Geographically located in Asia, in the easternmost bend of the Mediterranean off the Turkish and Syrian coasts (from which it is only 65 and 86 km away respectively), the island of Cyprus has undergone the influence of the numerous civilizations that over the centuries they considered it a land of conquest, so much so that it maintains Phoenician, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian, Turkish and British vestiges in its culture and territory. However, from a historical and political point of view, it was the Greek and Turkish influences that were fundamental in determining the current situation. Cyprus has always been inhabited by populations of Hellenic origin, who flocked to the island as early as the first millennium BC. C., while the arrival of the Turkish colonists dates back to the Ottoman conquest of the territory, which took place in 1570. Greece and Turkey continued to nurture a desire for conquest towards the Cypriot island, which both countries felt as a natural territorial offshoot. In particular, Greece, with a strong majority of the population on the island belonging to the Greek Cypriot ethnic group, carried forward the request for enosis (unification), which would mark the definitive union of Cyprus with the motherland. Following independence, the problem took on the character of conflict between the two ethnic groups of the country, the Greek-Cypriot one aspiring to unification, and the Turkish-Cypriot more favorable to separation (taksim) by pro-Hellenic compatriots, under the protection of Turkey. In 1974 an attempted coup by the Greek, and the subsequent intervention of Turkey which militarily occupied a part of the territory, are at the origin of the current situation. Since then, the country has been divided into a northern state, under Turkish protection and not recognized by the international community, and a southern state, of Greek ethnicity, universally considered to be the only Republic of Cyprus. This decades-long division has penalized both areas of the country from both a political and economic point of view. However, the division of Cyprus represents a serious international problem for both the EU, which Southern Cyprus entered in 2004, while Turkey’s entry is expected for the next few years; both for the NATO, of which Greece and Turkey are member countries; and for the UN, present on the island with a contingent on the separation line, and whose secretaries have made numerous proposals for reconciliation over the years, which have so far systematically failed.
The state of Cyprus, independent since 1960, is a presidential republic within the Commonwealth. According to carswers, the President is elected by universal suffrage every 5 years and exercises executive power together with a council of ministers appointed by himself. The parliament is made up of 59 members who are also elected by universal suffrage for 5 years. In 1975, following the landing, in August 1974, of Turkish troops on the territory and the subsequent occupation of the northern part of the island, the Turkish Republic of Cyprus was proclaimed, located in the north of the country. It has a President, a government and a parliament, which are not recognized by either the Southern state or the UN, which considers the Greek Cypriot state the only one in existence and as such a representative of the entire island. Since 1985, the Turkish Cypriot state has also had its own constitution. The defense of the Republic of Cyprus is entrusted to the National Guard. The country also has a UN contingent, Greek military forces and two British military bases. On the “green line” of division between the two countries, there are also 12,000 UN soldiers, while Turkish soldiers are stationed in the northern part of the country. Education is administered separately by the two areas of Cyprus, but in both cases includes 9 years of compulsory school attendance (6 in primary school and at least 3 in secondary school).
Despite its proximity to the Asian coasts, Cyprus has always had a majority population of Greek origin. The present-day Greek Cypriots are the descendants of the first colonizers, who settled on the island starting from 1100 BC. C., and constitute ca. 90% of the total population. The Turkish Cypriots instead descend from the Ottomans who settled on the island after its conquest, starting from 1570, and they are 18%; among the rest there are a small number of Armenians. The population has started to grow significantly during this century, passing from 186,000 inhab. in 1881 (year of the first census) to 310,000 inhab. of 1921, a value currently tripled (2008). The morphological-climatic conditions are not particularly favorable and the modest economic resources do not allow strong human densification; Limassól on the southern coast and, on the eastern one, near Famagusta: but we must take into account the mass movements that occurred with the partition of the island, which led to the expulsion of all the residents of Greek origin from the Turkish-Cypriot state, estimated at approx.. 200,000, where, on the other hand, Turkish Cypriots from the southern sector of the island, in Greek hands, flocked, as well as numerous colonists from the Turkish motherland. Among the forms of settlement the agricultural village prevails; However, a process of progressive urbanization is also underway in Cyprus. On the whole, the face of the Cypriot cities is similar, with the picturesque historic center, which often preserves famous monuments within the circle of Venetian walls, while all around the houses of the modern neighborhoods shine white. The cities are all coastal with the exception, as we have seen, of Nicosia, famous artistically and historically (it was already the capital of the island under the Byzantines and the Lusignano), a lively commercial as well as political and administrative center (today divided into two Greek sectors, to S, and Turkish, to N). More limited functions, mostly commercial, perform the other major cities: Famagusta, located in the Turkish Cypriot state, which was a very active Venetian emporium; Limassól, the most important port on the island, and Lárnaca, which is also a very popular tourist resort.