The Green Line in Cyprus

Two Communities......Greek and Turkish Cypriot

Neither in Ottoman nor British times did the two major communities constitute a Cypriot people.

On his arrival on the island on the 22nd July 1878, the first British Governor, Sir Garnet Wolseley, was greeted by the Bishop of Kition with the following words:

"We accept the change of government inasmuch as we trust Great Britain will help Cyprus, as it did the Ionian Islands, to be united with Mother Greece, with which it is naturally connected."

British rule allowed the communities to set up separate school systems, both of which imported teachers from their respective mainlands who taught children to see themselves as 'Greek' or 'Turkish' but not 'Cypriot.'

The two communities mixed readily enough tolerant of religious differences but, although they sometimes lived side by side in the same village, they often resided in separate villages or town quarters.

As the two communities continued the process of self-segregation, fewer members learned their neighbour’s language meaning that contact between the two became increasingly limited.

The period between 1891 and 1931 saw the number of ethnically-mixed villages in Cyprus reduce from 43% to 36%.

The red Turkish Cypriot areas show how far the population had segregated by 1958.
Both communities left villages where they were in the minority and most towns had clearly defined Greek and Turkish quarters.

Click to view a larger image (in a new window)

In 1946, Souskiou was a mixed community of 349 Turkish Cypriots and 113 Greek Cypriots.
In 1960 there were 344 Turkish Cypriots only.

Following independence and Makarios’s rejection of the constitution in 1963, a large number of mainly Turkish Cypriots, coalesced into a reduced number of fortified enclaves run by the community’s political leaders and the number of abandoned villages grew.

As an example, in January 1964, the residents of small Turkish Cypriot villages, Kidasi and Prastio decided that the two villages together should seek refuge in a more secure Turkish Cypriot village. They abandoned both villages using Souskiou as a reception centre before moving to their final destinations.

(Author's note: On the 21st July 1974, at the beginning of the Turkish military offensive, Souskiou was evacuated and remains abandoned.)

The resulting enclaves occupied less than 3% of Cyprus’s total land area but held almost 18% of its population. 

By 1970 the percentage of ethnically-mixed villages in Cyprus had fallen to 7.8%.

This map show the distribution of the two communities as of for a larger version (in a new window)