History of North Cyprus

Those who have visited Northern Cyprus will remember an island of golden beaches, brilliant weather, mountain forests, ancient castles, and sun-bleached villages. But most memorable are the warm, friendly smiles of the Turkish Cypriot people. Northern Cyprus is unique in that tourists have not overrun it, thus keeping its local character.

It is a small country, only about 120 miles from east to west and about 15 miles from north to south. However, the variety, in terms of topography, flora and fauna, and levels of development are great. The seaside town of Kyrenia, with its surrounding mountain villages, offers all the modern facilities of a European town, whereas the villages of the Karpaz region seem to have been left behind in another age. Mountains, castles, beaches and the dry central plain (Mesaoria) offer visitors much to feast their eyes on.

History is a major theme in Cyprus, the island having been repeatedly invaded throughout its turbulent history, and the legacies of the past continue even to this day. But despite the past, Northern Cyprus is a peaceful place, which has seemingly sidestepped the pressures of modernity. The pace of life is slow, as if the 200,000 or so inhabitants have more time than they know what to do with. So, if you are visiting Northern Cyprus, don't be in a hurry, and prepare yourself for a relaxing break from the grind of modern life.

It is not possible to say when first inhabitants of Cyprus lived, but it is believed possible that as long ago as 8.500 B.C. there were settlements on Cyprus.
Cyprus has had many names, but the name we use now is believed to have come from the word copper of which there was, and possibly still is, an abundance of on the island. An alternative theory is that its name comes from the word Kypros (the Greek for henna) of which there was also abundance. No one knows for sure.
Cyprus has had a troubled history. The abundance of copper, timber, and the strategic location between East and West resulted in repeated invasions, changes of rulers, and strife for the inhabitants. Before the annexation to Rome in 58 B.C. Phoenicians, Archaeans, Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, and Greeks colonized Cyprus. In 43 A.D. Christianity came to Cyprus and in 330 A.D. Cyprus became part of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire. And so it remained until 1191 when Richard the Lionheart, on his way to the Holy Land to fight the 3rd Crusade, conquered the island. A year later Richard sold the island to the Knights Templar for 100,000 Byzants. The Knights Templar, unable to exploit the island satisfactorily, then returned the island to Richard who sold it to the French nobleman Guy de Lusignan.

The Lusignan dynasty ruled the island for the next three hundred years a rule that was often oppressive, effectively reducing Cypriots to serfdom.
In 1489 the Lusignan King James died leaving the Kingdom to his Venetian wife who abdicated giving the island to Venice. The Venetians saw Cyprus primarily as a military base and built fortifications all over the island. Cypriots, at that time, were seen merely as a populous to be taxed as much as possible. In fact, it is said that Venetian rule was so unpleasant that when the Ottomans arrived in Cyprus in 1571 the locals felt as if they had been liberated from slavery.

The Ottomans abolished serfdom and instated the Orthodox Church as the Church, of Cyprus. They also made being Catholic a punishable offense, so Cypriots had to choose between Orthodox Christianity and Islam. The majority chose Christianity, but the result was that the population began to take on the ethnic structure it still possesses today, namely Greek and Turkish. The Ottoman Empire, entered the First World War on the side of Germany, and emerged defeated. Partly occupied by foreign powers, and with harsh restrictions imposed, Cyprus became a part of the British colonies following the Treaty of Lausanne in 1925. In 1960 the Treaty of Zurich was signed to give independence to Cyprus whilst protecting the rights of the Turkish Cypriot population. The guarantors of this treaty were Britain, Greece, and Turkey.

In 1963 relations between the two communities separated by language, culture and religion, had deteriorated. 13 articles of the Constitution were attempted to be changed in favour of Greek Cypriot community, also disarming Turkish Cypriot Police and establishing the National Greek Cypriot Guards. These measures were in clear contravention of the Treaty of Zurich. Civil war began, and the United Nations sent in troops in an attempt to restore peace, creating the Green Line, which effectively divided the communities.

In 1974 Greece attempted a military coup in conjunction with the Greek National Guard in a bid to achieve ENOSIS (Idea of union with Greece). On the 20th July 1974, Turkey, after consultation with Britain, intervened militarily, namely Peace-Keeping Action to protect the Turkish Cypriot community. This was in exercise of the powers of guarantee agreed in the Treaty of Zurich.

Since this time the island has remained divided. On the 15th November 1983 The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was founded. It is a fully democratic state and with exception of a few border incidents, internal peace has been established.

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