Fast Facts Cyprus
Cyprus, officially called the Republic of Cyprus, is an island nation in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It is the third largest and third most populous island in the Mediterranean, and is located south of Turkey; west of Syria; northwest of Lebanon, Israel and Palestine; north of Egypt; and southeast of Greece. Nicosia is the country’s capital and largest city.
The earliest known human activity on the island dates to around the 10th millennium BC. Archaeological remains from this period include the well-preserved Neolithic village of Khirokitia, and Cyprus is home to some of the oldest water wells in the world. Cyprus was settled by Mycenaean Greeks in two waves in the 2nd millennium BC. As a strategic location in the Eastern Mediterranean, it was subsequently occupied by several major powers, including the empires of the Assyrians, Egyptians and Persians, from whom the island was seized in 333 BC by Alexander the Great. Subsequent rule by Ptolemaic Egypt, the Classical and Eastern Roman Empire, Arab caliphates for a short period, the French Lusignan dynasty and the Venetians, was followed by over three centuries of Ottoman rule between 1571 and 1878.
The Republic of Cyprus is a unitary presidential representative republic, whereby the President of Cyprus is both head of state and head of government. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the parliament. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.
Cyprus has been a divided island since 1974 when Turkey invaded the north in response to a military coup on the island which was backed by the Athens government. Since then, the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus has controlled the south two-thirds, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, only recognized by Turkey, the northern one-third. The Government of the Republic of Cyprus has continued as the sole internationally recognized authority on the island (as well as the United Kingdom being internationally recognized with respect to the SBAs), though in practice its power extends only to the government-controlled area.
Geopolitically, the island is divided into four segments. The Republic of Cyprus, the only internationally recognized government, occupies the southern 60% of the island, and has been a member state of the European Union since 1 May 2004. The “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”, is diplomatically recognized only by Turkey, occupies the northern one-third of the island, around 36% of the territory. The United Nations-controlled Green Line is a buffer zone that separates the two and it is about 4%. Lastly, two areas—Akrotiri and Dhekelia—remain under British sovereignty for military purposes, collectively forming the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia (SBA). The SBAs are located on the southern coast of the island and together encompass 254 km2, or 2.8% of the island.
The people of Cyprus are broadly divided into two main ethnic communities, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, who share many cultural traits but maintain distinct identities based on ethnicity, religion, language, and close ties with their respective motherlands. Before the dispute started in 1964 the peoples of Cyprus (then 78% Greeks, 17% Turks, 5% other communities, including Armenians and Maronites) were dispersed over the entire island.
The Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 de facto partitioned the island into two political areas: 99.5% of Greek Cypriots now live in the Republic of Cyprus while 98.7% of Turkish Cypriots live in Northern Cyprus (of other nationalities, 99.2% live in the Greek Cypriot area in the south). Greek is predominantly spoken in the South, where the majority are Greek Cypriots, and Turkish in the north, where the majority are Turkish Cypriots. English is widely used throughout the island, as a common language.
The total population of Cyprus as of the end of 2006 is slightly over 1 million, comprising 789,300 in the territory controlled by the government of the Republic of Cyprus and 294,406 in Northern Cyprus. The population of Northern Cyprus includes some 150,000–160,000 Turkish immigrants who are regarded as illegal settlers by the Republic of Cyprus government and are not included in the population statistics of the Republic of Cyprus Statistical Service.
The entrance of the historic Pancyprian Gymnasium Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots share a lot in common in their culture due to cultural exchanges but also have differences. Several traditional food (such as souvla and halloumi) and beverages are similar, as well as expressions and ways of life. Hospitality and buying or offering food and drinks for guests or others are common among both. In both communities, music, dance and art are integral parts of social life and many artistic, verbal and nonverbal expressions, traditional dances such as tsifteteli, similarities in dance costumes and importance placed on social activities are shared between the communities. However, the two communities have distinct religions and religious cultures, with the Greek Cypriots traditionally being Greek Orthodox and Turkish Cypriots traditionally being Sunni Muslims, which has partly hindered cultural exchange. Greek Cypriots have influences from Greece and Christianity, while Turkish Cypriots have influences from Turkey and Islam.
The Limassol Carnival Festival is an annual carnival which is held at Limassol, in Cyprus. The event which is very popular in Cyprus was introduced in the 20th century.
Faneromeni School is the oldest all-girl primary school in Cyprus. Cyprus has a highly developed system of primary and secondary education offering both public and private education. The high quality of instruction can be attributed in part to the fact that nearly 7% of the GDP is spent on education which makes Cyprus one of the top three spenders of education in the EU along with Denmark and Sweden.
State schools are generally seen as equivalent in quality of education to private-sector institutions. However, the value of a state high-school diploma is limited by the fact that the grades obtained account for only around 25% of the final grade for each topic, with the remaining 75% assigned by the teacher during the semester, in a minimally transparent way. Cypriot universities (like universities in Greece) ignore high school grades almost entirely for admissions purposes. While a high-school diploma is mandatory for university attendance, admissions are decided almost exclusively on the basis of scores at centrally administered university entrance examinations that all university candidates are required to take.
The majority of Cypriots receive their higher education at Greek, British, Turkish, other European and North American universities. Cyprus currently has the highest percentage of citizens of working age who have higher-level education in the EU at 30% which is ahead of Finland’s 29.5%. In addition, 47% of its population aged 25–34 have tertiary education, which is the highest in the EU. The body of Cypriot students is highly mobile, with 78.7% studying in a university outside Cyprus.