Cypriots - History and Cultural Relations

The archaeological record discloses settlement along the southern coast of Cyprus prior to 6000 B.C. Bronze Age Cultures actively traded with Crete, Anatolia, Syria, and Egypt, and early records indicate that the island was an important source of copper. At around 1200 B.C. , the first Greek Immigrants are thought to have begun arriving from the Peloponnesos, with the major influx occurring between 1100 and 700 B.C. These new immigrants firmly established the Greek Language on the island and founded six city-kingdoms. The Phoenicians established a colony in 800 B.C. , and aboriginal inhabitants had a kingdom as well. Beginning in the early 700s B.C. , the island came under the domination of the Assyrians, who ruled for about 150 years, during which time the arts—particularly poetry, bronzework, and ironwork—flourished. The Egyptians followed the Assyrians and ruled until the Cypriots allied themselves with Persia in 525 B.C. However, during the next 200 years, the island strongly supported and identified with the Attic revolts against Persia, and finally it came under direct Greek rule in 323 B.C. The Romans annexed Cyprus in 58 B.C. , and it was during the Roman period that Christianity was introduced to the island. When the Roman Empire split, in A.D. 395, Cypriot Christians were subject to the Byzantine Empire, but in 488 the church was granted autocephalous status. There were periods of insecurity, as the island was periodically subject to frequent Arab raids, but these were lessened first by treaties and later by the Byzantine accession, in 965, to complete control of Cyprus. When the governor of Cyprus rebelled against the Byzantine Empire in the late 1100s, the crusading forces of King Richard I seized the island and later sold it to the dispossessed king of Jerusalem. Thus began a long feudal period, as the new ruler granted lands on the island to his supporters. Because of its location and the loyalties of its rulers, the Island also then became a staging area for further crusades. Control of the island was contested, first lost to Genoa, and later ceded to Venice, and then the island fell to a Turkish invasion in 1571. It is from the ensuing three-century period of Ottoman rule that most of the present Turkish Cypriot Minority can be traced. Muslim settlers were brought to the Island, the feudal system was dismantled, and all remnants of the Latin church were suppressed in favor of the Eastern Orthodox version. The Ottomans relied upon the archbishop of Cyprus to collect taxes and impose order, which contributed to rebellions by the Turkish settlers in the 1700s and 1800s. In 1878, the Cyprus Convention established British administration of the island while retaining Turkish sovereignty, so that the British could establish a base from which to protect the Ottoman Empire's possessions from possible Russian incursion. However, during World War I the British and their former Turkish allies found themselves on opposing sides, and the British annexed the island, eventually declaring it a crown colony in 1925. The Greek population was at first amenable to British annexation, hoping that this would eventually lead to enosis (union with Greece). However, the strong minority population of Turks was equally adamant in its desire for taksim (separation), and since that time these two competing drives have led to political agitation and violence. The years between 1947 and 1959 were marked by demonstrations, bombings, and other such violence, as enosis and taksim factions vied with one another and also against movements toward self-government. Finally, with United Nations involvement, Greece and Turkey settled the issue by establishing independent republic status for Cyprus, which would not allow the partition of the island nor political or economic union with any other state. The new constitution provided for a sharing of administrative, executive, and judicial functions between the two ethnic communities, but its implementation was problematic and caused more violence. In 1964, the United Nations intervened, sending a UN peacekeeping force to control the situation. Nevertheless, conflict between the two Cypriot populations increased, troops from both Greece and Turkey were smuggled in, and throughout the period there were frequent threats of invasion by one or the other of the two larger nations. In 1974, following an assassination attempt against the Cypriot president on the part of Greece, Turkish forces invaded the island, eventually succeeding in occupying 37 percent of the island. In 1983, the Turkish Cypriot representative on the island declared the independent Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, but this independent status has remained unrecognized by all nations other than Turkey. The self-proclaimed Turkish Republic covers 3,400 square kilometers and in 1990 had an estimated population of 171,000, 99 percent of whom are Turks.

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