Social, Economic and Political History of Cyprus

Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily and Sardinia. The island of Cyprus has attracted states and civilizations throughout history who wanted to dominate the Mediterranean and trade in the Mediterranean due to its special location in the Eastern Mediterranean. Due to this feature, the island had been called by many names throughout history until it was given its current name. In Egypt and Hittite periods, Cyprus was named as Alaşya (Alasya, Alashia) or Asi, and as Hetim (Hettim) in the period of Phoenicians. However in the Assyrian documents the island was called Yatnana or Ya. The city states of Amatusya, Salaminya and Pafya established in Cyprus were also used as names of the island in some periods. It is assumed that the name of “Cyprus” came from the name of the main queen Kybele who was called Kipris. Another assumption is that it was named after “kopher” a word which means copper in Hebrew. It is also believed that it came from the word “cuprum” in Akkadian and Latin. Another belief is that the island took its name from a kind of tree called “Cypress” which was abundant in Cyprus.

Cyprus was ruled as an independent kingdom in historical periods. In later years, it was invaded by other powerful states around the island because of its strategic location. In this way, every state who ruled the island enriched the culture of the island by leaving traces of their culture. The island of Cyprus was ruled by Egypt, Hittite, Greek Colonies (Aka and Dor), Phoenicians, Assyrians, Persians, Alexander the Great, Romansthe East Roman (Byzantine), the Islamic State, Isaac Comneneus, Knights Templar, the Lusignans, Venetians, Ottomans and Great Britain since the time it existed.

Christianity was accepted as an official religion of the island in the Roman era, in 46 AD. During that period, Jews who lived in the island rejected Christianity as the official religion of the island of Cyprus and they revolted against the Romans. The Romans banished the Jews from Cyprus because of this movement. When the Roman Empire was divided into Eastern and Western parts in 395 AD, Cyprus became a part of the Eastern Roman Empire due to its geographical location. Christianity was spread rapidly during the Byzantine domination and the first Orthodox Church was established on the island.

Due to its dominant position in the Mediterranean and its military and commercial importance, the island of Cyprus was an area of conflict for Muslims and Christians throughout the centuries. It is said that when the Byzantines ruled Cyprus, 24 expeditions were embarked by Islamic armies between the years of 632-964. The island was conquered by Muslims in 649. The island of Cyprus played an important role between the Crusaders and the Byzantine when the Crusades began at the end of XI century. The Byzantine Emperor accepted that the commercial privileges which were provided to the Venetians in 1148, were valid for the islands of Crete and Cyprus and in this way the settlement of the Latins in Cyprus was allowed.

During the times of the Crusades, Cyprus was more important for the Crusaders compared to the past due to its special position on the way to the Holy Land. Isaac Comnenesus’s administration on the island ended with the arrival of Richard I, King of England (Richard the Lionheart) to Cyprus in May 1191. According to the sources, the most important contribution of the III. Crusades to the Crusader World was conquering the island of Cyprus.

When Richard the Lionheart ruled the island, at first, he sold the island to the Knights Templar and when the knights realised that they could not rule the island anymore they gave it back and Richard sold the island to Guy de Lusignan in 1192. Thus, the Lusignan rule on the island started. Between the years of 1192-1489, kings and queens from the Lusignan descendants ruled the island. During the Lusignan era, Cyprus was an irreplaceable base for the Crusaders who continued their existence mainly in Acre and some other cities until 1291, and for Antioch and Tripoli Crusader states. During the Lusignan period, the Latin archbishopric was founded in Cyprus mainly in Nicosia.

Latin eparchies were opened in the cities of Paphos, Famagusta and Limassol. In 1260, Pope Alexander declared the Latin Archbishop as the only religious leader of the whole island with his official statement which was entitled “Bulla Cypria.” This situation created uneasiness among the Orthodox Cypriots and at the same time it led them to revolt against the government from time to time.

The Cyprus kings had an important role in the Christian- Muslim struggle in the Near East. Besides their logistic support, the Lusignan Kings also participated in the Crusades with their armies. In time, due to the crusader mentality policies of the Cyprus Kings, the island of Cyprus became a shelter for the Crusaders who were expelled from the Near East.

The Mamluk State which ruled Egypt and Syria between the years of 1250-1517 marked an important place in the Islamic and Turkish history. The Mamelukes who struggled with the Crusaders and protected the Holy Land, also raided Cyprus which was the most important base of the Crusaders in the Near East. It is also known that Limassol, Larnaca and Nicosia were also conquered by Sultan Barsbay in 1426. The Lusignan origin Cyprus King Janus was also imprisoned during this incursion. However, the Mamelukes no longer stayed in Cyprus, they allowed the Lusignan Kings to rule Cyprus in return for a yearly 8000 dukas tax.

When the Genoese – Venetian conflict in the island was added to the external problems, Cyprus’s economy collapsed completely. The Genoese won this struggle and ruled the island, and they held the control of Famagusta between the years of 1372-1464. Venetians pressured the Venice-origin last Lusignan royalty of the island Queen Caterina to give up her throne for their interest in 1489. Therefore, by terminating the Lusignan rule on the island, Venice eliminated the last Crusader state in the East. The Venetian state had continued to pay the same tax to the Mamelukes which was paid by the Lusignan Kings in order to ensure their dominance in Cyprus. When Yavuz Sultan Selim (1512-1520) conquered Egypt in 1517 and terminated the rule of Mameluke Sultanate, the Venetian Republic started to pay taxes to the Ottoman Empire instead of the Mamelukes.

The Turks’ interest in the island of Cyprus and trading with the island began during Anatolian Seljuk’s period. After the conquest of Antalya, Anatolian Seljuk Sultan I. Gıyaseddin Keyhüsrev had granted certain trade privileges to Cypriots. Cyprus joined the troops against the Ottoman Empire which was established by the Knights of Venice and Rhodes and Uzun Hasan for the first time in 1472.

While the Ottoman State was preparing for the attack against the Mameluke State in 1486, they demanded a base from the King of Cyprus for the Ottoman Navy. Upon the rejection of this request, the fleet carried out limited attacks on the Cypriot coast.


There are many reasons why the island of Cyprus was conquered by the Ottomans. During the reign of Yavuz Sultan Selim, the Holy Lands joined the Empire with the conquest of Syria and Egypt. These conquests caused building of the security in the Eastern Mediterranean to be inevitable. The strategic importance of Cyprus increased as the result of the Ottoman Empire taking over the countries around the Eastern Mediterranean. The conquest of the island was necessary for the establishment of the Ottoman rule in the Mediterranean. In spite of the peace treaty they signed with the Ottoman Empire in 1540, Venice allowed the Venetian and Maltese pirates to set up a base in the island. These pirates were using the island, which was located at the crossroads of the trade routes, as a base point and jeopardized the safety of tradesmen and pilgrims who were travelling to the Holy Lands. Furthermore, being a former Islamic country was also effective in the decision of the incursion. Indeed, the legacy right of the Ottomans in the island was mentioned in the fatwa which was given by the Shayk al-Islam Ebusuud Efendi related to the Cyprus incursion.

The famous Grand Vizier Sokullu Mehmet Pasha was initially against the Cyprus incursion due to the projects to open the Don-Volga and the Suez Canals. The Vizier also believed that this incursion may do more harm than good to the state. However, once the decision of the Cyprus incursion was made, Sokullu Mehmet Pasha was quick to take the necessary precautions for the conquest of the island.

First, the sale of any product from the Ottoman state to Cyprus was banned, and the island of Cyprus tried to be taken to a commercial blockade. Recognizing that after the Ottomans conquered Rhodes there is danger of being conquered by the Ottoman State, the Republic of Venice began to take necessary defence measures in Cyprus. In response to the war preparations of the Ottomans, Venice tries to secure the support of the Pope and Spain in order to create a large crusader navy against the Ottoman State. On the other hand, Venice strengthens all military castles especially the in Nicosia and Famagusta provinces in Cyprus.

The Ottoman armies began an arduous conquest of the island of Cyprus under the command of Lala Mustafa Pasha in March and May, 1570. The Ottoman armies reached Limassol castle on 2nd of July. No difficulties were experienced in the conquest of Limassol because the people had left the castle. One day later, the Ottoman fleet reached Larnaka. The people of the island provided all kinds of logistical support to the Ottoman armies while they were moving towards the inner parts of the city.

Ottoman forces seized Nicosia after about one and a half month siege. The fall of Nicosia, led Kyrenia and Paphos also to surrender to the Ottomans without battling. After the occupation of the island, Lala Mustafa Pasha established a governor office in Nicosia. Muzaffer Pasha was assigned as the first Governor of Cyprus and the necessary preparations for the conquest of Famagusta began. The conquest of Cyprus was completed when Famagusta Castle was captured on August 1, 1571.

As a result of the attempts of the Venetian State, a large Crusader fleet countered the Ottoman fleet which was returning from the Cyprus incursion at a place called Lepanto. Among the Ottoman fleet only the ships under the command of Uluç Ali Pasha managed to survive from the sea warfare on October 7, 1571. The dominance in the Eastern Mediterranean which was obtained with Preveza Sea Warfare in 1538 was shaken with this defeat. When the Ottoman Empire revealed its fleet again in a very short time, Venice accepted that Cyprus belonged to the Ottoman Empire with the agreement dated March 7, 1573.


In order to make a newly conquered country literally a homeland and to defend it easily, Turkish Muslims were required to settle there. Therefore, a population census was conducted in 1572 in order to determine how many people could be brought to Cyprus from Ottoman territory. After the census, it was discovered that many settlements were abandoned in Cyprus and it was discovered that nobody lived in 76 villages in the Mesarya and Mazota regions.

The administrators of the Ottoman State banished the Turkish Muslims from Anatolia (Konya, Karaman, Niğde, Kayseri, et al.) to Cyprus.

According to data of the population census conducted in 1572, a total of 1,689 families were banished to Cyprus mainly from Aksaray, Beyşehir, Seydişehir, Endugi, Develihisar, Ürgüp, Koçhisar, Niğde, Bor, Ilgın, İshaklı and Akşehir. Only 8,000 families out of 12,000 were settled in Cyprus up to the end of XVI century. Exiles continued after the conquest in order to develop and revitalize the island. The island of Cyprus was used as a detention colony during the last half of the XVII century and in the XVIII century.

The administrators of the Ottoman State also worked to ensure the security and safety of the major cities of the island. Therefore, non-Muslims who were living in Nicosia and Famagusta castles had been removed and Muslims were settled in those houses. Also the native population who had left Cyprus due to the persecution of the Venetian State were also recalled to the island. The Ottomans also prohibited heavy taxes and drudgery. Throughout history, fluctuations were observed in the population of Cyprus. These ups and downs that occurred in the population during the Ottoman period can be connected to the natural conditions, external pressures, the public officials who were representatives of the Ottomans and inappropriate attitudes of the representatives of the Orthodox archbishop and court interpreters. Stating that there were 12,000 Christians who paid taxes in Cyprus in 1738, Richard Pococke said that 2/3rds of the population were Christians and 1/3rd were Muslims. According to Alexander Drummond, there were 150.000 Turkish Muslims and 50.000 Christians in Cyprus between the years of 1745 and 1750. According to the population census in 1831, 15,585 Muslim men and 29,780 non-Muslim men lived in Cyprus. Furthermore, according to a British consulate report dated 1858, the population of Cyprus was 180,000.


When the conquest of the island was completed, Cyprus became a Governorship of İstanbul. Nicosia, Paphos, Kyrenia and Famagusta districts of the island, and Alaiye, Tarsus, Mersin, Zülkadriye, Sis and Trablusşam districts from outside were united to Cyprus Governorship. The island of Cyprus was divided into 16 districts including Nicosia, the capital, Tuzla, Limassol, Piskopu, Gilan, Evdim, Kukla, Pabhos, Hirsofu, Lefka, Pendeya, Morphou, Kyrenia, Karpas, Famagusta and Meserya. The capital city was divided into two sub-districts, named Değirmenlik and Dağ.

When commerce ended in the island as a result of the conflicts among the Venetians and Ottomans in Crete and Morea, and the famine caused by locusts and climate and other numerous problems increased, Cypriots started to migrate to Syria and Anatolia coasts for a better life. For these reasons, population and income decreased in Cyprus and the yearly expenditure could not be met any more. Therefore, the Court of Hümâyun ended the Governorship in Cyprus in 1670. From this year, the administration of the island was left to the Ottoman chief-admiral. Since 1703, the island had been given to the person who was appointed as Grand Vizier. The administration of the Grand Vizier temporarily ended in Cyprus between the years of 1745-1748. In this period, admirals who were directly appointed by the Divan-i Hümâyun (Supreme Court of the Ottoman Empire) ruled the island. Being an independent state was given up after 1748, and Cyprus was given back under the rule of Grand Vizier and this implementation continued until 1785. After the reforms, the island of Cyprus was converted to a district which was under the Algeria Bahr-i Sefid and a governor was appointed for the state administration. In this period, many new legal, administrative and judicial applications were put into practice and the administration gained an autonomous status. In addition to the changes brought by the Reform, Cyprus was divided into six districts. Administrative councils and judiciary councils which consisted of Muslims and non-Muslims were formed for each district in order to help the governors. Turks, Greeks and other minorities were represented in these councils according to the proportion of their population.

When the island was conquered by the Ottomans, religious courts were established in the island as well as other parts of the Empire. The religious courts were trying to solve the disagreements between the Muslims and non-Muslims without any discrimination.

With the declaration of the Tanzimat Reform Edict, a number of new regulations were made and new courts were opened. These were commercial, regular army and supreme courts. Muslims and non-Muslims were represented with equal members in these courts.


Greeks, Armenians, Jews, Maronites, consuls and traders of the western states were the Non-Muslims who lived under the Ottoman rule in Cyprus. The Ottoman rulers agreed that the religious leaders of the communities living under Ottoman rule were at the same time the political leaders and they had the right to administer their own communities. Therefore, religious leaders represented each community.

As the Lusignans became dominant and set up the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church had begun to lose its power in the island. Just after the conquest, Orthodox archbishops became both religious and political leaders of the Orthodox people living in the island. The Archbishops were elected by their own people and priests and reported to İstanbul by Cyprus tax collector. The Greek Orthodox community was using their power of attorney on legal and financial works according to autocracy principals through the archbishop chosen by clergies and his nominated candidates.

Another representative of the Orthodox people living in the island of Cyprus was the dragoman (translators in the Palaces). The official assignments of the dragomans were made from the centre.

The historical presence of Armenians in Cyprus goes back to the Byzantine period. The origin of the Cyprus Armenians was from Cilicia, Syria and Iran. There was an Armenian neighbourhood in Nicosia during the Lusignan period. According to the 1572 population census, the population of Armenians only constituted 8% of the Nicosia population. According to the court records, Armenians densely lived around the Armenian neighbourhood and Karamanî-zâde neighbourhood close to the Virgin Mary Church and other regions of Nicosia. Another religious building of Armenians in Cyprus was the Megara (Saint Maker / Sourp Magar) Monastery in Kyrenia district. The Armenians were especially occupied with the silk trade in Cyprus.

The Jewish community who lived in the island before the Ottoman rule, continued its existence during the Ottoman period. Jews lived in a neighbourhood in Famagusta when the island was conquered by the Ottomans. During the Ottoman period, Jews lived in Nicosia, Lefka and Hırsofu as well as Famagusta. One of the Christian communities which lived in Cyprus was the Arabic origin Maronites. The real name of the Maronites who lived in Cyprus were called Maruni. It was said that the first Maronites immigrated to the island upon the Jerusalem Crusader King conquest of Beirut. Dandini, one of the western travellers who visited Cyprus, had verified that Maronites came to Cyprus from Lebanon and they built a church in Nicosia and 19 villages or farms in various parts of the island.

Another class which was granted various privileges in Cyprus were the consuls. Consuls were allowed to live in the Tuzla district. The Ottoman Empire provided extensive rights to consuls in Cyprus as well as all over the Empire. Extensive rights were provided to consuls in Cyprus as well as all over the Empire.

As it can be seen from the documents, consuls or vice-consular from France, England, Nederland, the Venetian Republic, the Republic of Genoa, the Roman Empire (Austria-Hungary), Sweden (Sweden-Norway), Sicilyateyn Kingdom (Sicily and Analpa-Naples), Dubrovnik Republic (Ragusa), Denmark, Russia, Spain, Prussia, Algeria Seba Republic, Sardinia, Belgium, Greece, America and Italy were present in Cyprus during the Ottoman period.


The rebellions of Muslim people (Turks) under the Ottoman rule mostly occurred in order to eliminate the internal problems and difficulties or for the satisfaction of personal jealousies, or to have a position and prestige.  These rebellions were not aimed to separate the island from the Ottoman administration. The main aim was to change the top management of the island. However, the government took necessary precautions to suppress the rebellions and never allowed their demands to be achieved. It was known that some of the rebellions against the Ottoman state were forced by external powers, especially supported or directed by the European states which had consuls on the island.

These rebellions had been experienced throughout the Ottoman administration due to misuse of the privileges given to the Orthodox Church and its administrators. The Ottoman Empire could punish violently when the archbishop and metropolitan bishops were involved in these rebellions despite their extraordinary powers. On the other hand, Ottoman rulers never hesitated to assign another Orthodox ecclesiastic in place of the archbishop who rebelled against the state.


When the Ottomans conquered Cyprus they encountered an island where people were living in slave status, with insufficient agricultural production and in need of improvement of the trade because of the feudal system. Turkish Muslims were banished from Anatolia to Cyprus for social and economic progression of the island.

As the same in general of the Ottoman society, the Cyprus community also consisted of members from different language, religion, nationality and culture. If we define the people who formed the Cyprus society in religious and cultural terms, Turks can be defined as Muslim and Orthodox Greeks, Armenians, Maronites, Jews, Franks (Latins) and the merchants who came to island for trade can be defined as Non-Muslims. It can be said that there was not any conflict due to these differences in society. Justice, equality, freedom of thought and faith, and tolerance of the Ottoman administration had been quite effective in this respect.

Marriages can be accepted as the beginning of the familial relationship among the Muslims on the island. As seen in the previous periods and different regions of Ottoman history, marriages had taken place between different religions and communities in Cyprus. Inter-communal marriages mostly were observed between Muslim men and Non-Muslim women. The Cyprus Orthodox Church strongly opposed such marriages and ostracized those people. Divorce, the negative outcome of marriage, was also common in Cyprus. 278 divorce registrations were found between the years of 1726-50. 262 of them were for Muslims. The reasons for divorce were mostly reported as severe conflict.

Another dimension of familial relationships was about children. As well as Muslims, Non-Muslims in the island could litigate to court in order to appoint a guardian to their children where one of the parents had died. Also the children without relatives were left to guardianship of someone reliable to care for them.

The legacy of people who died in Cyprus was apportioned through a heritage assigned by Nicosia spiritual court among his wife, children and close relatives. In comparison to male children, female children received half the amount of legacy that male children received either for Muslims or non-Muslims. The Court resolved the conflicts about legacy sharing in Cyprus as well as any other parts of the Ottoman Empire.

Three kinds of alimony systems were applied in Cyprus. The first one was the alimony which was given to children whose parents were dead, the second one was given to a divorced family’s children who lived with the mother and the last one was given to abandoned children. There was not a discrimination in determining the amount of alimony between girls or boys.

Spiritual courts in Cyprus served with non-discrimination between people even if they belonged to different communities. Spiritual courts were preferred by non-Muslims living on the island as well as the traders who came to Cyprus from outside the country.

Non-Muslim couples who were married by the Church, preferred to get divorced in the presence of a spiritual court. The most important reason was that churches opposed divorce and put forward stringent requirements to the parties. A Non- Muslim father gave some money or furnishing called “medarima” (drahoma) to their daughters when they were getting married and in the case of a divorce or death the medarima was reclaimed.

One of the most common relations between the two communities living on the island emerged during the sale of properties. These properties were houses, gardens, trees, water rights, animals and various objects. In some periods commercial partnerships were formed between Muslims and non-Muslims. Two communities made production in solidarity with one another in Cyprus. As non-Muslims worked in the service of Muslims, Muslims also worked in the service of Christians.

One of the most significant points of the relationship between the two communities was the religious conversion. (Proselytise to Islam) The Ottoman Empire freed the non-Muslims who lived under their rule, and also allowed them to worship in their religions and to swear in courts according to their own religious ceremonies. The Ottomans never pressured the non-Muslims to change their religion or to choose Islam. It was found that 487 people registered to religious conversion as a result of the study done in Nicosia Court Records which covered the whole of the Ottoman period. The official transactions of Muslims who wished to accept the religion of Islam was done by cadi in the Nicosia court. It was sufficient to prove one’s age in court in order to accept Islam.

As well as in other parts and neighbourhoods of Cyprus, Muslims and Christians lived together sincerely and friendly in Nicosia. In total, 38 districts had been identified in the island of Cyprus in the second quarter of the 18th Century.

Several charitable foundations were established during the Ottoman rule in the island of Cyprus. It was found in the documents that Muslim women established the foundations as well as men in the island.

The Ottoman Empire, brought the education and training system to Cyprus which was applied in the whole of the Empire. The development and operation of educational institutions of non-Muslims was set free on the island as well as the whole Ottoman Empire. All kind of transactions related with the training of non-Muslims were allowed to be performed by the Orthodox Church.

Shortly after the conquest of the island, madrasas were opened in Cyprus. Madrasas were the higher education institutions. 10 madrasas were opened in various parts of the island during the Ottoman rule.

The first Ottoman Junior High School (Mekteb-i Rüşdi) in modern sense was opened next to the Hagia Sophia (Selimiye) Mosque in Nicosia in 1860. After that, in total 22 Ottoman Junior High Schools were opened in different locations of the island. There were 65 Muslim schools and 83 Christian schools in Cyprus when the British rule started in 1878.

Slaves were considered the lowest class of the society in the Ottoman Empire as well as in other countries. It can be understood from the sources that the male and female slave trade was very common in Cyprus from the beginning of the Ottoman rule. At the end of the XVI. Century, the Famagusta port was located on one of the busiest slave road of the Empire. The majority of the slaves in the island comprised of black slaves. As well as the Muslims, non-Muslims also had the right to have slaves.

The island of Cyprus was exposed to droughts, epidemics, earthquakes, locusts and mice invasions in different periods of the history. The plague, malaria and cholera were the epidemics which deeply affected Cyprus. 2/3rds of the people living in Cyprus died due to the plague in Cyprus in 1692. 1/3rd of the people living in Nicosia died due the plague in Cyprus in 1835. Foreigners who came to the Famagusta port were kept waiting at the port for 40 days to prevent the plague on the island. A full quarantine service was built in the 1840s in Cyprus.

Malaria was especially effective in summer and early autumn on the island of Cyprus. The islanders left the island or they moved to the mountain regions to avoid malaria.

There are several reasons of the scarcity of crops in Cyprus. Lack of rainfall and mice and grasshopper invasions were the most important ones. The government was distributing food and seed for planting in periods of shortage.

It was known that many earthquakes occurred in Cyprus in several years. The Hagia Sophia Mosque (Selimiye) was considerably damaged and 2/3rds was destroyed due to the earthquake in 1734. The earthquake also caused the death of 200 Turks in Famagusta and a large part of the city was also damaged.


When the Ottoman Empire came to the island it was seen that the islanders were poor and landless except the Latin origin noblesse and knights. Ottomans removed some of the heavy taxes collected by the Venetians in Cyprus and reduced some of them. Later, the territory system was changed for islanders to be landowners.

The commerce and industry in Cyprus had improved with the Ottoman Empire. These sectors were removed from the monopoly of Latin origin traders with new regulations of the Ottoman rulers and the islanders were ensured to be effective in these areas. Tuzla was the other important trading port as Famagusta during the Ottoman period. Tuzla became an important import and export trade area because the consuls of the Ottoman Empire dwelt there. As well as the port cities, the capital Nicosia became a trade centre.

In the second quarter of the XVIII. century; Britain, France, Denmark, Nederland, Venice, Sicily, Analp, Dubrovnik, Rome (Pearl) and the Swedish state traded with Cyprus. Products that were not prohibited to export generally were bought from the island of Cyprus as raw materials, and processed goods were brought to the island. Cotton and woollen weavings were the main ones.

One of the precautions taken by the Ottomans to promote the trade was to struggle with pirates in the Mediterranean and to prevent them damaging the traders’ ships of the western states. The Ottoman Empire which was determined to prevent the activities of pirates sent fleets to the Mediterranean from time to time and guarded the ships which brought goods to Istanbul.

One of the example of the organizations of the community groups which had common ideals and interests in the Ottoman society was the artisan organization. All the urban population, except the soldiers, had organized in its own structure. This structure also had an important place in economic and commercial life of the city. As far as the sources indicated, around 100 craft groups were in service during the Ottoman period in Cyprus. When these craft branches were examined, it was seen that almost all of the Muslim and non-Muslim population were working together in the island.


The Ayestefanos Peace Treaty was signed as a result of the Ottoman Empire being defeated in the Ottoman-Russian War in 1877-78 (the 93 war). The treaty included serious provisions. The states led by Britain signed the Treaty of Berlin instead of the relevant treaty. Both the island and its administration it was decided would be left to Britain. Thus, the island of Cyprus was rented to Britain as of 1878 and British rule began on the island until 1960.

Britain declared that the island was annexed on 5 November 1914 due to the fact that the Ottoman Empire had joined World War I against Britain. Upon this decision, many desperate Turkish Cypriots left the island.

In 1915, Britain offered Cyprus to Greece on the condition of being allied in the war, but this suggestion was rejected because Greece supposed that Germany would win the war. Despite that Greece had joined World War I for the benefit of Britain, Britain declined to give the island to Greece. Meanwhile, Turkish Cypriots acted against the Enosis activities of the Greek Cypriots.

The Grand National Assembly of Turkey accepted that the island belonged to Britain with the Lausanne Peace Treaty signed on 24 July 1923. Self-determination right was given to the Turks on the island. Turkish Cypriots either would stay in the island or would migrate to Turkey or they would be expatriated from citizenship of Turkey.

Around 5,000 Turkish Cypriots migrated to Turkey from the island based on the Lausanne Treaty between the years of 1924 -1927. Thus, the corruption which began in 1878 in the balance of the population continued in 1914, and finally became a dire situation for the Turkish Cypriots with the Lausanne Treaty.

Britain officially owned the island with the Lausanne Peace Treaty and declared on 10 March 1925 that the island became a Crown Colony. The High Commissioner was replaced by a Governor. The Crown Colony which was proclaimed in 1925 continued until proclamation of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960.

A major rebellion attempt by the Greek Cypriots occurred in the island against the British administration in 1931. As a result of the rebellion, both communities were put under pressure on the island. After that, martial law continued approximately for 10 years. Developments during World War II led Britain to alleviate the martial law on the island. The British management determined to hold an election for the local administrations in 1941, and allowed to conduct political activities. As a result, various political parties were established among Turkish and Greek Cypriots at that period (KATAK, AKEL etc.).

In the 1950s Turkey attended the London Conference on the invitation of Britain and officially became a side in Cyprus. In this period, Greek Cypriots attempted diplomatic initiatives to achieve Enosis with the support of Greece. On 15 January 1950, Greek Orthodox Church organised a plebiscite regarding the annex of the island to Greece. When the Greek Cypriots could not get the desired result, they established EOKA – the underground organization- in 1955 in cooperation with Greece to actualize Enosis. At the beginning, EOKA targeted the British people who were administrators on the island, but later, Turkish Cypriots also began to be the target of EOKA.

On the other hand, Turkish Cypriots established Turkish Resistance Organization, TMT on 1 August 1958 with the support of Turkey in order to resist the attacks of the EOKA.

As of 1959, the situation in the island has become unbearable for the United Kingdom. A consensus was reached with the London and Zurich Agreements in 1959, and the Republic of Cyprus was established as a two-nation state on the basis of the partnership of Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots in 1960. With this compromise, the island gained independence and at the same time the United Kingdom was able to obtain two military sovereign bases.

The Republic of Cyprus recognized Turkish and Greek Cypriot peoples as the Founding Partners of the new Republic based on the bi-communal, partnership government with political equality of the island. 1960 Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus was originally prepared for a functional Federation. Social functions such as births, deaths, marriages, schools, football clubs, garbage collection and municipal taxes have been performed separately by the local authorities of each community. There was a single national identity of the Republic of Cyprus at the international level and the Republic became a member of the UN.

Unfortunately, 1960 Partnership Republic lasted only three years. The Akritas Plan, which envisaged the annexation of the island to Greece and which was also published as a UN document (A / 33/115), has not been abolished by the Greek Cypriots. Therefore, Greek Cypriots offered to make Constitutional amendments which were going to make the Turkish Cypriots a minority in the island.

Disagreements on the Constitution and the other bi-communal issues have led to the tragic events of 1963, when many Turkish Cypriot civilians lost their lives. At this point, the Greek Cypriots usurped 1960 Partnership Republic by force of arms and excluded the Turkish Cypriots from all state organs and unilaterally altered the basic provisions of the Constitution contrary to the Constitution.

As a result, the physical separation of the population in the capital Lefkoşa was determined by the Green Line. The bi-communal conflicts required the UN to send the UN Peacekeeping Force to Cyprus in March 1964. Turkish Cypriots, who survived from the Greek Cypriot attacks, had to take refuge in small settlement areas corresponding to 3% of the island’s surface area.

The island has no centralized administration to represent the whole of Cyprus since 1963. The Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots have administrated themselves separately since 1963, however the Greek Cypriot side has claimed to be the “Cyprus Government”. Since their exclusion from the 1960 Partnership Republic, Turkish Cypriots have established a number of administrative mechanisms in order to administrate themselves and regulate their daily functions. First, they established the General Committee, which served until December 27, 1967. A new administration was established under the name of precautionary Turkish Cypriot Administration. Later, on December 21, 1971, the Turkish Cypriots abolished the word “precautionary” and called their administration the Turkish Cypriot Administration. For the Turkish Cypriots, the period between 1963 and 1974 was the years of poverty, fear and insecurity for the Turkish Cypriots in which they had also great transportation problems. On 15 July 1974, Greek junta realized a coup in Cyprus in cooperation with Greek Cypriot EOKA.

Turkey intervened in the island on July 20, 1974 as a guarantor country. After the peace operation, the island was divided into two parts as northern and southern Cyprus. The Turkish Federated State of Cyprus was established on February 13, 1975. Later, on November 15, 1983, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was established.

*Cited from the article of Prof.Dr.Ali Efdal Özkul titled ‘Social, Economic and Political History of Cyprus’

*You can find more information about the political history of Cyprus on