Is Cyprus Turkish or Greek? A Dive into the Cyprus Identity

is cyprus greek or turkish

Cyprus, a beautiful island nestled in the eastern Mediterranean, has long been a subject of debate when it comes to its cultural and historical identity. Is Cyprus Turkish or Greek? This question has sparked passionate discussions and even conflicts between various groups. To understand the complex nature of this issue, we need to delve into the island’s rich history, its diverse population, and the events that have shaped its identity over time. In this article, we will explore the different perspectives and shed light on the cultural and historical aspects that contribute to the unique tapestry of Cyprus.

A Brief Overview of Cyprus

Cyprus, known as “Kypros” in Greek, has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. The island has been influenced by numerous civilizations, including the Mycenaean Greeks, Phoenicians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, Venetians, Ottomans, and British. Each of these civilizations has left its mark on the island, contributing to its unique cultural heritage.

The Greek Influence

One cannot discuss the cultural identity of Cyprus without acknowledging the significant Greek influence. The Greek language, customs, and traditions have played a central role in shaping the island’s identity. The majority of the population in Cyprus identifies as Greek-Cypriots and speaks Greek as their primary language. Greek Orthodox Christianity is the dominant religion on the island, further reinforcing the Greek cultural ties.

The Turkish Presence

While the Greek influence is predominant, it is essential to recognize the Turkish presence in Cyprus. The Turkish Cypriots, who are predominantly Muslim, form a significant minority on the island. Their roots can be traced back to the Ottoman era when Turks settled in Cyprus. Over time, the Turkish Cypriots developed their distinct cultural identity, influenced by both Turkish and Cypriot traditions.

Historical Background: Conquests and Divisions

To understand the current situation in Cyprus, we must delve into its tumultuous history, marked by conquests and divisions. Throughout the centuries, various powers sought control over the island, leading to a complex geopolitical landscape.

Greek Dominance: Ancient Times to British Rule

In ancient times, Cyprus was predominantly Greek, with city-states founded by Greek Achaeans. The island thrived under Greek influence until it fell under Roman rule in 58 BC. The Byzantine Empire later gained control over Cyprus, preserving its Greek character.

In the thirteenth century, Cyprus came under the rule of the Crusaders and later the Venetians, who left a lasting architectural and cultural legacy. However, in 1571, the Ottoman Empire conquered the island, introducing Turkish influence for the first time.

British rule began in 1878 when Cyprus was leased to the British Empire by the Ottomans. The British administration lasted until 1960 when Cyprus gained independence.

The Division of Cyprus: Conflict and Occupation

The division of Cyprus can be traced back to the 1960s when tensions between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities escalated. The Zurich-London Agreement of 1960 established the Republic of Cyprus, with guarantees for the rights of both communities. However, internal conflicts and external influences led to a breakdown of the power-sharing arrangements.

In 1974, a military coup orchestrated by the Greek junta aimed to unite Cyprus with Greece, triggering a Turkish military intervention. The outcome was the de facto division of the island, with Turkey occupying the northern part, which declared itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). The international community does not recognize the TRNC, considering it an occupied territory.

The Cultural Identity of Cyprus

Understanding the cultural identity of Cyprus requires a nuanced perspective that acknowledges the diversity of the island’s population and the historical events that have shaped it. Cyprus is a melting pot of cultures, traditions, and religions, with Greek and Turkish influences being the most prominent.

Greek Cultural Heritage

The Greek cultural heritage is deeply ingrained in the fabric of Cypriot society. The Greek language, traditions, and customs are widely practiced and celebrated. Greek Orthodox Christianity plays a significant role in the lives of Greek Cypriots, with religious festivals and traditions being an integral part of their cultural identity.

The Greek Cypriot dialect, a variation of the Greek language, has its unique characteristics and closely resembles ancient Greek in some respects. The preservation of the Greek language and its cultural expressions further strengthens the bond between Cyprus and Greece.

Turkish Cypriot Identity

The Turkish Cypriot community has its distinct cultural identity shaped by Turkish and Cypriot traditions. The Turkish language, customs, and cuisine are cherished and passed down through generations. Turkish Cypriots celebrate their cultural heritage through festivals, music, and traditional dances.

It is important to note that the Turkish Cypriot identity is not solely defined by Turkish roots but also by their historical connection to the island. The Ottoman era and subsequent settlement have contributed to the formation of a unique Turkish Cypriot cultural identity, distinct from mainland Turkey.

Coexistence and Interactions

Despite the political divisions, Greek and Turkish Cypriots have interacted and influenced each other’s cultures throughout history. Intercommunal marriages, shared traditions, and cultural exchanges have fostered a sense of unity among some individuals and communities.

In recent years, efforts have been made to promote cultural exchange and understanding between the two communities. Cultural events, joint initiatives, and educational programs aim to bridge the divide and foster a sense of shared heritage.

The Population of Cyprus

The population of Cyprus is a mosaic of different ethnicities, religions, and cultures. In addition to Greek and Turkish Cypriots, the island is home to various minority groups, including Armenians, Maronites, and other communities.

Greek Cypriots

Greek Cypriots constitute the majority of the population, accounting for approximately 80%. They are descendants of the ancient Greek settlers and have a strong connection to Greek culture and traditions.

Turkish Cypriots

Turkish Cypriots make up around 18% of the population. They have a unique cultural identity influenced by Turkish and Cypriot traditions. The Turkish language and Islamic traditions are central to their cultural heritage.

Other Ethnicities

Cyprus is also home to smaller communities, including Armenians and Maronites. Armenians have a long history on the island, with their distinct language and cultural traditions. Maronites, a Christian group, have their roots in Lebanon but have inhabited Cyprus for centuries.

The Political Status of Cyprus

The political status of Cyprus remains a contentious issue, with different perspectives and conflicting claims. The Republic of Cyprus, recognized by the international community, governs the southern part of the island. The northern part, occupied by Turkey, proclaims itself as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is only recognized by Turkey.

The Quest for Reunification

Efforts to reunify Cyprus have been ongoing for decades. Numerous negotiations, peace talks, and diplomatic initiatives have aimed to find a mutually acceptable solution that respects the rights and aspirations of both communities.

The United Nations has played a significant role in facilitating discussions between the parties involved. The goal is to establish a united, bi-communal, and bi-zonal federation that ensures the rights and security of all Cypriots.

Challenges and Hurdles

Reaching a comprehensive settlement has proven challenging due to various factors, including historical grievances, geopolitical dynamics, and differing visions for the future. The issue of property rights, the presence of Turkish troops, and the governance of the island remain contentious topics that require careful negotiation and compromise.

Check out our page on Cyprus Real Estate


In conclusion, the question of whether Cyprus is Turkish or Greek does not have a simple answer. The island’s cultural and historical identity is a complex tapestry woven from the influences of various civilizations and the interactions between different communities. Greek and Turkish cultural heritage, intertwined with Cypriot traditions, shape the cultural fabric of Cyprus.

The population of Cyprus is diverse, encompassing Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, and other ethnic groups. Each community has its distinct cultural identity, language, and traditions, contributing to the island’s vibrant multiculturalism.

The political status of Cyprus remains unresolved, with ongoing efforts to find a mutually acceptable solution that reunifies the island and ensures the rights and security of all Cypriots. The international community continues to support diplomatic initiatives, recognizing the importance of a comprehensive settlement for stability and peace in the region.

As we continue the dialogue and work towards a resolution, it is crucial to embrace the shared history and cultural heritage of Cyprus while respecting the rights and aspirations of all its inhabitants. Only through mutual understanding, respect, and collaboration can Cyprus truly thrive as a united and prosperous island in the Mediterranean.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *