Brief Modern History of Cyprus
Updated 11 April 2013
First Section edited October 2004
Until 1974 the population of Cyprus was approximately 80%
Greek Cypriot, 18% Turkish Cypriot, with the other 2% made up of other
nationalities. The two main groups lived in all parts of the island. There
were Greek & Turkish villages throughout the island - it was not the case
that the Greeks lived in the south and the Turks in the north, and indeed
Kyrenia was an overwhelmingly Greek Cypriot town.
From 1878 until independence in 1960, Cyprus was a
British colony. During the 1950s there was a campaign among Greek Cypriots
for union with Greece, "Enosis". The organisation which led the campaign was
EOKA, which fought the British army. EOKA was led by Archbishop Makarios,
who was exiled to Seychelles for a period. Turkey was against Enosis,
instead favouring partition of the island. Then the British made the fatal
mistake of recruiting Turkish Cypriots into the police force to help in the
campaign against EOKA, which increased the tension and hostility between the
Eventually, Greece, Turkey and Britain imposed
independence on the Cypriots with a constitution which gave the Turkish
Cypriots power and influence way beyond their proportion of the population,
and a veto on most decisions. Archbishop Makarios III became President. The
independence constitution did not work, and this led to problems between the
communities through the 1960s right up to 1974.
In 1974 Greece was led by a military junta - the
Colonels. They initiated a coup in July 1974, replacing Makarios with an
extreme EOKA leader who still sought Enosis. This led directly to a Turkish
invasion on 21 July 1974. Although there were numerous UN resolutions
ordering the fighting to stop and the invading army to withdraw, Turkey
ignored them all, and did not stop until 17 August when they had occupied
38% of the island, and made almost a quarter of a million Greek Cypriots
refugees - Greek Cypriots fled south as the Turkish army advanced.
This remains the position at the time of writing (March
2002). The northern 38% of Cyprus is under Turkish army occupation, with the
island divided by a so-called green line. There is only one official
crossing point - the Ledra Palace hotel in Nicosia, the last remaining
divided European city following the re-unification of Berlin. To those who
go north it is like entering a time-warp: the modernisation of Cyprus has
left the Turkish occupied north behind, numerous former Greek Cypriot
villages are now merely Turkish army camps, and Turkish army convoys are the
most frequent vehicles on the roads.
Visitors should remember these facts when touring the
island. Go to the green line museum on Ledra street in Nicosia. Go to
Deryneia and view the deserted resort of Famagusta - from where the tourists
were forced to flee by the Turkish army in August 1974 - which has remained
untouched ever since. Look at the deserted village of Achna. Remember the
sacrifices your hosts have had to endure, and marvel at the welcome they
offer to their visitors. Nowhere will you be more welcome, and as they say
in Cyprus, you will return - time and time again.
Adapted from the Prologue of Emerald
Aphrodite, written by Roger Dawson & published by Kyriakou Books,
In September 2002, after an absence of 11 years, a day trip was made to
Turkish occupied Northern Cyprus. These pictures were taken on that trip.
Despite the 28 years of occupation Belapais Abbey remains a spectacular
building commanding magnificent views over the northern coastline. However
the forces of occupation make their presence felt even at this
historical site. Both the flag of the Muslim Turkish occupying forces, and
their northern puppet-state, fly above this Greek Orthodox abbey.
During the drive from Belapais to Famagusta at least 3 huge Turkish
army encampments had to be negotiated. The old city of Famagusta has not
changed, much of it was Turkish before the occupation of 1974. But the
primarily Greek Cypriot resort of Famagusta remains largely derelict. The
coastal area between the old city and the resort is totally occupied by
the Turkish army, apartment blocks have been commandeered for the troops,
and seaside villas for the officers.
Many of the resort hotels remain as
they were left by the bombing of the Turkish air force in August 1974,
while the rest of the holiday resort which was undamaged by the fighting
has been fenced off, kept out-of-bounds and left to rot for the last 28
years. The surprising thing is that some people even go to this place for
their holidays - it is doubtful if they would ever return!
In November 2002 the UN began another determined attempt
to re-unite Cyprus, through the so-called Annan plan. This was discussed
through the winter, and a revised version was discussed by the President of
Cyprus and Rauf Denktash leader of the Turkish occupied north of Cyprus.
After face to face discussions in March, and despite several demonstrations
of up to 100,000 Turkish Cypriots in favour of a settlement in the north,
Denktash finally rejected the settlement proposals. Nevertheless, despite
the continuing division, the European Union accepted Cyprus into the EU from
1 May 2004.
Then out of the blue on 23 April 2003 Denktash announced
that he would unilaterally lift the travel restrictions that had been
enforced since the Turkish invasion of 1974, which meant that no Greek
Cypriots were allowed to cross into the north, and no Turkish Cypriots were
allowed by the northern regime to cross into the south.
Taken totally by surprise the Government of Cyprus had no
alternative but to go along with this development. Over the Greek Easter
holiday tens of thousands of Cypriots stood for hours waiting to cross the
border, and by 3 May it is estimated that more than 170,000 had taken
advantage of the lifting of restrictions.
On 1 May 2003 the Government of Cyprus went even further
and lifted the trade embargo with the north that had existed since 1974.
They began actively encouraging Turkish Cypriots (unemployment in the north
is over 50%) to apply to work in the south, and for southern businesses to
trade with the north.
It seemed then that a momentum towards re-unification has
One group who became casualties of the new situation were
some ex-patriots, mainly British, who were ill-advised enough to have
“bought” property and land in the north of Cyprus from Turkish Cypriots who
did not own the land. A number of them have already been surprised when the
real Greek Cypriot owners of the land and/or house that they had “bought”
have arrived to visit the property from which they were expelled as refugees
in 1974, some bringing the title deeds with them to prove ownership! Any
“buyer” who finds themselves in such a situation have only themselves to
blame – it was widely known by anyone who chose to look into the situation
that most of the land in Turkish occupied northern Cyprus, particularly that
in the attractive coastal areas, was Greek owned.
The approach of Cyprus’ entry to the EU on 1 May 2004
caused a renewed effort to re-unite Cyprus to be begun. The Annan plan was
taken off the shelf, dusted down and renewed efforts were made to reach a
settlement based upon it. Some changes to the original plan were agreed, but
it still proved impossible to get the Greek & Turkish Cypriots to agree. In
the end, with the support of both Greece & Turkey, the United Nations
arranged for a referendum to be held in both parts of Cyprus on 24 April.
The campaign in the Republic was fierce, with the President making an
emotional appeal on TV for a no vote, the Greek Cypriots took most of the
rest of the world by surprise and voted no, whereas the Turkish Cypriots
voted yes. This result was treaded with dismay by both the EU and the UN. It
seemed to many that after being regarded as the injured party for 30 years
by voting no the Greek Cypriots had succeeded overnight in making the
Turkish Cypriots the injured party, with all the international sympathy
transferred to them.
The outcome was a puzzle to many who could not understand
why after 30 years of seeking a settlement, the Greek Cypriots should turn
their back upon it when the opportunity arose. There is a very simple
answer. The majority of Greek Cypriots said no simply because they were not
prepared to legitimise the presence of Turkish troops on Cyprus, that same
Turkish army which in the summer of 1974 had invaded their island and made
so many of them refugees. That was the single most important reason why they
voted “no”. Will there be another chance? Who knows – watch this space...
The EU have adopted a new Regulation dealing with the
so-called Green Line. It now seems that there will be a requirement on the
Republic to allow all EU citizens to cross this line in either direction,
and that it will in future be possible for tourists to cross into the north
and spend part of their holiday there. The position of the ports of entry in
the north is less clear, whether or not an EU citizen arriving in the north
will be able to cross to the south is still uncertain, but it appeared that
immediately after this passage of this EU Regulation this was in fact being
allowed, but this could change.
For the most comprehensive reports in the British press see this link:
This Section added 11 April 2013
The years from January 2004 to April
2013 have seen very mixed fortunes for the modern history of Cyprus. The first 4
years saw optimism about the future rocket, and with it the accelerating pace of
uncontrolled and excessive development – everyone wanted to cash in on the boom.
Too many houses were built, often without any regard for the infrastructure
around new developments. Some were done well, others were a mess.
At the beginning of 2008 Cyprus made the
fatal mistake of joining the Euro. Just as the world financial crisis was
beginning it was the worst possible time to join a fixed exchange mechanism over
which the country had neither control nor influence. The conversion rate for
Cyprus pounds in Euros was far too high, and led to severe inflation. Items that
were priced at 10 Cyprus pounds, were converted to a price of 17 Euros, which
soon became 20 Euros. The huge rise in the price of animal feedstuffs and
cereals caused by the EU’s agricultural policy had already caused inflation with
Cyprus’ accession to the EU in 2004, but this was intensified with the coming of
the Euro in 2008.
So as the world depression began Cyprus
was already beginning to suffer, which was made worse by the inflation. Visitors
and expatriates began to spend less on meals out and in bars and tavernas. The
coming of the Euro also led to a huge unsustainable expansion in banking, with
Russian money being invested the banks grew beyond their means. Because the
Cyprus economy was so small, those bank deposits were invested in Greece.
However, when Greece crashed most of those deposits were lost, leading to the
events of March 2013, when the Eurogroup, led by Germany, used Cyprus to teach
the “Club Med” countries the facts of life – that Germany was no longer prepared
to bail them out and they would have to suffer austerity to save the Euro for
the benefit of the northern members of the Eurogroup . The net result is that
the Cyprus economy will probably shrink by at least 20% by the end of 2014, with
the consequential rise in unemployment and misery for Cypriots.
However, Cyprus remains a wonderful
place for a holiday – the skies are blue and the sea is warm. The tavernas will
adjust to the new reality and may even reduce their prices to gain more
business. The crisis may even lead to another serious attempt to reunite the
island, which would be good for both sides. Watch this space!
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