On this day in history : 19th February 1959 – The United Kingdom grants independence to Cyprus, which is then formally proclaimed in August 1960….

Cyprus had been under Ottoman rule for over 300 years before it was annexed by Britain in 1914 – and then in 1925 it became a British colony….

Hoisting the British flag at Nicosia – Illustrated London News – Public domain

Thirty years later Cyprus was anything but a happy place…. Greek Cypriots, wanting unification with Greece, were waging all-out guerrilla warfare against British rule…. It led to the leader of the campaign, Archbishop Makarios, being deported to the Seychelles…. He was to return in 1959 when independence was granted and was subsequently elected President….

British soldier taking aim at Greek Cypriot demonstrators in Nicosia, 1956 – British Colonial Government – Public domain

Independence was proclaimed on the 16th of August 1960 after the Greek and Turkish communities managed to come to an agreement on a constitution…. The Treaty of Guarantee was drawn up, giving Britain, Greece and Turkey the right to intervene if the need should arise…. Britain also retained two military bases on the island….

Old Turkish Cypriot quarter in Paphos, 1969 – Brian Harrington Spier via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

In 1963 President Makarios proposed constitutional changes – resulting in unrest, violent flare-ups and the withdrawal of the Turkish community from the power sharing deal…. In 1964 the United Nations had to step in by setting up a peace keeping force…. A decade later Greece backed a coup against President Makarios – and he fled…. Turkish troops landed on the north of the island, sending Greek Cypriots fleeing from the northern homes….

Archbishop President Makarios, 1962 – Public domain

After the collapse of the coup one third of Cyprus was occupied by Turkish forces – leaving the island divided…. Approximately 165,000 Greek Cypriots fled to the south, while some 45,000 Turkish Cypriots had set up their own administration under President Rauf Denktash…. The death of Makarios in 1977 saw Spyros Kyprianou take over and peace talks began once more in 1980 – only to be suspended again in 1983….

A map showing the division of Cyprus – United States Central Intelligence Agency – Public domain

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