Cyprus Stage 1

Background to the conflict

Tensions grew between the Greek and Turkish people. Violence and unrest spread across Cyprus.

1960 – 1964


Cyprus

Longstanding tensions

The small Mediterranean island of Cyprus has a very long history. The tensions between its Greek and Turkish people go back many hundreds of years. After being a part of the Ottoman Empire for centuries, the United Kingdom took control in 1878. Cyprus became a part of the British Empire in 1914 and was later made a crown colony in 1925. The Greek residents of Cyprus resisted British rule and wanted the island to be part of Greece. They rioted and burned the government house in the capital city of Nicosia. But the Turkish population did not want the island to join Greece. Instead they wanted Cyprus divided into Greek and Turkish portions.

The unrest builds

The British tried to keep the tensions under control. Greeks on the island tried harder to break away from British colonial rule. Turkish resistance also strengthened as public pressure grew for Cyprus to join Greece. Some Cypriot leaders pushed for violent revolution, while others preferred more diplomatic means.

In the late 1950s, the Greek resistance launched an armed campaign against British rule with attacks on strategic targets.

On the verge of civil war

The danger of civil war erupting in Cyprus was very real. Efforts to find a peaceful solution kept failing. Britain led negotiations for a compromise and suggested creating the Republic of Cyprus. This solution did not please most Cypriots, though. There was no political union with Greece as the Greek residents wanted. Nor was a Turkish section of Cyprus created, as the Turks sought.

Achieving independence

On 16 August 1960 Britain stepped away and Cyprus became an independent country. Its new constitution, elected representatives and special legislation were meant to balance the interests of Greek and Turkish citizens. Yet, the political situation was very complicated. Major disputes soon erupted over how the island was governed and the violence continued on both sides.

In December 1963, the Greek majority forced out Turkish members of the government and civil service. Major fighting broke out and unrest quickly spread across Cyprus.


Classroom materials

Classroom materials main page

Lesson plan: 12-18

Humanitarian aid tree

Lesson plan: All ages

Peace and Freedom WebQuest

historical sheet

Cyprus

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