A BRIEF HISTORY OF CYPRUS

 

The Mediterranean island of Cyprus has suffered a long history of foreign domination, violence, and civil strife.  Since the 1950s, when still a colony of Britain, Cyprus has been a battleground between its two main ethnic/religious populations---Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.  The history of the conflict includes a militant confrontation with British imperialism, a set of treaties giving a limited form of independence, the breakdown of that constitutional structure, ruthless meddling by the Greek and Turkish "motherlands" and the major powers, a Greek coup d'état and the Turkish invasion that divided the island as it is today, and fitful attempts to negotiate a just settlement---all set against a background of communal violence, terrorism, and intimidation. 

Equally true, however, is a record of cooperation and peace between most Cypriots, and, since 1974, the growth of indigenous efforts across the lines of hostility to reconcile.

The chronology of Cyprus History below is a very good starting point if you would like to delve deeper into the history of this magical yet troubled island. It has been taken from the Cyprus Conflict website and gives an exhaustive balanced view.  The history of the Cyprus conflict is rarely recounted in such a balanced, informed way.  This Web site provides just such depth and balance.  It lays out the history using original documents, scholarly treatments, and other resources. If you would like to view this website directly their site can be found on www.cyprus-conflict.net.

 

Chronology

 

This brief chronology provides a quick overview of events, particularly those since World War Two, which have shaped the Cyprus conflict.  Readers should refer to the main narratives and other documents, which are listed in the table of contents, for in-depth treatment of most of these events.  Several of the important documents are linked to this chronology. 


I  Ancient Cyprus

The island's location and its copper attracted traders & settlers from much of the eastern Mediterranean, putting it under the sway of whichever power "was overlord in those seas."

Sources of Greek identity and culture: Invasions by Mycenaens, Achaeans (1659-1200 b.c.e.); Greek city kingdoms (1050 b.c.e.); Macedonian Alexander's empire, spread of Hellenism, within which Cyprus had autonomy; Ptolemies end autonomy. Early development of Christian era begins in Cyprus with Paul=s visits to Paphos. Other very early influences include Anatolian, Phoenician, Assyrian, Persian, Roman

II  Byzantine rule and Orthodoxy (330-1191)

Byzantium, now Istanbul, became capital of Roman Empire under Emperor Constantine; was called New Rome and then Constantinople. Cyprus given full autonomy within this imperium. Arab raids. Death on Cyprus of a cousin of Prophet Mohammed. Isaac Comnenus took over government, declared independence. Defeated by King Richard; island sold to Templars.

III Frankish Period (1192-1571)

French Lusignans: repression of Orthodox Church, bishops replaced by Latins. Rule by Venice. 
Turkish invasion, siege of Famagusta, capitulation to Turks.

IV The Ottoman Period (1571-1878)

Millet system allowing cultural autonomy; restoration of Greek Orthodox church by the Ottoman Turks. Population exported from the Turkish mainland. The first Turkish census, in 1572, showed 85,000 Christians and 20,000 Moslems liable for the poll tax.
Greek war of independence (1821), Megali Idea, first signs of enosis idea (1833).

V Cyprus under the British (1878-1960)

A. British Rule until the Second World War

1878   Cyprus Convention with Turkey assigned the island to British occupation & administration. Gov. Wolseley greeted with request for enosis.  Tribute to Sultan continued & used to pay off Ottoman debt.

1882   First constitution established a Legislative Council, but Governor could override decisions by decree.

1914   Formal British annexation at outset of World War I, when Turkey sided with Germany against Britain

1915   Offer of Cyprus to Greece turned down

1922   Ataturk and newly established Republic of Turkey defeats Greece after brutal two-year war; enormous population exchange is conducted between Greece and Turkey.

1923   Lausanne Treaty; annexation recognised, and all claims to the island renounced. Turkish Cypriot (TC) delegation to Ankara to press for return of island to Turkey.

1925   Cyprus becomes a British colony

1930   Primary education put under direct British control; growth of Greek (and later, Turkish) identity, beginning of split between economic & cultural elites.

1931   Civil riots against British; constitution suspended.

1941   AKEL, the Cypriot Communist Party, formed

1942   Turkish Minority Association (KATAK, 1942), formed

1943   First TC trade union formed

B. Post-War Cyprus

1948   Winster proposals for self-government excluded self-determination; rejected by Greek Cypriots (GCs).  TCs form special committee in response to rising GC demand for enosis.

1949   First TC public protest against enosis in Nicosia; two TC groups unite in Turkish National Party. AKEL switches from supporting self-government to support for enosis.

1950   Makarios III becomes Archbishop; petition for enosis in churches signed by 96-97% .

1952   Makarios blocks Grivas' plans for an armed campaign, asked Greece to make UN effort.  Turkey and Greece enter NATO.

1954   British move of joint HQ of Mideast Forces from Suez to Cyprus; "never" statement from Hopkinson with regard to self-determination. In July, attempt to put Cyprus question before UN, defeated by Anglo-Turkish cooperation. In August, TCs hold mass meeting in Nicosia, and formation of "Cyprus is Turkish Committee" in Ankara, encouraged by PM Menderes.

VI  The Struggle against British

1955   Armed violence against British begun by Grivas & EOKA. Küçük renames National Union Party as Cyprus is Turkish Party. London Conference: Britain invited Greece & Turkey to discuss problems, including Cyprus. Conference ended without agreement. Riots orchestrated in Istanbul.  Gov. Harding cracks down on EOKA.

1956   Negotiations for self-government. Makarios deported. Violence & repression intensifies. EOKA targets police, GCs as well as British murdered. GCs in police replaced by TCs; some TCs are casualties of EOKA terrorism. Radcliffe Plan for self-governance rejected; first official reference to partition.

1957   Bombing kills one TC, wounding three; TCs retaliated. TC riots in Nicosia against British forces; seven TCs killed. Trade unions joint appeal for calm. EOKA cease fire, release of Makarios to Athens. TC demand for "taksim"; rise of TMT. Demand for Turkish army base. Governor Foot pursues new policy of conciliation.

1958   Plan for self-government postponed sovereignty issue; rejected by Turkey. TCs riot for partition. EOKA boycott of British, end of year-long ceasefire. Turkish Cypriot PIO office bombed, EOKA blamed (later established that TC extremists responsible). TC violence against GCs in Nicosia, 8 GCs killed near Guenyeli. MacMillan plan involving Greece & Turkey; some implementation begun. EOKA targets TCs; villages burned. Intercommunal ceasefire. Makarios announced he would agree to guaranteed independence.

1959   Greek and Turkish foreign ministers met at Zurich to draft treaties for independence of Cyprus. Averoff & Zorlu draft basic articles of constitution. Makarios & Küçük brought to London to sign without alteration. Treaties provide for guarantee of limited independence, British bases, Greek & Turkish troops to be stationed on the island. Makarios & Küçük elected president, vice president. Grivas retired to Athens. Cypriots disarm with some exceptions. Deniz (TC arms smuggling) incident.

VII  The First Years of the Republic (1960-1963)

1960   Cyprus - an independent republic - established on August 15, Makarios president. Initial efforts at governing under the new constitution.

1961   Disputes over certain basic articles: separate municipalities, public service and Cypriot army ratio, taxes. TCs veto tax law.

1962   Failure to agree on separate municipalities; continuing gridlock and terrorism. April, murder of two Turkish Cypriot journalists, Hikmet and Gurkhan, who advocated intercommunal cooperation.

1963   Constitutional crisis after court rulings: taxes imposed but cannot be collected; ruling against both sides on municipalities issue. Akritas Plan formed. Makarios submitted 13 points for constitutional reform to Küçük to revise the constitution; rejected by Turkey.

VIII  Constitutional Breakdown and Intercommunal Conflict (1963-1967)

1963   Dec 21, intercommunal violence explodes. Truce force set up with British troops, Greek & Turkish liaison officers. Ceasefire after Turkish jets buzzed Nicosia. Casualties in first ten days (known dead & missing presumed dead): TCs, 136, GCs 30.

1964   January, London Conference. British, US efforts to create NATO force. Makarios announces abrogation of treaties (then backs away); TCs want partition. Denktash summoned to Ankara, return to Cyprus barred until 1968. NATO plan rejected by Makarios.  February, brutal attacks on TC civilians in Limassol. March, UNFICYP established; British troops on island seconded to UN force. National Guard put under command of Greek army general. Some 20,000 TCs flee areas where violence occurred, taking refuge in enclaves; some Turkish villages looted and destroyed. June, Turkish invasion threatened. Grivas returns to command Greek army contingent; expanded control to National Guard leading Greek commander to resign. President Johnson's letter to Inonu deterring invasion; Acheson Plan for "double enosis" proposed and rejected.  August, arms & men imported by both sides. GC attack on and capture of TC villages in the Tylliria area in effort to control the coastline led to Turkish bombing of GC villages which included the use of napalm. Ceasefire arranged.

1965    U.N. mediator Galo Plaza issues controversial report, and is withdrawn.

1966    Talks between Turkey and Greece

1967    Military coup in Greece; secret talks with Turkey.  Grivas orders attack of TC villages; threat of Turkish invasion; recall of Grivas & thousands of excess Greek troops. Provisional TC administration created in enclaves.

IX  Divisions Among Greek Cypriots (1967-1974)

1968   Makarios re-elected overwhelmingly; acknowledges that enosis is not realistic. Restrictions on TCs lifted. Intercommunal talks began.

1970   EOKA-B attempts to assassinate Makarios; Georgadjis murdered.

1971   Talks deadlocked on local autonomy issue. Secret Greek-Turkish talks. Return of Grivas; EOKA-B attacks on GC left & supporters of independence.

1972   Intercommunal talks resumed and expanded

1973   Col. Papadopoulos overthrown by Ioannides in Athens

1974   Death of Grivas; Greek junta takes control of EOKA-B. Near breakthrough in talks, negotiators agreed on proposal for local autonomy. Turkish PM Ecevit statement stipulating federation; talks broken off by Clerides.

X   Coup, Invasions, and de facto Partition (1974)

1974   July 15, Greek junta supports EOKA-B coup, led by Nicos Sampson, against Makarios; Makarios survives assassination attempts, flees to London; Sampson Agovernment@ takes power. July 20, Turkish military intervention. Actions, or lack of, by UK & US. Greek junta & Sampson regimes fall; Clerides becomes Acting President of Cyprus; democratic government returns to Greece. Ceasefire declared. Mid-August, Collapse of peace talks in Geneva: Second Turkish military intervention in August in which 6,000 die; Turks control of 37% of island; between 150,000 and 200,000 GC refugees take flight. Return of Makarios in autumn.

XI  Deadlock and Negotiations (1975 - present day)

1975   TFSC declared. Intercommunal talks in Vienna; Vienna III agreement, partial implementation.

1976   Exchange of proposals, Clerides resignation.

1977   Framework Agreement between Makarios & Denktash setting parameters for a bicommunal federation. Death of Makarios; Kyprianou becomes president of Republic.

1979   Ten-point agreement between Kyprianou & Denktash; priority to be given GC resettlement of Varosha.

1980   September, military seizes power in Turkey, with US approval, for third time in 20 years; rewrite constitution to provide permanent decision-making role for military; stay formally in power until 1983.

1981   Guidelines for the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Cyprus. Committee on Missing Persons established with ICRC.

1983   Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus unilaterally declared. No country besides Turkey recognizes TRNC.  

1984   Proximity talks on Draft Agreement, to be finished & signed at high-level meeting, Jan., '85.

1985   Kyprianou-Denktash meeting; draft initialed, not signed. In April, Kyprianou agreed to a slightly altered draft, rejected by Denktash.

1986   Denktash agreed to a new altered draft, rejected by Kyprianou. Exposure of Turkish military build up triggered GC military build up.

1987   May, EU protocol initialed.

1988   February, Vasiliou elected president. September, direct negotiations begun under UN auspices.

1989   Perez de Cuellar's summary of ideas for the basis of a comprehensive settlement. Vasiliou agreed to ideas as basis for negotiations; rejected by Denktash.. Vasiliou proposals.

1990   February, UN negotiations resumed. March, UN Sec.-Gen. definition of political equality. Talks abandoned because Denktash insisted on a "separate right to self-determination for these two peoples" in contradiction to the 1977 and 1979 agreements. May, TC elections won by Denktash. July, formal application made for EU membership.

1991   High-level meeting planned, Greece & Turkey to be included, but cancelled in September due to lack of basic agreement on territory, return of refugees, and sovereignty.

1992   New UN Sec-Gen, Boutrous Ghali, says Cyprus a priority. Talks in NY begin midyear; Boutrous-Ghali "Set of Ideas" for a draft settlement accepted as basis for negotiation by Vasiliou but rejected by Denktash. Third round of talks in October suspended without agreement.

1993   February, Vasiliou loses narrowly to Clerides in runoff presidential election. March, confidence-building measures proposed, with negotiations for implementation to begin in May. Talks resumed; cancelled in June when Denktash declined to respond to UN proposals. 

1994   February, UN begins proximity talks to negotiate implementation of CBMs following confirmation of acceptance by both sides; disagreement over terms dooms effort. 

1995   EU agreement to open accession talks with Cyprus. April, Denktash reelected in second round of voting. October, successful bicommunal events at Ledra Palace - open house on UN's 50th drew over 5,000, more than half were TCs, & bicommunal friendship concert, over 1000 attending.

1996   UN special representative met with leaders of both communities. August, bikers' demonstration on Green Line; two GCs killed.

1997   Clerides orders Russian S-300 missiles; Turkey makes threats against deployment. May, bicommunal concert draws 3,000; protest by a few GCs became violent. July, Clerides, Denktash met for 5 days of UN-sponsored talks in Troutbeck, NY; August meetings in Glion, Switzerland. Further talks cancelled after dispute on UN proposals, and Denktash objections to application to join EU.

1998   EU accession negotiations opened. Denktash said that TCs would unite with Turkey if Cyprus joins EU. Formalised association accord signed in 1997; joint economic zone announced. GC election gives narrow victory for Clerides; December, Clerides agrees not to deploy Russian missiles; to be sent to Crete instead.

1999   Earthquakes in Turkey, Greece lead to warming of relations between countries. December, UN-sponsored indirect talks in NY end without progress, but will continue.  Turkey given candidate status for EU; must change its relations with Cyprus to achieve full membership.  

2000   Negotiations continued without result. Denktash re-elected in disputed process. July reunion of hundreds of former GC & TC villagers at Pergamos.  Talks end in November with no progress.  

2002-03  UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Special Representative Alvaro DeSoto present a plan* for the island's partial reunification; both sides essentially reject the Plan.  

2003, Spring  The Green Line is opened by the Turkish Cypriot administration and the Greek side also allows unfettered access between north and south. Some 2 million people pass across the line during the remainder of 2003 without incident.   

2004, April 24 The Annan Plan for reunification was rejected in the south, with 70% voting against; in the Turkish north, 65% voted in favour of the plan despite official opposition.

2004, May 1  The Republic of Cyprus enters the European Union, with the Aquis Communautaire suspended in the Turkish North.