An Analysis and Review of the Divided City of Nicosia, Cyprus, and New Perspectives

By Oktay, Derya | Geography, Autumn 2007 | Go to article overview
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An Analysis and Review of the Divided City of Nicosia, Cyprus, and New Perspectives


Oktay, Derya, Geography


ABSTRACT:

Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus for the last ten centuries, is currently Europe's last divided city, with the northern (Turkish) and southern (Greek) sections separated by a UN buffer zone. This continuing division is central to the city's ongoing problems, restricting development and creating complex problems for future planning.

Despite the divide, and continuing political uncertainties, a substantial proportion of the Cypriot population are hopeful of future reunification, and efforts are being made on both sides to revitalise Nicosia in an integrated fashion. One significant achievement has been the formulation of the Nicosia Master Plan, a ground-breaking, bi-communal template for the city's revitalisation. This article provides background information on Nicosia's historical evolution, urban structure and current conditions, before focusing on some of the recent planning initiatives and programmes, namely the Nicosia Master Plan and its complementary rehabilitation programme. An overview and interpretatation of political-administrative and planning structures for Nicosia provides a sound basis for discussing the possibility of creating a more sustainable city.

Introduction

Nicosia, known locally as 'Lefkosia' in Greek or 'Lefkosa' in Turkish, is the capital and largest city of Cyprus. It is currently Europe's last divided city, with the northern (Turkish) and southern (Greek) sections separated by a buffer zone (Figure 1). This prevailing political situation has caused years of neglect and inertia in Nicosia, yet owing to its central location and its conceptual place as the island's capital, it continues to be a magnet for employment, administration and other services, as well as a centre for various educational and cultural activities.

Despite the division, close co-operation between the engineers and planners on the two sides of the city with respect to the maintenance of the infrastructure, services, sewerage and electricity is ongoing, and comprehensive projects for the future of Nicosia have been revised in line with today's realities. Although Nicosia remains divided and the political uncertainties continue, the majority of Cypriots are hopeful of future reunification.

This article provides background information on the historical evolution, urban structure and current conditions in Nicosia, but its primary focus is on recent planning initiatives and programmes, namely the Nicosia Master Plan and its complementary rehabilitation programmes, which are being implemented in the Arabahmed and Chrysaliniotissa areas. In this context, an overview of the political-administrative and planning structures developed for Nicosia can provide a sound basis for discussions aimed at creating a more sustainable city

Socio-economic and political conditions

Although the largest communities, the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, have shared the island of Cyprus for the last four centuries, at no time have they integrated on a large scale, owing mainly to differences in language, culture and history (Volkan, 1979; Salvator, 1983; Solsten, 1991; Doratli, 2002). The political turmoil associated with the 'Cyprus Issue' was sparked in 1955 during the period of British colonial rule, when the British exploited the ethnic differences for their own ends. The result was intercommunal fighting and the formation of politically-orientated non-governmental organisations: the Greek Cypriots' EOKA (Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston/National Organisation for the Cypriot Struggle) and the Turkish Cypriote' TMT (Turk Mukavemet Tes kilati/Turkish Resistance Organisation), who provoked hostilities and encouraged struggles between the two communities.1 Between 1955 and I960, EOKA launched a series of covert attacks on the British administration and military, and on anyone who was seen as being against enosis (union with Greece). As highlighted by Marie (2006, p. 27) 'transition from colony to an independent nation - following the establishment of the new and independent Republic of Cyprus - was not without pains, and sporadic violence and agitation continued.

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