By: Mark Minding
Cyprus is an island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, 113 km south of Turkey and 120 km west of the Syrian coast. The metal “copper” in English stems from the Latin work Cyprus. Large deposits of copper are found on the island. Geographically, Cyprus is in Western Asia.
Historically, Cyprus has been a bridgehead between Europe and Asia. It has interchanging periods of Levantine, Anatolian and Greek influences.
It was in 1960 that Cyprus gained independence from the United Kingdom. Still, U.K., Greece and Turkey retained limited rights to intervene in Cyprus’ internal affairs.
The Republic of Cyprus is the government of the island which is internationally recognized and controls the southern two-thirds of the island. Almost all foreign governments recognize the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus over all of Cyprus.
Turkish Cypriots, together with Turkey, oppose the Republic’s rule over Cyprus and call it the “Greek Authority of Southern Cyprus”. They control the northern part of the island followed by a military invasion by Turkey in the year 1974.
Since 1974, the Republic of Cyprus controls the southern two-thirds of the island and the Turkish-Cypriot controls the northern one-third. In reality the governments’ power extends only to the Greek Cypriot controlled areas though it is an internationally recognized authority.
Even economically, the island is divided into Cyprus government areas and northern Turkish Cypriot administered areas. The Greek Cypriot economy is prosperous, but is highly susceptible to external shocks. There were erratic growth rates in 1990s which reflect the economy’s vulnerability to swings in tourism, caused by political instability and economic conditions in Western Europe.
The Turkish Cypriot economy faces problems like arranging foreign financing because it is only recognized by Turkey. Foreign firms are also hesitant to invest there. It has one-fifth of the population and one-third of per capita GDP of the south. The economy remains heavily dependent on agriculture and government services, which together employs half of the work force.
To compensate for the economy’s weakness, Turkey provides direct and indirect aid to tourism, education, industry etc.
The Cypriots are among the most prosperous people in the Mediterranean region. The island promotes its image as a “bridge” between East and West, its educated English-speaking population, moderate local costs, good airline connections and telecommunications.
Greek is predominantly spoken in the south and Turkish in the north. Historically, Greek (its Cypriot dialect) was spoken by nearly 82% of the population of Cyprus. Along with Greek and Turkish, English is also widely used in Cyprus.
The climate of Cyprus is temperate with hot and dry summers, and cool and rainy winters.
Music in Cyprus has a variety of classical, folk and popular genres. Folk music in Cyprus is similar to the folk music of Greece and includes dances like sousta, syrtos, zeimbekikos, dachas, and the kartsilamdhes.
As Cyprus was an important outpost of Christianity and European civilization during the Crusades, a variety of styles, including music from Armenia, France, Greece and Arabs, got merged with the island’s own culture.
Cyprus has retained its grandeur through the years of turmoil and remains a great tourist destination in spite of political upheavals. It is a unique place to visit with a distinct history and culture.
This article was posted on January 19, 2006
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