Cyprus is an island country in the Eastern Mediterranean. Cyprus is the third largest and third most populous island in the Mediterranean. It is located southeast of Greece, north of Egypt, south of Turkey, west of Syria and Lebanon, and northwest of Israel and Palestine.
The Republic of Cyprus is divided into six districts: Nicosia, Famagusta, Kyrenia, Larnaca, Limassol and Paphos. Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004 and Eurozone in 2008.
Cyprus is known as the Island of Love because Aphrodite the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation, was born of the sea foam on the southwest coast of the Pafos (Paphos) district. Legend tells that she rose from the waves and was escorted on a shell to the ‘Petra tou Romiou’ beach.
Cyprus was settled by Mycenaean Greeks in two waves in the 2nd millennium BC. As a strategic location in the Middle East, it was subsequently occupied by several major powers, including the empires of the Assyrians, Egyptians and Persians, from whom the island was seized in 333 BC by Alexander the Great. Subsequent rule by Ptolemaic Egypt, the Roman Empire, Arabs, the French Lusignan dynasty and the Venetians, was followed by over three centuries of Ottoman rule between 1571 and 1878.
Cyprus was placed under British administration based on the Cyprus Convention in 1878 and formally annexed by Britain in 1914. While Turkish Cypriots made up 18% of the population, the partition of Cyprus and creation of a Turkish state in the north became a policy of Turkish Cypriot leaders and Turkey in the 1950s. The majority Greek Cypriot population and its Orthodox church had been pursuing union with Greece, which became a Greek national policy in the 1950s. Following nationalist violence in the 1950s, Cyprus was granted independence in 1960.
In 1963, the 11-year intercommunal violence between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots started. On 15 July 1974, a coup d'état was staged by Greek Cypriot nationalists and elements of the Greek military junta in an attempt at enosis, the incorporation of Cyprus into Greece. This action precipitated the Turkish invasion of Cyprus on 20 July 1974, which led to the capture of the present-day territory of Northern Cyprus in the following month, and by then 36% of the island had been taken over by the Turks and 180,000 Greek Cypriots had been evicted from their homes in the north. At the same time, around 50,000 Turkish Cypriots moved to the areas under the control of the Turkish Forces and settled in the properties of the displaced Greek Cypriots.
There are 1,534 Greek Cypriots and 502 Turkish Cypriots missing as a result of the fighting.
A separate Turkish Cypriot state in the north was established by a unilateral declaration in 1983; the move was widely condemned by the international community, with Turkey alone recognizing the new state. These events and the resulting political situation are matters of a continuing dispute.
The Cypriot National Guard is the main military institution of the Republic of Cyprus. Historically all men were required to spend 14 months serving in the National Guard after their 17th birthday because the military Turkish forces still remain at the Nothern part of Cyprus.
The majority of Greek Cypriots identify as Greek Orthodox, whereas most Turkish Cypriots are adherents of Sunni Islam. According to Eurobarometer 2005, Cyprus was the second most religious state in the European Union at that time, after Malta.
The first President of Cyprus, Makarios III, was an archbishop. According to the 2001 census carried out in the Government-controlled area, 94.8% of the population are Eastern Orthodox, 0.9% Armenians and Maronites, 1.5% Roman Catholics, 1.0% Church of England, and 0.6% Muslims. There is also a Jewish community on Cyprus. The remaining 1.3% adhere to other religious denominations or did not state their religion.
Cyprus has two official languages, Greek and Turkish. Armenian and Cypriot Maronite Arabic are recognized as minority languages. Although without official status, English is widely spoken and it features widely on road signs, public notices, and in advertisements, etc. English was the sole official language during British colonial rule and the lingua franca until 1960 and continued to be used in courts of law until 1989 and in legislation until 1996.
80.4% of Cypriots are proficient in the English language as a second language.Russian is widely spoken among the country's minorities, residents and citizens of post-Soviet countries, and Pontic Greeks. Russian, after English and Greek, is the third language used on many signs of shops and restaurants, particularly in Limassol and Paphos. In addition to these languages, 12% speak French and 5% speak German. The everyday spoken language of Greek Cypriots is Cypriot Greek.
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