Cypriots - Orientation

Identification. Cypriots are the inhabitants of the island of Cyprus, an independent republic since 1960. Two principal ethnic groups—Turkish and Greek—form the majority populations on Cyprus; there are small numbers of Armenians and Maronites as well.

Location. Cyprus, the third-largest island of the Mediterranean, has an area of 9,251 square kilometers. It lies 64 kilometers south of Turkey and 96 kilometers west of Syria. The northern and southwestern portions of the island, roughly two-thirds of its area, are composed of hilly and mountainous terrain, while the remaining third is relatively flat. Of the total landmass, 49.6 percent is suitable for farming. The climate is typically Mediterranean, with low annual precipitation (50 centimeters, average) and frequent summer droughts. Temperatures fall to mean winter averages of 7° to 13° C, and rise to summer averages of 29° to 35° C. Water resources are scant—rivers are shallow and short, and they dry up during the summer. There are few fish in the coastal waters, and the only large wild animal indigenous to the island is the mouflon (wild sheep), and it is nearly extinct today. Other native fauna include hares, foxes, hedgehogs, and Numerous species of birds.

Demography. Population estimates for the island are somewhat confused. In 1970 there were 628,000 Cypriots, with approximately 82 percent of Greek extraction and 18 percent of Turkish descent. At that time, Greek Cypriot Communities accounted for 97 percent of the land area of the Island, and Turkish Cypriot communities controlled 3 percent. However, beginning in the mid-1970s, as the Turkish Communities sought independence, there have been successive waves of emigrants—principally to Greece and the United Kingdom, although also to the United States, Canada, Australia, and South Africa. When, as a result of the Turkish independence movement of the early 1960s, a territory comprising 37 percent of the country was occupied by Turkey in the north, there were large-scale displacements of the Population—some 180,000 Greek Cypriot refugees fled south during the occupation period—and a fresh incursion of settlers from the Turkish mainland, further confusing the demographic picture. The economic disruption resulting from the political problems of the island during the 1970s and 1980s has also touched off new waves of emigration, as people have sought more secure working opportunities. In 1990, the overall population was estimated at 708,000 (78 percent Greek and 18.7 percent Turkish).

Linguistic Affiliation. Both Turkish and Greek are official languages on Cyprus, with Greek having far more speakers. English is used as a second language by most Greek and Turkish speakers.

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