Cyprus in the period 1571 - 1959


Cyprus which was ruled by different suzerains, but which never in its entire history came under Greek rule, was conquered by the Ottomans in 1571 and ruled by them until 1878. Under Ottoman rule the Turks and Greeks of Cyprus lived in peace and harmony, despite their differences in terms of ethnicity, religion, language, culture and communal traditions. Unlike the Venetians, who were the previous rulers of Cyprus, the Turks enabled the Greek Cypriot population to flourish in all fields. In 1878, Great Britain assumed the provisional administration of Cyprus. In 1914, when the Ottoman Empire entered the First World War, Cyprus was unilaterally annexed by Great Britain. Turkey formally recognized this annexation with the signing of the Peace Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.

Although the Turks and Greeks of Cyprus peacefully co-existed under the Ottoman Turkish administration, their relationship began to deteriorate following the take-over of the island by Great Britain. Under British rule, the Greek-Orthodox Church campaigned for the union of Cyprus with Greece (Enosis). Starting from the mid-1950s, this campaign was given support by Greece. EOKA was established as an underground terrorist organization to achieve this aim. Thus, the Enosis movement took a turn for violence, ostensibly against the British, but in fact with the objective of uniting the island with Greece. EOKA violence claimed British and Turkish Cypriot lives. From 1955 to 1958 Turkish Cypriots were driven away from mixed villages and their houses were burnt down. Greek and the Greek Cypriot coercion, killing and intimidation, however, failed to achieve its aims. Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots strongly opposed Enosis. Geopolitically, Cyprus was of great importance for the national security of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots refused to accept Greek dominance and regarded Enosis as neo-colonialism. Britain, as the colonial power, also resisted Enosis and declared that the Turkish and Greek Cypriots were equally entitled to freely determine their own future. In the meantime, Greece made several attempts to exploit the UN as a means of realizing Enosis. However, the UN General Assembly did not support Greek demands designed to achieve annexation under the guise of self-determination, but urged a peaceful and just solution among the parties concerned.