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Religious geography

Two religiously homogeneous regions

In 1960 the Republic of Cyprus was constituted as an independent state, albeit under the protection of its former colonial power Great Britain, and Greece and Turkey, these two states representing the motherlands of the island’s two main ethno-confessional groups (Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots) (for details, see this website’s history section). Greek Cypriots constituted 74% of the population and Turkish Cypriots 18%. Maronite Christians, Armenians and Roman Catholics were the rest of the minority groups. Greek and Turkish Cypriots were dispersed throughout the island. The republic’s political life was tumultuous, with inter-communal violence between the Greek Cypriot majority and the Turkish Cypriot minority erupting in 1963-64. Subsequently, UN forces came to the island; the Turkish Cypriots remained barricaded into various ethnic enclaves.

After 1963, the Turkish Cypriot minority representatives no longer participated in the government and the two communities embarked into a series of inter-communal negotiations in order to resolve the situation. However, in 1974, Greek Cypriot ultra-nationalists – with the support of Greece’s military dictatorship (1967-74) and the Greek military regiment present in Cyprus – succeeded in overthrowing the Republic’s elected President Archbishop Makarios. Fearful that the new regime would attempt to unite Cyprus with Greece, Turkey used the clauses of the 1960 agreements to militarily intervene and in two successive rounds of military actions it occupied some 38% of the island. On this occasion, major population movements took place: Turkish Cypriots fled North (in the areas under Turkish military control) while Greek Cypriots fled South (in the areas outside of Turkish military control). The end result of the invasion was to “ethnically cleanse” a previously ethnically and religious heterogeneous island.

Two religiously homogeneous regions – the North and the South – were subsequently constructed. In the South, the Republic of Cyprus kept the Greek Cypriot population: it is overwhelmingly Eastern Orthodox (see the religious statistics reported in this web site). It remains to this day the only internationally recognized state on the island (and an EU member since 2004). The North became the de facto homeland of Turkish Cypriots and numerous Turkish immigrants. It was unilaterally declared in 1983 as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) but this has not been internationally recognized (except by Turkey).

The TRNC’s population is overwhelmingly Muslim.
The information provided on this website concerns the post-1974 Republic of Cyprus, which is the internationally recognized state on the island.

D 12 September 2012    AVictor Roudometof

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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