border restrictions.

2004 - Cyprus joins the EU, but does so as a divided island.

2011 - Cyprus becomes entangled in the euro-zone debt crisis. It secures a 10-billion-euro aid package to prevent its collapse and a possible exit from the euro zone.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The tourist area of Varosha in northern Cyprus was fenced off by after the invading Turkish army and many of its hotels are now abandoned ruins

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