Cyprus' history, dating back thousands of years, is infused with mythology. The southwestern city of Paphos is recognized as the birthplace of Aphrodite, a belief celebrated by an annual Aphrodite Festival that features opera at various city venues. Except for centrally-located Nicosia, Cyprus's other main cities are coastal: Limassol and Larnaca, in addition to Paphos.
The capital, Nicosia, is the last divided capital city in Europe. The UN-patrolled Green Line bisects the city and marks the edge of the northern territory that has been controlled by Turkish military since 1974.
The Republic of Cyprus became an EU member in 2004, adopting the euro as its official currency four years later. Cyprus took its turn assuming the Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2012.
The Republic of Cyprus is internationally recognized, while the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' (TRNC) in the north is recognized only by Turkey. The former is led by a president, who serves as the chief of state and head of government.
The president is popularly elected to a five-year term. The position of vice president is constitutionally reserved for a Turkish Cypriot and is currently vacant.
The Republic's unicameral government is comprised of an 80-seat House of Representatives (Vouli Antiprosopon), of which 56 seats are assigned to Greek Cypriots and 24 (also vacant) to Turkish Cypriots. The area administered by Turkish Cypriots is governed by an Assembly of the Republic (Cumhuriyet Meclisi) of 50 seats. All legislative members are elected to five-year terms.
On February 24, 2013 Cyprus citizens elected a new president. Conservative Nicos Anastasiades pledges to make swift work of reinstating economic stability, negotiating with the 16 other eurozone members and the IMF.
In the past decade, Cyprus' economy could be described as services-based, stable, and growing. Cyprus was in a good position leading into the global recession of 2008, yet suffered from its reliance on tourism and its ties to Greek finances.
It is recovering in fits and starts, with some sectors gaining strength faster than others, but overall GDP fell 2.3 percent in 2012 and unemployment averaged eight percent.
Once heavily focused on mineral and agricultural exportation, the Cypriot economy evolved to focus on manufactured goods export and then on tourism and other services. Today, services account for 80 percent of the GDP.
Major trading partners are the EU member states, especially Greece and the UK.
The new president is expected to deal with the financial crisis and has led Cyprus's negotiations in EU economic rescue talks.
Dire financial measures were proposed in March 2013, including a tax on personal bank account deposits. Though voted down, this proposal put people - both natives and expatriates - on edge. A €10 billion IMF and EU bailout package has since been approved.