Island and country, eastern Mediterranean Sea. Area: 2,276 sq mi (5,896 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 808,000 (whole island). Capital: Nicosia. Cyprus is currently divided into two de facto states. The Republic of Cyprus, the internationally recognized government, occupies the southern two-thirds of the island. Its population is predominantly Greek. Languages: Greek, Turkish (both official). Religion: Christianity (predominantly Eastern Orthodox). Currency: euro. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) occupies the northern third of the island. Its population is overwhelmingly Turkish. Languages: Turkish (official), English. Religion: Islam. Currency: Turkish lira. The third largest island in the Mediterranean, Cyprus lies about 40 mi (65 km) off the southern coast of Turkey. It is largely mountainous, with a fertile heartland and coastal plains. Mount Olympus is its highest peak, 6,401 ft (1,951 m) above sea level. The climate is Mediterranean. Cyprus has a free-enterprise economy based mainly on trade and manufacturing, and it ranks high in the world in merchant shipping. The internationally recognized government is a unitary multiparty republic with a unicameral legislature; its head of state and government is the president. The government of the TRNC, which has not received wide recognition, is a de facto republic with one legislative house; its head of state and government is the president assisted by a council of ministers. Cyprus was inhabited by the early Neolithic Period; by the late Bronze Age it had been visited and settled by Mycenaeans and Achaeans, who introduced Greek culture and language, and it became a trading centre. By 800 BCE Phoenicians had begun to settle there. Ruled over the centuries by the Assyrian, Persian, and Ptolemaic empires, it was annexed by the Roman Republic and Empire in 58 BCE. It was part of the Byzantine Empire in the 4th–12th centuries CE. It was conquered by the English king Richard I (the Lionheart) in 1191. A part of the Venetian trading empire from 1489, it was taken by the Ottoman Empire in 1571. In 1878 the British assumed control, and Cyprus became a British crown colony in 1925. It gained independence in 1960. Conflict between Greek and Turkish Cypriots led to the establishment of a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission in 1964. In 1974, fearing a movement to unite Cyprus with Greece, the Republic of Turkey sent troops to occupy the northern third of the island. Turkish Cypriots established a functioning government, which obtained recognition only from Turkey. The UN peacekeeping mission has remained in place. Negotiations to reunify the island under a single government in 2004 were not successful, but border restrictions were relaxed by both sides. The Republic of Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004 and adopted the euro as its official currency in 2008.

Variants of CYPRUS

Cyprus officially Republic of Cyprus

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on Cyprus, visit

Seen & Heard

What made you look up Cyprus? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.