Cypriot history at a glance

Situated at the crossroads of three continents, Cyprus has been subject to influence and dominance of a broad variety of rulers and their cultures. In 1571, Cyprus became part of the Ottoman Empire. Some early decisions of the new rulers were welcome innovations; the feudal system was abolished, and the freed serfs were enabled to acquire land and work their own farms. Another action of far-reaching importance was the granting of land to Turkish soldiers and peasants who became the nucleus of the island's Turkish community. However, misrule forged the Greek nationalist movement and in the 19th century, enosis , the idea of uniting all Greek lands with the newly independent Greek mainland, became firmly rooted among educated Greek Cypriots.

In exchange for British support of the Empire against Russian aggression, the Ottoman sultan consented to assign Cyprus to be occupied and administered by Great Britain in 1878. In 1913, Britain annexed the island. During the course of World War I, Britain offered the island to Greece as an inducement to enter the war on the side of the Entente Powers, but the offer was turned down in order to retain the Greek policy of neutrality. After the war, Turkey formally ceded all claims on Cyprus and the island became a British crown colony in 1925. Agitation for enosis continued among the Greek Cypriots and in 1931 an open rebellion broke out againts the British rulers. While put on hold during World War II, the claims for enosis increased after its end. At the same time, the Cypriot Turks' identification with Turkey grew stronger. Moreover, they became increasingly convinced that, in case of enosis , the only way to protect Turkish interests was a division of the island. In 1955, the National Organization of Cypriot Fighters (Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston , EOKA) campaigned against the British rule by attacking the police, military and government institutions. More than 100 British were killed and the attacks also intensified the tensions between the Greek and the Turkish communities. The Turkish Resistance Organization was established to fight the EOKA, and by 1957, the island was on the verge of a civil war.

In 1958, representatives from Greece and Turkey met to discuss the Cypriot issue and agreed upon the establishment of Cypriot independence. Independence was granted in 1960 and the new constitution provided for a presidential system of government with independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches, as well as a complex system of checks and balances, including a weighted power-sharing ratio designed to protect the interests of the Turkish Cypriots. However, political disputes soon erupted and the government collapsed. Intense inter-communal fighting broke out in 1963 and the Cypriot Turks withdrew from government affairs. UN peacekeeping forces were deployed on the island from 1964, but inter-communal talks during the ten-year period from 1964 to 1974 were all unsuccessful. The Greek military junta and the Greek Cypriot right wing pro-enosis paramilitary organization, EOKA-B, joint attempts to overthrow the Cypriot regime on July 15, 1974 brought Greece to the brink of war with Turkey and resulted in the Turkish military intervention of Cyprus five days later. At a conference in August the same year, Turkey demanded a federal system of government with 34 percent of the land under Turkish Cypriot control. As the demand was not immediately accepted, new Turkish attacks were initiated and more territory was occupied. By the time a permanent ceasefire was called, Turkish troops controlled about 36-38 percent of the land. The division line separating the two communities after the ceasefire, commonly known as the Green Line, led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people.

The Turkish Federal State of Cyprus (TFSC) was declared in 1975. Notwithstanding progress with respect to agreement on the islands federal structure, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was announced in 1983. No country except Turkey recognized the new state. Dialogues between representatives of the two communities were repeatedly organized in the 20-year period that followed.

Both communities soon developed political systems based on the European model, with parties representing mainstream political opinion from right to left. Greek Cypriots had two older parties dating from before 1970, the Progressive Party of the Working People (AKEL) and the United Democratic Union of Cyprus (EDEK), and some formed after the events of 1974. The two most important of these newer parties were the Democratic Party (DIKO) and the Democratic Rally (DISI). Parliamentary elections held in 1976, 1981, and 1985 resulted in stable patterns in the House of Representatives that permitted coalition-building and a serious opposition to the government in power.

The Turkish Cypriots' progress to parliamentary democracy was not as easy. First they had to build a new state. Rauf Denktas, who had been the political leader of the Turkish Cypriot community since the 1970s, was elected president of the TRNC. A number of political parties were active in the area occupied by the TRNC. They included both left- and right-wing parties, which both supported and opposed the settlement of mainland Turks on the island and the politics of partition. The largest party, the National Unity Party (UBP), was founded and controlled by Denktas. The UBP supported a resolutely separatist stance. The second party of the TRNC, the Communal Liberation Party (TKP) advocated closer relations with the Greek Cypriot community. The left-wing Republican Turkish Party (CTP) was even more forthright in its opposition to the government's policy of restricted relations with the Republic of Cyprus.

Politics in the new era

Cyprus forms a presidential representative democratic republic. The directly elected president serves as both head of state and head of government. Executive powers are vested in the government whereby both the government and the parliament exercise legislative powers. Whereas the government of the Republic of Cyprus is the only internationally recognized authority of the island, the government's powers extend in effect only to the Greek Cypriot controlled areas. The vice presidency and the legislative seats allocated to the Turk Cypriots according to the constitution of 1960 have all remained vacant since 1963.

Cyprus has three strong political parties. Throughout all four parliamentary elections since 1990 AKEL, DISI and DIKO have taken the three top positions with the latter party always coming in third. Other minor parties have occasionally won seats in the legislature. This balance was reflected at elections for the Greek Cypriot members of the House of Representatives in May 2001; AKEL secured a narrow victory over DISI and AKEL leader, Christofias, was elected as the new President of the legislature, defeating the DISI leader, Anastasiades.

In 2002, the "Annan Plan", a proposal for the re-unification of the island within a loose federale government framework, was launched. In a referendum in 2004 that sought in a last minute effort to secure the entry of the whole island into EU, the "Annan Plan" was accepted by the Turk Cypriots in the northern sector but rejected by the Greek Cypriots in the south. Half a month later, the Republic of Cyprus became a member of the EU.

In the Greek Cypriot presidential election held on 16 February 2003 the DIKO leader, Tassos Papadopoulos (who was also supported by AKEL), was elected outright, with 51.5% of the votes cast. He defeated his veteran predecessor, Glafcos Clerides, who had been president since 1993. Papadopoulos was thought to have picked up votes from those who believed Clerides made too many concessions at UN-sponsored talks.

The May 2006 legislative election produced no major changes, AKEL remained the first political party in the country although it lost two seats in the parliament. DIKO came in third after DISI. In the February 2008 presidential election, AKEL again emerged triumphant. Demetris Christofias of AKEL won the run-off round against DISI's Ioannis Kasoulides. Christofias was sworn in as president on the 28th of February 2008.


Cyprus. 2010. In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved November 1, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:

Cyprus, Recent History, in Europa World online. London, Routledge. 2010. University of Bergen. Retrieved 01 February 2009 from