Country Listing

Cyprus Table of Contents


Chapter 2. The Society and Its Environment


Mosque of Lala Mustafa Pasha (once the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas), built by the Lusignans, Famagusta (Gazimagusa)

CYPRUS WAS BITTERLY DIVIDED at the beginning of the 1990s. The island's 9,200 square kilometers encompassed two separate societies: one Greek Cypriot and the other Turkish Cypriot. Until 1974 the two peoples had lived side by side throughout the island. Although they had kept their separate languages and religions, they had become in many respects similar, most of the two peoples being small farmers or peasants, and relations were generally harmonious, if reserved, during the four centuries they shared the island.

The rise of Greek Cypriot nationalism, most clearly demonstrated in the ever-increasing strength of the dream of enosis--the unification of Cyprus with the Greek motherland-- engendered a Turkish reaction, the doctrine of taksim, or partition. The Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities became estranged within a single generation. The Greek-backed coup of 1974 resulted in a Turkish invasion and the de facto partition of the island. Afterward the two communities lived virtually without contact. Greek and Turkish Cypriot societies appeared relatively successful at the beginning of the 1990s, but their centuries-long intercourse was ended.

Data as of January 1991