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Modern History of Cyprus

British rule lasted until August 1960 when, after a four-year liberation struggle, the island became independent and was proclaimed a Republic. The 1960 Constitution of the Cyprus Republic proved unworkable in many of its provisions and this made its smooth implementation impossible.

When in 1963 the President of the Republic proposed some amendments to facilitate the functioning of the state, the Turkish Cypriot community responded with rebellion (December 1964), the Turkish Cypriot Ministers withdrew from the Cabinet and the Turkish Cypriot public servants ceased attending their offices.

On July 15, 1974 a coup was staged in Cyprus by the military junta, then in power in Greece, for the overthrow of the then President of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios. Turkey used this pretext to launch an invasion, with a full-fledged army against defenseless Cyprus on July 20, 1974. The invasion was carried out in two stages (July 20-22 and August 14-16), in which the Turkish troops eventually occupied 37% of the island's territory.

Nearly two hundred thousand Greek Cypriots, 40% of the total Greek Cypriot population, were forced to leave their homes in the occupied area and became refugees in their own country. The few thousand of Greek Cypriots who remained in their homes after the invasion were gradually forced, through harassment and intimidation, to leave their homes and move to the south. Now, only about six hundred have remained in their homes in the north, mainly in the Karpass area. Hundreds of people were reported missing and their fate has still not been ascertained. The island's rich cultural and religious heritage in the occupied areas has been looted and/or destroyed.

International bodies, such as the UN Security Council, the European Parliament, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth and the Council of Europe, have condemned these ongoing violations of the fundamental human rights of the people of Cyprus. Despite this international condemnation, repeated UN Security Council Resolutions, calling for the respect of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus, as well as the withdrawal of all foreign troops from its territory, remain unimplemented.

Several rounds of intercommunal talks between the island?s two main communities (Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots) have not led to any positive development. This is due to the Turkish side's intransigence and continuing effort to partition the island by means of maintaining an occupation army of 40.000 soldiers and by the colonization of the occupied part of Cyprus with over 80,000 settlers from Anatolia.

Background for Historical Reference

Cyprus has played an important role in the history of the Eastern Mediterranean on account of its privileged geographical position on the crossroads between the Orient and the Occident. The island's prehistory runs as far back as the 8th millennium B.C. Subsequent cultural phases developed during the Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze Age periods until end of the 2nd millennium B.C. However the most important event in the history of Cyprus is the arrival of the Achaean settlers at the end of the 12th and during the 11th century B.C.

The new Greek settlers brought a new vigour to the already flourishing culture of the island by establishing new towns and by introducing the Greek language, new techniques in metallurgy, new artistic styles and even religious elements from the Greek world.

In the subsequent Geometric period the hellenization of Cyprus was completed and this is, most probably, the period of the establishment city kingdoms, which are well attested in written sources in the following Archaic and Classical periods.

Cyprus was well-known to the ancients for its copper mines and forests. No wonder its wealth made it the object of contest among the great powers of the Eastern Mediterranean in antiquity: the Assyrians, the Egyptians and the Persians, who in turn became its masters.

During the 5th century B.C. Athens played an important role in Cyprus, cooperating with the main cities of the island against the Persians. It was during this time that Evagoras of Salamis rose to power, a figure of worldwide radiance at the time. On the partition of the empire of Alexander the Great, who finally liberated the island from the Persians, Cyprus became one of the most significant parts of the empire of the Ptolemies of Egypt; later it came under the dominion of the Romans in 58 B.C. Both during the Ptolemies and later under the Romans, the Sanctuary of Aphrodite at Paphos was the centre of the national, religious and cultural life of the island. In 330 A.D. it became a province of the Byzantine Empire.

During the Crusades period, Richard the Lionheart of England, on his way to the Holy Land, conquered the island. Richard passed the island onto the Knights Templar and they, in their turn, to the Lusignans from France, who established a Kingdom on the western feudal model (1192-1489).

The last Lusignan Queen, Caterina Cornaro, was forced to pass her rights onto the Republic of Venice, which ruled the island until 1571, when it was conquered by the Ottomans. The Ottoman period lasted until 1878 when the expansionist policy of Tsarist Russia led the Turks to cede Cyprus to Britain, which promised to help Turkey in the event of an attack by Russia on certain bordering provinces.

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