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Cyprus Description

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Cyprus Description


Dateline: Monday, March 18, 2013. Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades announced today that he is battling against eurozone demands that all Cyprus bank customers pay a one-time levy in return for a bailout. Mr Anastasiades said he shared people's unhappiness with the terms, whereby ALL BANK CUSTOMERS would pay a levy of 6.75% or 10% on their bank deposits. The EU and IMF have demanded the levy in return for a 10bn-euro ($13bn; £8.6bn) bank bailout. Mr Anastasiades said it was the worst crisis since Turkey invaded in 1974. The worst crisis is that politicians are in charge!

Cyprus, a onetime Greek colony and the site of many military incursions over the centuries, is still today, an island in conflict between two opposing factions.

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It all began some 12,000 years ago, as archeologists have confirmed hunter-gatherer activity on the island, with some settled villages around 8200 BC.

The island was part of the Hittite empire, a late Bronze Age force from Turkey, until the arrival of Greek traders who started visiting Cyprus around 1400 BC.

If you're familiar with Greek mythology, you'll know that Cyprus played a very important role as it was the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite and Adonis, and home to King Cinyras and Pygmalion.

Until it became a part of the Byzantine Empire near 400 AD, Cyprus was part of the Assyria Empire, ruled briefly by Egypt, controlled by the Persians, then annexed by the Romans in 58 BC.

As for Byzantine (or the Eastern Roman Empire) rule, it was an era of debilitating raids and wars that continued for hundreds of years. Many thousands were killed and many cities were destroyed, never to be rebuilt.

Adding to the on-going intrigue of this much-coveted island, Richard I of England captured it during the Third Crusade (circa 1191) and used it as a supply base. He later sold it to the Knights Templar.

At the end of 12th century the King of Cyprus asked the Pope in Rome to establish the Catholic church in Cyprus in order to facilitate the conversion of the population who belonged to the Greek Orthodox Church.

And then the powerful Venetians paid a lengthy visit, they snatched control of the island and formally annexed Cyprus into their growing empire in 1489.

The Venetians fortified many cities and used Famagusta and Nicosia as important commercial hubs. During that time their main adversary - the Ottoman Empire - frequently attacked the island trying to seize control.

It was during the Venetian era that two distinct societies emerged; one consisted mostly of Italian merchants and their families, while the other segment was comprised of Greek Cypriots - the majority of island population.

At the height of its power the Ottoman Empire (Turks) controlled territory in southeastern Europe, southwestern Asia, and North Africa, and in 1570 (with an overwhelming force) brought Cyprus under its control.

It was a brutal transition as in Nicosia alone, tens of thousands of locals were executed and all public buildings (and churches) were looted. The Catholic Church was eliminated but the Greek Orthodox Church was allowed to continue.

Turks began to arrive in great numbers and settled on the island. This migration caused two separate communities to form, one of mostly Greek Cypriots, and the other comprised of Turkish Muslims.

By the middle of the 19th century the population was near 150,000, and of those, some 100,000 were Greek Cypriots. Unhappy with the repressive Turkish rule and the on-going poverty, a strong feeling of nationalism surfaced within the Greek population.

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In 1878, the Turkish Sultan ceded Cyprus to the British in exchange for guarantees that Britain would use the island as a base, and protect the Ottoman Empire from the Russians; they agreed.

The island consequently served Britain as a key military base along its crucial main route to India, which was Britain's most important colony of that time.

In 1914, when Turkey entered World War I on the side of Germany, Britain offered Cyprus to Constantine I of Greece on condition that Greece join the war on the side of the British; Constantine declined.

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In 1923, under treaty, Turkey renounced all claims to the island, and in 1925, it was declared a British crown colony. Accepting that relationship, at least on the surface, many Greek Cypriots fought in the British Army during World War II.

Like in most of their colonies, British rule brought prosperity, but still the Greek Cypriots wanted a union with Greece and scattered rebellions were the result.

In 1955 an underground terrorist campaign was organized against British rule, and as it began to get out of control the British brought in a much stronger military force to end the conflict.

This proved to be a disastrous decision as it further aggravated the Greek Cypriots. Soon riots sprang up across the island, civil war was on the horizon, and the minority Turkish population retreated into their own enclave.

In 1957 Cyprus begged the UN for help but that didn't work so well. Regardless, in 1960, Cyprus declared itself independent from all parties, and Archbishop Makarios was declared the first President.

In August of 1964 Turkey launched air strikes against Cyprus, and in the same year, UN troops were finally dispatched to the island in an attempt to keep the peace between the two communities - and they have been there ever since.

Then came a military junta and the obligatory coup d'état, the President was replaced and Turkey launched a full-scale military invasion of the island in 1974. The Turkish air force bombed Greek positions and Turkish paratroopers seized many cities.


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rks and 180,000 Greek Cypriots were evicted from their homes, with no choice but to move south.

Well, this was a new housing opportunity in the making, so an estimated 50,000 Turks moved into the northern areas (then under the control) of the Turkish Forces and settled (without an invitation) in the properties of the displaced Greek Cypriots. Oh, what a happy day.

Now with the Turks in the north, Greeks in the south, and Ledra Street in Nicosia as the dividing line of the so-called (buffer zone) between the two parties, things were surely going to get better. Not.

On the Turkish side there was razor wire, minefields and watch-towers, and some formerly Greek inhabited places were now ghost towns as most Greek refugees had fled to the south.

Turkey moved in more settlers in the north, and reports surfaced regarding the widespread plunder and destruction of ancient Greek archaeological sites.

Young Turks were now tired of war, and saw very little future on the island. As the economy on the Turkish side continued to decline, the youth emigrated back to Turkey, or to Europe and the USA.

The UN declared 1997 to be the 'Year of Cyprus.' This was in recognition of the island's dubious status as one of the World's real trouble spots, and for next few years the back and forth rancor continued.

The Annan Plan of 2004 was a United Nations proposal to settle continuing disputes on the divided island. It would reunite the South with the North as the United Cyprus Republic. It was summarily rejected by the Greek side.

On May 1, 2004 Cyprus joined the European Union together with nine other countries. In 2008 the UN encouraged the Greek and Turkish sides to reopen unification negotiations. The Greek Cypriots were too weak (militarily) to resist the Turkish advance, and by the time a cease fire took hold, a large slice of northern Cyprus was already taken over by the Tu

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In March 2008, a boundary wall on Ledra Street in Nicosia was demolished; a wall that was seen as a strong symbol of the island's 32-year division. One month later Ledra Street was reopened in the presence of Greek and Turkish Cypriot officials.

If the island of Cyprus is to refresh its reputation around the world, the Greek and Turkish leaders are going to have to make some very courageous decisions because they share one small island.

Somehow this ancient island of sunny weather and fascinating history has survived, and with some of the most popular beaches in Europe, travelers do journey to Cyprus in large numbers.