The Republic of Cyprus is an island country in the Mediterranean region. Though an independent country in modern times, the country finds mention even in records of the ancient world and has been known for its natural splendor and for its rich mineral deposits.
Geographically, Cyprus is located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. To its northwest is Greece, to the north is Turkey, to the east are Syria and Lebanon, to the south east is Israel, and to the south is Egypt. There are no land neighbors since it is an island. Politically, however, matters seem to be a bit complex. The Republic of Cyprus considers its sovereignty over the entire island (with the exception of Akrotiri and Dhekelia). The northern part is under the governance of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. This ongoing political dispute and the country’s proximity to the Levant region often raises the question of its continental affiliation. Many consider the country to be part of western Asia, but for all practical purposes Cyprus is considered to be a part of Europe. In fact, it is also a member of the European Union since May 1, 2004. On January 1, 2008, Cyprus also joined the Eurozone.
To understand the republic’s European roots, let us take a brief look at the history. Cyprus is home to one of the most ancient human settlements. In fact, historians and archaeologists date human activity in the island to the Neolithic Age. The earliest known colonies in Cyprus were set up by immigrants from the Mycenaean civilization of Greece between 1600 and 1100 BC. Through the ages, Cyprus became part of various Greek, Persian, Assyrian, and Egyptian empires. It later became a part of the Roman Empire and through the 16th to 19th century, became part of the Ottoman Empire. From the ancient times till modern days, Cyprus has held on to its strong ties with both Greece and Turkey.
Following World War I, Cyprus was placed under British administration. Though Cyprus was claimed both by Greece and by the newly formed Turkey, it became an independent state in 1960. The decade long inter communal strife between the Cypriots of Greek and Turkish descent ended with a great displacement of Turkish Cypriots but precipitated the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. The northern region of the island came under Turkish occupation and the administration of the Greek junta ended with a democratic government being formed in the rest of the island.
A separate Turkish Cypriot state was established in Northern Cyprus. This Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognized by Turkey but not acknowledged by most other countries. Akrotiri and Dhekelia still remain under British administration.
Both Greek and Turkish are spoken in Cyprus, and Christianity and Sunni Islam practiced by Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, respectively. Culturally speaking, Cypriots consider themselves Europeans. The legacy of the ancient Greeks has rather strong roots in the society of Cyprus. It is this legacy that has translated into a membership of the European Union and Cyprus now holds 6 seats of the European Parliament.