The history of Cyprus is one of the oldest recorded in the world and its historical significance is disproportionate to its small size. Considerable resources of copper and timber found in the island combined to make it a highly desirable territorial acquisition.

The first signs of civilisation date to the ninth millennium B.C., but it was the discovery of copper (3900 – 2500 B.C.) that was to bring trade and wealth to the island. Around 1200 B.C., a process began that was to largely stamp the island with the national identity that it maintains to this day. The arrival of Mycenaean-Achaean Greeks as permanent settlers introduced their language and culture to Cyprus which though subsequently subjugated by various conquerors; retained its Greek identity. The Turkish Cypriots came much later and were mostly the descendants of the Ottoman Turks, who occupied the island for more than three hundred years (1571-1878). They have contributed their own heritage to the country which is still visible in Ottoman monuments scattered around the island.

Christianity was introduced to Cyprus during the first century A.D. by St. Paul and St. Barnabas, founder of the Church of Cyprus. Greek Cypriots are predominantly Christian and adhere to the Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus. Turkish Cypriots are Sunni Muslims, while Maronites belong to the Maronite Catholic Church, Armenians predominantly to the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church and Latins to the Latin Catholic Church.

Cyprus became an independent republic on 16 August 1960. In 1974 Turkey invaded Cyprus and occupied 36,2% of its sovereign territory. Despite this brutal violation of international law and the human rights of all the Cypriots by Turkey, the Republic of Cyprus is internationally recognised as the sole legitimate state on the island with sovereignty over its entire territory. Greek and Turkish are the official languages of the Republic. English is widely spoken.

On 1 May 2004 the Republic of Cyprus became a full member of the European Union. Accession to the EU was a natural choice for Cyprus, dictated by its culture, civilisation, history, its European character and its adherence to the ideals of democracy, freedom and justice.

Cyprus is situated in the north-eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea, 33° east and 35° north of the Equator, 75km south of Turkey, 105km west of Syria, 380km north of Egypt and 380km east of Rhodes (Greece).

© 2006 - 2017 Republic of Cyprus, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
High Commission of the Republic of Cyprus in Canberra

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