Publication date:
Nicos Trimikliniotis and Corina Demetriou

Cyprus is the third-largest island in the Mediterranean; its geographical position, in the far eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea, historically adjoining Europe, Asia and Africa has been both a blessing and a curse. Invaders and occupiers for centuries sought to subordinate it for strategic reasons, followed by British colonial rule. In an area of 9,251 square kilometres the total population of Cyprus is around 754,800, of whom 672,800 (or 75.4%) are Greek-Cypriots (living in the Republic of Cyprus-controlled area). Upon independence from British colonial rule in 1960, Turkish-Cypriots constituted 18 per cent of the population, whilst the smaller ‘religious groups’, as referred to in the Constitution –consisting of Armenians, Latins, Maronites and ‘others’ (such as Roma)– constituted 3.2 per cent of the population. Today Turkish Cypriots are estimated to be 89.200 or 10% of the total population of the island. Peaceful coexistence between the island’s two communities, the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots had been short-lived. In 1963 inter-communal violence forced the majority of the Turkish Cypriots to withdraw into enclaves: over 30% of the Turkish Cypriots were forced to live in Turkish militia-controlled enclaves in isolation and squalid conditions. The economy was structured by the ethnic conflict that dominated the island since 1963 and the segregation of the two communities that penetrated economy and society deeply up until 1974, when a military coup staged by the Greek junta preceded the military invasion from Turkey a few days later. Since then, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots lived apart, separated by a barbed wire with very little contact until 2003, until the Turkish Cypriot administration decided to partially lift the ban on freedom of movement and opened up a few checkpoints around the island. For many Greek Cypriots and especially for the younger generation, this development offered the first opportunity to come into contact with Turkish Cypriots, who had for several decades lived so close and yet so far apart.