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Cyprus (Republic of) island republic situated in the northeastern Mediterranean Sea, about 40 mi (60 km) south of Turkey and 60 mi (97 km) west of Syria. Cyprus, 3,572 sq mi (9,251 sqkm) in area, is the Mediterranean's third largest island. The capital is Nicosia.

Land and climate

Two main mountain ranges dominate the island: the Kyrenia ridge in northern-central Cyprus and the Troödos Mountains in the southwest, including Mt. Olympus (6,403 ft/1,952 km). Between these rugged ranges lies the fertile Mesaöia plain. The island's climate is predominantly dry, with mild winters and hot, sunny summers. The remains of ancient forests of evergreen oak, Aleppo pine, and cypress cling to the rocky mountain slopes, but centuries of timber cutting have almost stripped Cyprus of its native forest cover, which has been largely replaced by poor pasture.


About 80% of Cypriots are of Greek extraction; the rest are predominantly Turkish in origin. Each group clings to its own cultural traditions; there are 2 official languages (Greek and Turkish), 2 main faiths (the Orthodox Church of Cyprus and Islam), and even separate schools for Greek and Turkish Cypriots.


Neolithic farmers lived on the island as early as 6000 B.C. Around 1200 B.C. Greek-speaking traders arrived, followed by the Phoenicians. Both peoples set up city-states, and Cyprus developed a cosmopolitan Eurasian culture. In 709 B.C., however, Cyprus submitted to Assyria, and from then on was largely dominated by foreign states. The Ottoman Turks (1570–1878) established their own Muslim culture alongside the Christian one that had flourished since A.D. 45. After Britain gained Cyprus in 1878 (making it a crown colony in 1925), conflict between Turkish and Greek Cypriots became a major issue, especially in the 1950s, when Archbishop Makarios led a powerful movement for enosis, political union with Greece. Also in the 1950s, Col. Giorgios Grivas headed EOKA, a guerrilla movement aimed at forcibly freeing Cyprus from Britain. In 1960 Britain granted Cyprus its independence. The new republic tried solving its Greco-Turkish problem by constitutional compromise, which failed. Fierce intercommunal fighting and the threat of intervention from both Greece and Turkey led to the arrival of a UN peacekeeping force in 1965. Subsequent talks between President Makarios and Turkish leaders were frequent but fruitless. In 1974 a military group organized by Greek army officers ousted Makarios, whereupon Turkey invaded the island, setting up a “Turkish Federated State of Cyprus” under Turkish occupation in the northeastern third of the island. Although the island remains divided, it is regarded as a Greek nation by the UN. At the end of the 1990s, negotiations regarding membership of the European Union commenced.


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