Cyprus is an island republic in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, south of Turkey. It is the third-largest and third-most populated Mediterranean island, located south of Turkey and west of Syria. Nicosia is the country's capital and biggest city.
Human activity on the island goes back to roughly the 10th millennium BC. This period's archaeological remnants include the well-preserved Neolithic settlement of Khirokitia, and Cyprus is home to some of the world's earliest water wells. In the second millennium BC, Mycenaean Greeks inhabited Cyprus in two waves. As a strategic position in the Eastern Mediterranean, it was afterward held by various important nations, including the empires of the Assyrians, Egyptians, and Persians, from whom Alexander the Great captured the island in 333 BC. Following Ptolemaic Egypt, the Classical and Eastern Roman Empires, Arab caliphates for a brief time, the French Lusignan dynasty, and the Venetians, Ottoman dominance lasted almost three centuries, from 1571 to 1878. (de jure until 1914).
Cyprus was administered by the United Kingdom under the Cyprus Convention in 1878 and officially acquired by the United Kingdom in 1914. The island's future became a source of contention between the island's two most populous ethnic groups, Greek Cypriots (77 percent of the population in 1960) and Turkish Cypriots (18 percent). The Greek Cypriot people advocated enosis, or unification with Greece, beginning in the nineteenth century and becoming a Greek national policy in the 1950s. The Turkish Cypriot population first supported the British administration, then wanted annexation of the island to Turkey, and in the 1950s, allied with Turkey, launched a Taksim strategy, partitioning Cyprus and establishing a Turkish republic in the north. Cyprus gained independence in 1960 as a result of nationalist unrest in the 1950s. The 1963–64 crisis resulted in greater intercommunal violence between the two communities, the displacement of almost 25,000 Turkish Cypriots into enclaves, and the termination of Turkish Cypriot participation in the republic. In an attempt for enosis, Greek Cypriot nationalists and parts of the Greek military junta tried a coup on July 15, 1974. This action triggered the Turkish invasion of Cyprus on July 20, resulting in the acquisition of the current area of Northern Cyprus and the displacement of about 150,000 Greek Cypriots and 50,000 Turkish Cypriots. In 1983, a distinct Turkish Cypriot state was founded in the north by unilateral proclamation; the action was severely criticized by the international community, with only Turkey recognizing the new state. These events, as well as the resultant political position, are still a source of contention.
With the exception of the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, which remain under the administration of the UK by the London and Zürich Agreements, the Republic of Cyprus enjoys de jure sovereignty over the whole island, including its territorial seas and exclusive economic zone. However, the Republic of Cyprus is de facto divided into two parts: the area under the Republic's effective control, which is located in the south and west and accounts for approximately 59 percent of the island's area, and the north, which is administered by the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and accounts for approximately 36 percent of the island's area. The UN buffer zone covers about 4% of the island's surface area. The international world regards the northern portion of the island as Republic of Cyprus territory held by Turkish soldiers. Since Cyprus became a member of the European Union, the occupation has been considered unlawful under international law and amounts to the illegal occupation of EU territory.
Cyprus is a popular Mediterranean vacation destination. The Republic of Cyprus has been a member of the Commonwealth since 1961 and was a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement until it joined the European Union on 1 May 2004. It has an advanced, high-income economy with a very high Human Development Index. The Republic of Cyprus joined the eurozone on January 1, 2008.