Study the ancient and modern history of Cyprus, the third-largest Mediterranean island. Read this country profile to learn how Cyprus became an independent nation. This resource also includes information about the country's geography and government.
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Map of Cyprus
Map of Cyprus
Republic of Cyprus

National name: Kypriaki Dimokratia—Kibris Cumhuriyeti

President: Dimitris Christofias (2008)

Current government officials

Land area: 3,568 sq mi (9,241 sq km); total area: 3,571 sq mi ()

Population (2008 est.): 792,604 (growth rate: 0.5%); birth rate: 12.5/1000; infant mortality rate: 6.7/1000; life expectancy: 78; density per sq km: 85

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Lefkosia (Nicosia) (in government-controlled area), 197,600

Monetary unit: Euro

Languages: Greek, Turkish (both official); English

Ethnicity/race: Greek 77%, Turkish 18% (each concentrated almost exclusively in separate areas); other 5% (2001)

National Holiday: Independence Day, October 1

Religions: Greek Orthodox 78%, Islam 18%, Maronite, other (includes Maronite and Armenian Apostolic) 4%

Literacy rate: 98% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP: Greek Cypriot area (2007 est.): $21.41 billion; $27,100 per capita; Turkish Cypriot area (2007 est.): $4.54 billion; $7,135 per capita (2007 est.). Real growth rate: Greek Cypriot area: 3.9%; Turkish Cypriot area: 10.6%. Inflation: Greek Cypriot area: 2.3% (2007 est.); Turkish Cypriot area: 9.1% (2004 est.). Unemployment: Greek Cypriot area: 3.8% (2005 est.); Turkish Cypriot area: 5.6% (2004 est.). Arable land: 10.8%. Agriculture: citrus, vegetables, barley, grapes, olives, vegetables; poultry, pork, lamb; dairy, cheese. Labor force: Greek Cypriot area: 380,000; Turkish Cypriot area: 95,025 (2006 est.); Greek Cypriot area: agriculture 7.4%, industry 38.2%, services 54.4%; Turkish Cypriot area: agriculture 14.5%, industry 29%, services 56.5% (2004 est.). Industries: tourism, food and beverage processing, cement and gypsum production, ship repair and refurbishment, textiles, light chemicals, metal products, wood, paper, stone, and clay products. Natural resources: copper, pyrites, asbestos, gypsum, timber, salt, marble, clay earth pigment. Exports: Greek Cypriot area: $1.5 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.): citrus, potatoes, pharmaceuticals, cement, clothing and cigarettes; Turkish Cypriot area: $69 million f.o.b. (2007 est.): citrus, potatoes, textiles. Imports: Greek Cypriot area: $6.9 billion (f.o.b., 2007 est.): consumer goods, petroleum and lubricants, intermediate goods, machinery, transport equipment; Turkish Cypriot area: $415.2 million (f.o.b., 2007 est.): vehicles, fuel, cigarettes, food, minerals, chemicals, machinery. Major trading partners: UK, Greece, Germany, UAE, France, Italy, Japan, Israel, Netherlands, China (2006).

Member of Commonwealth of Nations

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: Greek Cypriot area: 408,300 (2006); Turkish Cypriot area: 86,228 (2002); mobile cellular: Greek Cypriot area: 777,500 (2006); Turkish Cypriot area: 143,178 (2002). Radio broadcast stations: Greek Cypriot area: AM 5, FM 76, shortwave 0 (2004); Turkish Cypriot area: AM 1, FM 20, shortwave 1 (2004). Television broadcast stations: Greek Cypriot area: 8; Turkish Cypriot area: 2 (plus 4 relay) (2004). Internet hosts: 36,964 (2007). Internet users: 356,600 (2006).

Transportation: Railways: 0 km. Highways: total: Greek Cypriot area: 12,280 km; Turkish Cypriot area: 2,350 km; paved: Greek Cypriot area: 7,979 km; Turkish Cypriot area: 1,370 km; unpaved: Greek Cypriot area: 4,301 km (2005); Turkish Cypriot area: 980 km (2006). Ports and harbors: Famagusta, Kyrenia, Larnaca, Limassol, Vasilikos. Airports: 16 (2007).

International disputes: hostilities in 1974 divided the island into two de facto autonomous entities, the internationally recognized Cypriot Government and a Turkish-Cypriot community (north Cyprus); the 1,000-strong UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) has served in Cyprus since 1964 and maintains the buffer zone between north and south; March 2003 reunification talks failed, but Turkish-Cypriots later opened their borders to temporary visits by Greek Cypriots; on 24 April 2004, the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities voted in simultaneous and parallel referenda on whether to approve the UN-brokered Annan Plan that would have ended the thirty-year division of the island by establishing a new "United Cyprus Republic," a majority of Greek Cypriots voted "no"; on 1 May 2004, Cyprus entered the European Union still divided, with the EU's body of legislation and standards (acquis communitaire) suspended in the north.

Flag of Cyprus

Geography | Government | History


The third-largest island in the Mediterranean (one and one-half times the size of Delaware), Cyprus lies off the southern coast of Turkey and the western shore of Syria. The highest peak is Mount Olympus at 6,406 ft (1,953 m).


Republic. Mediation efforts by the UN seek to reunify the Greek and Turkish areas of the island under one federated system of government.


Cyprus was the site of early Phoenician and Greek colonies. For centuries its rule passed through many hands. It fell to the Turks in 1571, and a large Turkish colony settled on the island.

In World War I, at the outbreak of hostilities with Turkey, Britain annexed the island. It was declared a Crown colony in 1925. The Greek population, which regarded Greece as its mother country, sought self-determination and union (enosis) with Greece. In 1955, a guerrilla war against British rule was launched by the National Organization of Cypriot Combatants (EOKA). In 1958, Greek Cypriot nationalist leader Archbishop Makarios began calling for Cypriot independence rather than union with Greece. During this period, Turkish Cypriots began demanding that the island be partitioned between the Greek and Turkish populations.

Cyprus became an independent nation on Aug. 16, 1960, after Greek and Turkish Cypriots agreed on a constitution, which excluded both the possibility of partition as well as of union with Greece. Makarios became the country's first president.

Fighting between Greek and Turkish Cypriots flared up in the early 1960s, and a UN peacekeeping force was sent to the island in 1965. On July 15, 1974, Archbishop Makarios was overthrown in a military coup led by the Cypriot National Guard. On July 20, Turkey invaded Cyprus, asserting its right to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority. Turkey gained control of 30% of northern Cyprus and displaced some 180,000 Greek Cypriots. A UN-sponsored cease-fire was established on July 22, and Turkish troops were permitted to remain in the north. In Dec. 1974, Makarios again assumed the presidency. The following year, the island was partitioned into Greek and Turkish territories separated by a UN-occupied buffer zone.

Turkish Cypriots proclaimed a separate state under Rauf Denktash in the northern part of the island on Nov. 15, 1983, naming it the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.” The UN Security Council, in its Resolution 541 of Nov. 18, 1983, declared this action illegal and called for withdrawal. No country except Turkey has recognized this entity.

In 1988, George Vassiliou, a conservative and critic of UN proposals to reunify Cyprus, became president. The purchase of missiles capable of reaching the Turkish coast evoked threats of retaliation from Turkey in 1997, and Cyprus's plans to deploy more missiles in Aug. 1999 again raised Turkey's ire.

The continued strife between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots threatened Cyprus's potential EU membership—it had met all the economic standards—and provided a great incentive to both sides to resolve their differences. UN-sponsored talks between the Greek and Turkish leaders, Kleridas and Denktash, continued intensively in 2002, but without resolution. In Dec. 2002, the EU invited Cyprus to join in 2004, provided the UN plan was accepted by February 2003. Without reunification, only Greek Cyprus was to be welcomed into the EU. But just weeks before the UN deadline, President Kleridas was defeated by right-wing candidate Tassos Papadopoulos, a hard-liner on reunification. The UN deadline passed, and the UN declared that the talks had failed. In April 2004, dual referendums were held, with the Greek side overwhelmingly rejecting the most recent UN reunification plan, and the Turkish side voting in favor. In May, Greek Cyprus alone became a part of the EU.

In April 2005, Turkish Cyprus elected pro-reunification leader Mehmet Ali Talat as their president, ousting longtime leader Rauf Denktash, who staunchly opposed reunification. In July 2006, the UN sponsored talks between President Papadopolous and Talat.

In the second round of presidential elections in February 2008, Community Party leader Dimitris Christofias won 53.4% of the vote, defeating right-wing candidate Ioannis Kasoulidis, who took 46.6%. Christofias, who is Cyprus's first Commnunist president, vowed to work toward reunification and said he would meet with the Turkish Cypriot president, Talat. Papadopoulos was eliminated in the first round of voting.

On March 21, 2008, President Christofias started talks of reunification with Turkish Cypriot president, Talat, as promised.

On April 4, 2008, Ledra Street Crossing was torn down—an important symbolic step towards reunification. The checkpoint divided Greek and Turkish Cypriots in the capital city of Nicosia for decades.


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