Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily and Sardinia with a surface of 9251 km2 . While North Cyprus is 3242 km2 . The island of Cyprus has attracted states and civilizations throughout history who wanted to dominate the Mediterranean and trade in the Mediterranean due to its special location in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The island has a Mediterranean climate and generally is sunny during the whole year. The island of Cyprus having beautiful beaches and seasides is the main attraction for many tourists who come to visit as well as invest in Cyprus.
Due to this feature, the island had been called by many names throughout history until it was given its current name. In Egypt and Hittite periods, Cyprus was named as Alaşya (Alasya, Alashia) or Asi, and as Hetim (Hettim) in the period of Phoenicians. However in the Assyrian documents the island was called Yatnana or Ya. The city states of Amatusya, Salaminya and Pafya established in Cyprus were also used as names of the island in some periods. It is assumed that the name of “Cyprus” came from the name of the main queen Kybele who was called Kipris. Another assumption is that it was named after “kopher” a word which means copper in Hebrew. It is also believed that it came from the word “cuprum” in Akkadian and Latin. Another belief is that the island took its name from a kind of tree called “Cypress” which was abundant in Cyprus.
Cyprus was ruled as an independent kingdom in historical periods. In later years, it was invaded by other powerful states around the island because of its strategic location. In this way, every state who ruled the island enriched the culture of the island by leaving traces of their culture. The island of Cyprus was ruled by Egypt, Hittite, Greek Colonies (Aka and Dor), Phoenicians, Assyrians, Persians, Alexander the Great, Romans, the East Roman (Byzantine), the Islamic State, Isaac Comneneus, Knights Templar, the Lusignans, Venetians, Ottomans and Great Britain since the time it existed.
Christianity was accepted as an official religion of the island in the Roman era, in 46 AD. During that period, Jews who lived in the island rejected Christianity as the official religion of the island of Cyprus and they revolted against the Romans. The Romans banished the Jews from Cyprus because of this movement. When the Roman Empire was divided into Eastern and Western parts in 395 AD, Cyprus became a part of the Eastern Roman Empire due to its geographical location. Christianity was spread rapidly during the Byzantine domination and the first Orthodox Church was established on the island.
Due to its dominant position in the Mediterranean and its military and commercial importance, the island of Cyprus was an area of conflict for Muslims and Christians throughout the centuries. It is said that when the Byzantines ruled Cyprus, 24 expeditions were embarked by Islamic armies between the years of 632-964. The island was conquered by Muslims in 649. The island of Cyprus played an important role between the Crusaders and the Byzantine when the Crusades began at the end of XI century. The Byzantine Emperor accepted that the commercial privileges which were provided to the Venetians in 1148, were valid for the islands of Crete and Cyprus and in this way the settlement of the Latins in Cyprus was allowed.
During the times of the Crusades, Cyprus was more important for the Crusaders compared to the past due to its special position on the way to the Holy Land. Isaac Comnenesus’s administration on the island ended with the arrival of Richard I, King of England (Richard the Lionheart) to Cyprus in May 1191. According to the sources, the most important contribution of the III. Crusades to the Crusader World was conquering the island of Cyprus.
When Richard the Lionheart ruled the island, at first, he sold the island to the Knights Templar and when the knights realised that they could not rule the island anymore they gave it back and Richard sold the island to Guy de Lusignan in 1192. Thus, the Lusignan rule on the island started. Between the years of 1192-1489, kings and queens from the Lusignan descendants ruled the island. During the Lusignan era, Cyprus was an irreplaceable base for the Crusaders who continued their existence mainly in Acre and some other cities until 1291, and for Antioch and Tripoli Crusader states. During the Lusignan period, the Latin archbishopric was founded in Cyprus mainly in Nicosia.
Latin eparchies were opened in the cities of Paphos, Famagusta and Limassol. In 1260, Pope Alexander declared the Latin Archbishop as the only religious leader of the whole island with his official statement which was entitled “Bulla Cypria.” This situation created uneasiness among the Orthodox Cypriots and at the same time it led them to revolt against the government from time to time.
The Cyprus kings had an important role in the Christian- Muslim struggle in the Near East. Besides their logistic support, the Lusignan Kings also participated in the Crusades with their armies. In time, due to the crusader mentality policies of the Cyprus Kings, the island of Cyprus became a shelter for the Crusaders who were expelled from the Near East.
The Mamluk State which ruled Egypt and Syria between the years of 1250-1517 marked an important place in the Islamic and Turkish history. The Mamelukes who struggled with the Crusaders and protected the Holy Land, also raided Cyprus which was the most important base of the Crusaders in the Near East. It is also known that Limassol, Larnaca and Nicosia were also conquered by Sultan Barsbay in 1426. The Lusignan origin Cyprus King Janus was also imprisoned during this incursion. However, the Mamelukes no longer stayed in Cyprus, they allowed the Lusignan Kings to rule Cyprus in return for a yearly 8000 dukas tax.
When the Genoese – Venetian conflict in the island was added to the external problems, Cyprus’s economy collapsed completely. The Genoese won this struggle and ruled the island, and they held the control of Famagusta between the years of 1372-1464. Venetians pressured the Venice-origin last Lusignan royalty of the island Queen Caterina to give up her throne for their interest in 1489. Therefore, by terminating the Lusignan rule on the island, Venice eliminated the last Crusader state in the East. The Venetian state had continued to pay the same tax to the Mamelukes which was paid by the Lusignan Kings in order to ensure their dominance in Cyprus. When Yavuz Sultan Selim (1512-1520) conquered Egypt in 1517 and terminated the rule of Mameluke Sultanate, the Venetian Republic started to pay taxes to the Ottoman Empire instead of the Mamelukes.
The Turks’ interest in the island of Cyprus and trading with the island began during Anatolian Seljuk’s period. After the conquest of Antalya, Anatolian Seljuk Sultan I. Gıyaseddin Keyhüsrev had granted certain trade privileges to Cypriots. Cyprus joined the troops against the Ottoman Empire which was established by the Knights of Venice and Rhodes and Uzun Hasan for the first time in 1472.
While the Ottoman State was preparing for the attack against the Mameluke State in 1486, they demanded a base from the King of Cyprus for the Ottoman Navy. Upon the rejection of this request, the fleet carried out limited attacks on the Cypriot coast.
THE OTTOMANS IN CYPRUS
There are many reasons why the island of Cyprus was conquered by the Ottomans. During the reign of Yavuz Sultan Selim, the Holy Lands joined the Empire with the conquest of Syria and Egypt. These conquests caused building of the security in the Eastern Mediterranean to be inevitable. The strategic importance of Cyprus increased as the result of the Ottoman Empire taking over the countries around the Eastern Mediterranean. The conquest of the island was necessary for the establishment of the Ottoman rule in the Mediterranean. In spite of the peace treaty they signed with the Ottoman Empire in 1540, Venice allowed the Venetian and Maltese pirates to set up a base in the island. These pirates were using the island, which was located at the crossroads of the trade routes, as a base point and jeopardized the safety of tradesmen and pilgrims who were travelling to the Holy Lands. Furthermore, being a former Islamic country was also effective in the decision of the incursion. Indeed, the legacy right of the Ottomans in the island was mentioned in the fatwa which was given by the Shayk al-Islam Ebusuud Efendi related to the Cyprus incursion.
The famous Grand Vizier Sokullu Mehmet Pasha was initially against the Cyprus incursion due to the projects to open the Don-Volga and the Suez Canals. The Vizier also believed that this incursion may do more harm than good to the state. However, once the decision of the Cyprus incursion was made, Sokullu Mehmet Pasha was quick to take the necessary precautions for the conquest of the island.
First, the sale of any product from the Ottoman state to Cyprus was banned, and the island of Cyprus tried to be taken to a commercial blockade. Recognizing that after the Ottomans conquered Rhodes there is danger of being conquered by the Ottoman State, the Republic of Venice began to take necessary defence measures in Cyprus. In response to the war preparations of the Ottomans, Venice tries to secure the support of the Pope and Spain in order to create a large crusader navy against the Ottoman State. On the other hand, Venice strengthens all military castles especially the in Nicosia and Famagusta provinces in Cyprus.
The Ottoman armies began an arduous conquest of the island of Cyprus under the command of Lala Mustafa Pasha in March and May, 1570. The Ottoman armies reached Limassol castle on 2nd of July. No difficulties were experienced in the conquest of Limassol because the people had left the castle. One day later, the Ottoman fleet reached Larnaka. The people of the island provided all kinds of logistical support to the Ottoman armies while they were moving towards the inner parts of the city.
Ottoman forces seized Nicosia after about one and a half month siege. The fall of Nicosia, led Kyrenia and Paphos also to surrender to the Ottomans without battling. After the occupation of the island, Lala Mustafa Pasha established a governor office in Nicosia. Muzaffer Pasha was assigned as the first Governor of Cyprus and the necessary preparations for the conquest of Famagusta began. The conquest of Cyprus was completed when Famagusta Castle was captured on August 1, 1571.
As a result of the attempts of the Venetian State, a large Crusader fleet countered the Ottoman fleet which was returning from the Cyprus incursion at a place called Lepanto. Among the Ottoman fleet only the ships under the command of Uluç Ali Pasha managed to survive from the sea warfare on October 7, 1571. The dominance in the Eastern Mediterranean which was obtained with Preveza Sea Warfare in 1538 was shaken with this defeat. When the Ottoman Empire revealed its fleet again in a very short time, Venice accepted that Cyprus belonged to the Ottoman Empire with the agreement dated March 7, 1573.
HOUSING AND IMPROVEMENT POLICY OF THE OTTOMANS IN CYPRUS
In order to make a newly conquered country literally a homeland and to defend it easily, Turkish Muslims were required to settle there. Therefore, a population census was conducted in 1572 in order to determine how many people could be brought to Cyprus from Ottoman territory. After the census, it was discovered that many settlements were abandoned in Cyprus and it was discovered that nobody lived in 76 villages in the Mesarya and Mazota regions.
The administrators of the Ottoman State banished the Turkish Muslims from Anatolia (Konya, Karaman, Niğde, Kayseri, et al.) to Cyprus.
According to data of the population census conducted in 1572, a total of 1,689 families were banished to Cyprus mainly from Aksaray, Beyşehir, Seydişehir, Endugi, Develihisar, Ürgüp, Koçhisar, Niğde, Bor, Ilgın, İshaklı and Akşehir. Only 8,000 families out of 12,000 were settled in Cyprus up to the end of XVI century. Exiles continued after the conquest in order to develop and revitalize the island. The island of Cyprus was used as a detention colony during the last half of the XVII century and in the XVIII century.
The administrators of the Ottoman State also worked to ensure the security and safety of the major cities of the island. Therefore, non-Muslims who were living in Nicosia and Famagusta castles had been removed and Muslims were settled in those houses. Also the native population who had left Cyprus due to the persecution of the Venetian State were also recalled to the island. The Ottomans also prohibited heavy taxes and drudgery. Throughout history, fluctuations were observed in the population of Cyprus. These ups and downs that occurred in the population during the Ottoman period can be connected to the natural conditions, external pressures, the public officials who were representatives of the Ottomans and inappropriate attitudes of the representatives of the Orthodox archbishop and court interpreters. Stating that there were 12,000 Christians who paid taxes in Cyprus in 1738, Richard Pococke said that 2/3rds of the population were Christians and 1/3rd were Muslims. According to Alexander Drummond, there were 150.000 Turkish Muslims and 50.000 Christians in Cyprus between the years of 1745 and 1750. According to the population census in 1831, 15,585 Muslim men and 29,780 non-Muslim men lived in Cyprus. Furthermore, according to a British consulate report dated 1858, the population of Cyprus was 180,000. ( TRNC INFORMATION OFFICE)
Language and Currency in North Cyprus
You can communicate easily in North Cyprus . The official language is Turkish however almost everyone speaks English and a second foreign language as Russian, German , Arabic or Greek. The main currency is the Turkish Lira. However British Pounds, US Dollars and Euro are currently accepted all over the shops.
Education in North Cyprus
Education in North Cyprus is highly appreciated and currently we have total of 18 universities from which 4 of them are foreign universities. We have 1 local vocational high school. Almost all cities have colleges which use the European Standards of Education by teaching Cambridge and Edexcel courses for students aiming in studying abroad.