Cyprus, according to mythology, is the birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. The island is both an ancient land, with an eleven thousand-year-old history and civilisation, and a young independent Republic since 1960. Its geographic location at the crossroads of three continents - Europe, Asia and Africa – and at the meeting point of great civilisations, has been a major factor influencing the course of the island's history throughout the centuries.
Situated at the north-eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus, with an area of 9.251 square kms, is the third largest island after Sicily and Sardinia. It has a Mediterranean climate and enjoys more than 300 days of sunshine every year.
The 1960 census showed that Cyprus had a population of 572.707 consisting of 77,1% Greek Cypriots, 18,2% Turkish Cypriots, 1,1% Maronites, Armenians and Latins and 3,6% others.
According to the 1960 Constitution, the Armenian, Maronite and Latin religious groups opted to be part of the Greek Cypriot community. The population of the island (Dec. 2011) was 952.100 of whom 681.000 (71,5%) belong to the Greek Cypriot community, 90.100 (9,5%) to the Turkish Cypriot community and 181.000 (19,0%) are foreign nationals residing in Cyprus.
Greek and Turkish are the official languages of the state, while English is widely used.
Cyprus became an independent, sovereign state in August 1960 on the basis of the Zurich and London Agreements, following an armed liberation struggle against British colonial rule between 1955 and 1959. In 1974 Turkey invaded Cyprus and occupied 36.2% of its sovereign territory. The ceasefire line runs right across the island and cuts through the heart of the capital, Lefkosia (Nicosia), dividing the city and the country.
The Republic of Cyprus has a presidential system of government with a clear division of authority between the executive, legislative and judicial branches. According to the Constitution, executive power is exercised by the President and Vice-President (allocated to a Turkish Cypriot but currently vacant) through the Council of Ministers; legislative power is exercised by the House of Representatives; and judicial power by the Supreme Court, the Criminal Courts and the District Courts.
The Republic of Cyprus has since 1960 been a member of the United Nations and over the years has become a member of practically all of its specialised agencies. It is also a member of the Commonwealth, the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organisation and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
On 1 May 2004 Cyprus formally joined the European Union completing a long journey which began with its application for full membership in 1990.