Cypriot History: British Era (1878-1960)

Figure 1.--The British gained control of Cyprus from the Ottoiman Empire (1878). The poplation was mostly Greek and the British wee received as wssentially liberators. This did not change until after World War II when as part of the wider decolonizatin process that the possibility of union with Greece became a possibility. The British attempted to maintain control using a range of rsstruictions. Here during a lull in the campaign, the British are lessening the restruictions. The press captin read,"Restructions Eased in Cyprus: A boy watching as British troops removed barbed-wire barricade from round a church in Nicosia where security precautions have been relaxed during recent week." The photograph is dated April 26, 1957

Declining Ottoman power and increasing British interest in the Mediteranneam because of Suez brought about a major change on Cyprus. After the Russo-Turkish War and Congress of Berlin, the British took over responsibility for the administration of Cyprus (1878). The Ottomans signed an agreement with Britain which at the time had been protecting the Ottoman Empire from further Russian incursions. Under the agreement, the ttoman Empire would retain sovereignty of the backwater colony, but Britain would become responsible for administering the island. Britain’s goal was to secure a strategic outpost in the region. Cyprus was ideal. Becuse it was an island, it could be rotected by the Royal Navy. Britain's major concern at the time was the Tsarist Empire and its desire to expand south n Cetral asa toward India and to obtain a warm water port unobstructed by the Dardenelles/Bosporus barrier. The British saw this as a threat to Suez--the imperial lifeline. Included in the British-Ottoman agreemet was a commitmet to help protect the Sultan’s Asian territories from Tsarist expansion. Although handed over to the British, Cyprus remained formally a part of the Ottoman Empire. This arrangement did not change until World War I when the Ottoman Empire joined Germany and the Central Powers (1914). Britain abrograted the agreemet with the Ottomans and ormally annexed Cyprus. After the War and the disasterous Ottoman defeat, under the terns of the Treaty of Lausanne, the new Turkish Republic renounced any claim to Cyprus (1923). Turkey also regularised territorial claims with Greece after a war which ejected Greeks from western Anatolia. Britain declared Cyprus a Crown colony (1925). Cyprus became important with the outbreak of world war II. It offered some of the few ports open to the Royal Navy after Italy entered the War (June 1940). The Royal Navy used it bases in Cyprus during the bitterly fought Mediterranean naval campaign (1940-41). Despite Royal Navy victories over the Italian Navy, Cyprus was still endanger after the German seizure of Greece and Crete (April-May 1941). The British in World war II failed to hold Crete, but held Cyprus further east throughout the War. Cyprus located at some distance from the Balkans and south of neutral Turkey proved to be just beyond the range of German attack. The Germans seized Crete with paratroopers. Hitler's decesion to focus on the invasion of the Soviet Union, however, meant that the Germans did not have the needed resources to take Cyprus. After El Alemaine (October 1942) and the defeat of the Afrika Korps, Cyprus became a backwater of the War. Cypriot volunteers served in various branches of the British forces. Many Cypriots expected Britain to grant independence as many colonies achieved indepedndence after the War. The British Government saw Cyprus as a vital strategic position and did not want to relinquish control. An independence movement, however, gained support. Inependence was complicatd, however, by the Greek-Turkish ethnic divisions. This created a three way problem. Armed EOKA groups began attacking the British (1955-59).


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Crerated: 10:10 PM 9/14/2018
Last updated: 10:10 PM 9/14/2018