Post-Classical and Modern Cyprus

Cyprus became part of the Byzantine Empire after the partitioning of the Roman Empire in 395, and remained so for almost eight hundred years, interrupted by a brief period of Arab domination and influence.

After the rule of the rebellious Byzantine Emperor Isaac Komnenos, King Richard I of England captured the island in 1191 during the Third Crusade. On May 6, 1191, Richard's fleet arrived in the port of Lemesos and took the city. When Isaac arrived to stop the Crusaders he discovered he was too late and retired to Kolossi Castle. Richard called Isaac to negotiations but Isaac broke his oath of hospitality and started demanding Richard's departure. Richard ordered his cavalry to follow him in a battle against Isaac's army in Tremetusia. The few Roman Catholics of the island joined Richard's army and so did the island's nobles who were dissatisfied with Isaac's seven years of tyrannical rule. Richard's army was bigger and better equipped, assuring his victory. Isaac continued to resist from the castles of Pentadactylos but after the siege of his castle of Kantara he finally surrendered. In a fit of sardonic irony, Richard had Isaac confined with silver chains, scrupulously abiding by a previous promise that he would not place Isaac in irons should he be taken prisoner. Richard became the new ruler of Cyprus, gaining for the Crusade a major supply base that was not under immediate threat from the Turks as was Tyre. Richard looted the island and massacred those trying to resist him. He and most of his army left Cyprus for the Holy Land early in June. In his absence Cyprus was governed by Richard Camville.

In 1192, the French knight Guy of Lusignan purchased the island, in compensation for the loss of his kingdom, from the Templars. The Republic of Venice took control in 1489 after the abdication of Queen Caterina Cornaro, the widow of James II, the last Lusignan king of Cyprus. Caterina, of a noble Venetian family, was painted by both Bellini and Titian.

Throughout the period of Venetian rule, Ottoman Turks raided and attacked the peoples of Cyprus at will. The Greek population of Cyprus were given weapons by the Venetians and fought the attacking Ottomans.

In 1489, the first year of Venetian control, Turks attacked the Karpasia Peninsula. In 1539 the Turkish fleet attacked and destroyed Limassol. Fearing the ever-expanding Ottoman Empire, the Venetians had fortified Famagusta, Nicosia, and Kyrenia, but most other cities were easy prey.

In the summer of 1570, the Turks attacked again, but this time with a full-scale invasion rather than a raid. A fleet commanded by Piyale Pasha carried about 60,000 troops, including cavalry and artillery, under the command of Lala Kara Mustafa Pasha to the island and landed unopposed near Limassol on July 2, 1570, and laid siege to Nicosia. The city fell (September 9, 1570), 20,000 Nicosian Greeks were put to death, and every church, public building, and palace was looted. Word of the massacre spread, and a few days later Lala Kara Mustafa Pasha took Kyrenia without having to fire a shot. Famagusta, however, resisted and put up a heroic defense that lasted from September 1570 until August 1571.

Ottoman rule brought about two radical results in the history of the island. For the first time since the Phoenicians in the ninth century BC, a new population group appeared, the Turks. The Ottoman Empire gave timars—land grants—to soldiers under the condition that they and their families would stay there permanently. This event radically changed the demographics of Cyprus. During the seventeenth century the Turkish population grew rapidly. Most of the Turks who had settled on the island during the three centuries of Ottoman rule remained when control of Cyprus—although not sovereignty (see Cyprus Convention)—was ceded to Britain in 1878. Many, however, left for Turkey during the 1920s. By 1970, ethnic Turks represented 18% of the total population of the island, with ethnic Greeks representing the remainder. The distinction between the two groups was by religion and language.

The second important result of the Ottoman conquest benefited the Greek peasants who no longer remained serfs of the land they were cultivating. Now they could acquire it by purchase, thus becoming owners of it. The Ottomans also applied the millet system to Cyprus, which allowed religious authorities to govern their own non-Muslim minorities. This system reinforced the position of the Orthodox Church and the cohesion of the ethnic Greek population. Gradually the Archbishop of Cyprus became not only the religious but the ethnic leader as well. In this way the Church undertook the task of the guardian of Greek cultural legacy, which is partly carried on even now, although diminished after independence. The Church itself paid no taxes to the Ottoman conquerors but was responsible for collecting taxes from the population and passing it on to the rulers.

The heavy taxes and the abuses against the population on the part of the Ottoman rulers in the early years after the Ottoman conquest gave rise to opposition, following which the Sultan ordered the Governor (the "Kadi") and the Treasurer to govern with justice.[citation needed] While the Sultan's orders indicated his goodwill towards the local population, the local administration proved indifferent, arbitrary and often corrupt, along with imposing a heavy burden of taxes.Cypriots disappointed at the mismanagement of Ottoman governors, soon turned to Western Europe in search of help for liberation as their motherland, Greece, was also under the Ottomans.

Between 1572 and 1668, around twenty-eight bloody uprisings took place on the island and in many of these both Greeks and Turk peasants took part. All ended in failure.

About 1660, in order to eliminate the mismanagement of the Ottoman administration, the Sultan recognised the Archbishop and the Bishops as "the protectors of people" and the representatives of the Sultan. In 1670, Cyprus ceased to be a "pasaliki" for the Ottoman Empire and came under the jurisdiction of the Admiral of the Ottoman fleet. In his turn, the Admiral sent an officer to govern in his place.

In 1703, Cyprus came under the jurisdiction of the Grand Vizier (Anthony Petane) who sent to the island a military and civil administrator. The title and function of this officer were awarded to the person who could raise the highest revenues in exchange. As a result, even heavier taxation was imposed. About 1760 the situation in Cyprus was intolerable. A terrible epidemic of plague, bad crops and earthquakes, drove many Cypriots to emigrate. In addition, what was worse for the Greeks and Turks of the island, the newly-appointed Pasha doubled the taxes in 1764. In the end, Chil Osman and 18 of his friends were killed by Greek and Turkish Cypriots, but the two ethnic elements had to pay a huge sum of money to the Sultan and the families of the victims. The latter did not accept this judgment and broke into an open rebellion, having Khalil Agha, the commander of the guard of the castle of Kyrenia, as their leader. Finally the uprising was crushed and Khalil Agha was beheaded.

Detailed population statistics from Cyprus are available going back to the 1830s. The first large scale census of the Ottoman Empire in 1831 included Cyprus. Only men were counted and information on religion was recorded. The male population at the time was 14,983 Muslims and 29,190 Christians.This implies a total population of 88,000 for the island.

By 1872, the population of the island had risen to 144,000 comprising 44,000 Muslims (mostly Turks) and 100,000 Christians (mostly Greeks).Cyprus was placed under British control on 4 June 1878 as a result of the Cyprus Convention, which granted control of the island to Britain in return for British support of the Ottoman Empire in the Russian-Turkish War.

Famagusta harbour was completed in June 1906; by this time the island was a strategic naval outpost for the British Empire, shoring up influence over the Eastern Mediterranean and Suez Canal, the crucial main route to India.

Cyprus was formally annexed by the United Kingdom in 1913 in the run-up to the First World War, since former British ally (Turkey) had joined the Central Powers. Many Cypriots, now British subjects, signed up to fight in the British Army, promised by the British that when the war finished Cyprus would be united with Greece. This happened twice both in the First and in the Second World War.

The possibility of the island's return to the Ottoman Empire, from which the British had leased it in 1878, kept local nationalist feelings among the Greek population in check. Once the island formally became a British colony, Greek Cypriots started to gradually become more assertive, and to ultimately demand union with Greece. In January 1950, a referendum for union with Greece was organized by the Cypriot Church. The referendum was boycotted by the sizable Greek Cypriot Left, as well as by the Turkish Cypriot community. Among those that participated, a clear majority voted in favor of the island's annexation to Greece.

Turkish Cypriots claim that the enosis movement largely ignored the Turkish Cypriots minority presence on the island, but all peoples of Cyprus recognize that the British sought to quell any movement which could threaten their ability to control the island militarily (local autonomy was proposed by the British, but rejected by the Greek Cypriots). In 1955, an armed struggle against British rule erupted with the foundation of EOKA. The organization's explicitly stated goal was the island's annexation to Greece. The majority of the non-leftist Greek Cypriots either took part directly, or morally supported the EOKA struggle. By the end of the struggle in 1959, EOKA succeeded in shaking off British rule, but failed to achieve its original goal of annexing the island to Greece.

Instead, independence was attained in 1960 after exhaustive negotiations between the United Kingdom, as the colonial power, and Greece and Turkey, the cultural "motherlands" for both the majority and minority communities in Cyprus. The UK ceded the island under a constitution allocating government posts and public offices by ethnic quota, but retained two small Sovereign Base Areas.

 

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