Cyprus: Journey Through A Complex History

Decades of division dominate the island's cultural tapestry.

British soldiers fighting against a street riot by EOKA in Nicosia, Cyprus, 1956 (Picture: National Army Museum).

Friday marks 59 years of Cyprus' independence from the United Kingdom, following years of action from the national guerrilla group EOKA for political union with Greece.

Cyprus was under British military occupation from 1914 until 1925 and then a Crown colony until 1960, before gaining independence.

Here, we take a look at the key moments from the island's history.

1914: British annexation of Cyprus following more than three centuries of Ottoman rule. Cyprus joins forces with Germany during the First World War.

1925: Cyprus becomes British Crown Colony. Sir Malcolm Stevenson becomes first Governor.

1955: ‘Enosis’ campaign to unify Cyprus and Greece intensifies as Greek Cypriots start a guerrilla war against British rule.

The National Organisation of Cypriot Combatants ‘EOKA’ group is established, aiming to show the world that Britain has a problem at resolving the ‘Cyprus problem'.

A demonstration in Cyprus during the 1930s, in favor of Enosis (Union) with Greece (Picture: Athens, Gannadios Library).

An armed struggle begins and homes of senior Army officials are attacked, with public disorder ensuing.

British reinforces Dhekelia and Akrotiri military bases by transferring troops from Egypt.  

The State of Emergency is declared by British Governor John Harding.

1956: Opposition to EOKA weakens, following the banning of Marxist-Leninist group 'AKEL' and detention of leading members from December the previous year.

Leading Greek Cypriot icon Archbishop Makarios III is exiled to Seychelles, in the hope of dampening the rebellion, but prompts a rise in attacks by EOKA.

The Detention of Persons Law (1955) gives Britain authority to enclose suspects in camps without trial. Claims of torture in Cyprus camps are raised, but the International Red Cross committee visits twice and reports no issues. Harding dismisses claims as EOKA propaganda.

A total of 371 British military personnel die during the years of rebellion (1955-59).

Sycamore 284 Squadron helicopter flies over Cyrpus mountains
An RAF Sycamore HR.14 during a patrol over Cyprus in 1957 (Picture: Crown Copyright).

1960: On 16 August, Cyprus gains independence from the United Kingdom. Having returned from exile, Archbishop Makarios III is elected President.

Turkish and Greek communities agree on a constitution. The Treaty of Guarantee grants Britain, Turkey and Greece a right to intervene.

1964: The UN establishes a peacekeeping force.

1974: President Makarios flees Cyprus, following a coup backed by Greek military junta.

Turkey invades the island, peace talks between Turkish and Greek Cypriots fail. Turkey takes control of a third of the island. Greek Cypriots flee from north to south, Turkish Cypriots flee the other way.

Archbishop Makarios III, of Cyprus.

1975: Turkish Cypriots set up an independent administration, and Rauf Denktash takes up its Presidency.

1997: Tension and violence along the buffer zone lead to more failed talks between Turkish and Greek Cypriots.

1998: Cyprus is noted as a potential EU member.

2002: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan outlines a peace plan for the island.

North and South Remember the Division of Cyprus
The Cyprus buffer zone.

2004: On 1 May, Cyprus becomes one of 10 new states to gain EU membership, albeit divided.

2011: A diplomatic row with Turkey ensues when Cyprus begins drilling in exploration for gas and oil.

2012: Cyprus conference cancelled by UN- cites a lack of progress by communities on moving past substantial differences.

2013: With Cyprus’ banks exposed to the economic crisis in Greece, 10 billion euro bailout is secured from EU and the International Monetary Fund.

Map showing the division of Cyprus.

2015: Reunification talks between the government and Turkish Cypriots start once more, but end just over two years later.

2019: 33 Cypriots win a case to be awarded £1m in damages, claiming torture by British during rebellion from 1955-59.