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Cyprus Issues

Cyprus is strategically located in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea and the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sicily and Sardia. These three geographic characteristics -location, size, and the fact that it is an island- have been an ‘ important factor in the ethnic conflict in Cyprus. The island is about 65 kilometres (42 miles) south of Turkey, 103 km (64 miles) of Syria, 386 km (240 miles) of the north of Egypt and the Suez Canal, and 800 km (500 miles) of south-east of th Greek mainland. It has an area of 3,572 square miles (9, 851 square kilometres) and the island is divided between the Greek Cypriot South and the Turkish Cypriot North. According to the census of 1960, the travel population of the island was about 77 percent Greeks, 18.3 percent Turks and 4.7 percent other ethnic groups, such as Maronites, Armenians, and Latins. Today, the population of the South is estimated to be 629,500 (1998). According to the 1996 census in the North, the population there is 200,587, constituting just over 24 percent of the total population of the Island. The Greek Cypriots are Orthodox Christians ad speak Greek. On the other hand, The Turkish Cypriots are in Muslim faith and speak Turkish.


Because of its strategic position on the main routes between Europe and Asia, Cyprus has been the focus of the political conflict and the cultural interaction. Cyprus was colonized in about the thirteenth century BC by settlers from the Aegean and Greek colonists. Despite many invasions and periods of foreign rule, Greek language and culture became dominant. During the Medieval period, Cyprus has been held by the Western powers. In 1571, the island was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. Under the Ottoman rule, the Greek and Turkish populations have lived relatively peacefully in which they have collaborated to protest against the Ottoman rule when it was accused of excessive taxation.

In 1878, Britain leased Cyprus from the Ottoman Empire to be used as a base from which to protect the Ottoman Empire against the ambitions of Russia. In 1914, the island was annexed by Britain on the outbreak of war with the Ottoman Empire. After Cyprus became a “Crown Colony” of Britain in 1925, the Greek Cypriots began their long and intense struggle against British rule to achieve the part of the Megali Idea (Great Idea): Enosis (unification with Greece). During the early period of British administration (1878- 1925), the two ethnic communities lived in relative functional harmony with physical intermixing and social tolerance but without cultural integration. Between 1925 and 1960 Cyprus conflict can be defined like this: the Greek Cypriots agitating for Enosis, the Turkish Cypriots opposing the movement, and the British Government replying in the negative to the Enosis demands.

In 1950, Makarios, who would later become the first president of the Republic of Cyprus, was elected Archbishop. Under the auspice of the Greek Orthodox Church, an island-wide plebiscite called for an overwhelming support for Enosis (% 96). With the establishment of the EOKA (Ethnici Organosis Kyprion Agoniston-National Organization of Cypriot Cornbatants) an underground guerrilla organization, the Greek self-determination campaign began in 1 955.

Because of their strategic interests in Middle East, the British resisted self-determination and Enosis. The British eventually concluded that their interests could best be served by retaining the sovereignty of their military bases on the island and by achieving a political settlement that would satisfy the interests of the majority Greek community on the island while protecting the interests of the minority Turkish community. Prior to 1955, Turkey and Turkish Cypriots never actively involved in the politics of Cyprus. However, the immediate danger of Enosis forced them to re-examine their interests in Cyprus. In particular, Turkey expressed its concern about the future of a Turkish minority under the majority of the Greek Cypriot rule. Moreover, Turkey had strategic concern about the extension of Greek territory under its apse”. As a result, the Turkish Cypriots aligned themselves with the British, adopted taksim (partition) as a counter to Enosis and formed a paramilitary organization (TMT-Turkish Resistance Organization) to defend their interests.

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