Flag of the Week: Cyprus

Author name
Isabella Wang
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Cyprus Flag

Introduction

This week, we travel to Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, the third largest Mediterranean island, after Sicily and Sardinia. Less than 10,000 km2 in area, Cyprus packs a lot into its small size. It is well known for its rich supply of minerals, wines, produce, and natural beauty.

The Greek Cypriot poet Leonidas Malenis once described Cyprus as a “golden-green leaf thrown into the Sea”, referencing its fertile valleys and wide beaches. The shape of the island has been described as a saucepan, with the handle extending towards the northeast. Located in the Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus has an intense climate with hot, dry summers and rainy winters. In the winter, the Troodos Mountains in the south also get a decent amount of snow.

Fun Fact: Cyprus is a popular destination for bird-watchers because the island is on major bird migration routes. In the spring and autumn, millions of birds fly over the island, and many spend the winter there.

Cyprus map

History

The first evidence of human habitation in Cyprus is traced back to around 10, 000 BC. By 8000 BC, domesticated animals such as cattle, pigs, sheep and goats had been introduced to Cyprus, and the foundations for Cypriot culture were established. Around 1200 BC, the first Greek-speaking settlers arrived by sea and disrupted existing communities. Cyprus went on to be ruled by Alexander the Great in 333 BC, the expanding Roman Empire in 58 BC, when Christianity was introduced to the island, and eventually the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. In 1925, the Republic of Cyprus became a crown colony under Britain, and it won its independence in 1960.

Since 1974, Cyprus has been divided. Turkey invaded in the north in response to a coup backed by the Greek government. The island was split, with the northern third run by a Turkish government and the southern two-thirds run by the internationally-recognized government led by Greek Cypriots. The United Nations maintains a “Green Line” dividing the two partitions.

People

Cyprus has been inhabited for more than 10 millenia. Therefore, it intertwines a wide spread of cultural and linguistic history between Europe and Asia. There are two main ethnic groups, Greek and Turkish. Greek Cypriosts (almost 80% of the population) are descendants of Greek settlers who came to Cyprus starting from 1200 BC. Turkish Cypriots (around 20% of the population) are descendants of Ottoman army soldiers.

Cyprus beach

Linguistics

Greek is spoken by the majority of Cypriosts, and Turkish is spoken by most of the minority. A small amount of the population also speak Arabic or Armenian. However, this small population of Cypriosts is mostly bilingual and can speak either Turkish or Greek. English is also widely spoken and understood, and the illiteracy rate is extremely low. This speaks to Cyprus’s successful educational system.

Cultural Life

Cyprus culture is divided between the Turkish and Greek communities. The Greek community preserves important holidays such as Easter and Anthestiria, a flower festival in the spring. The Turkish community promotes Turkish and Islamic culture and celebrates traditional Muslim holidays.  Cypriots also have a rich tradition of handicrafts and folk art. They are most famous for their lacework and silversmithing, and their rich experience in viticulture and winemaking.

Cyprus folk art
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