Thursday, April 7, 2022


by Lucas Haney

Lucas Haney is a senior in Spanish and Italian studies at the University of Illinois. Lucas’ future plans include pursuing an MA in Translation and Interpretation in order to help facilitate communication between groups with linguistic barriers, like in the medical field and/or the border between the US and Mexico. He wrote this blog post in 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ in Fall 2021.

Cyprus has had an interesting development as a country for a little over a century due to an ongoing dispute within the country that heavily affects Turkey as well. The beginning of the 1960s started off swimmingly with Cyprus officially declaring itself independent in August 1960 from the rule of the British. With this independence there was an agreement between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots for a partnership with a constitution that would help to govern the country (THO). At this point the use of Turkish, or more specifically Cypriot Turkish in some cases, was spread throughout the country since there was no fighting between the two ethnicities and their languages. However, due to the events of 1963 with communal violence breaking out between the two groups and an attempted coup d’état with Greek assistance in 1974 (THO). Turkey sent troops to the island and soon occupied the northern part of Cyprus that came to be known today as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, or TRCN for short, and is not recognized by any country around the world except for Turkey, the state’s main distributor of economic support, military accommodations, and political support (THO). At the time of writing this blog, the two separated states have chosen their own specific languages to teach, write, conduct governmental duties in, and perform everyday tasks without too much intermingling of the languages.

AFP. Dawn, 17 Jan. 2017, Accessed 10 Nov. 2021. 

However, a question lingers in the air that needs to be answered; is there any linguistic mingling between Greek and Turkish Cypriots in this day and age? The answer is yes, but it is unfortunately very little due to the ongoing negotiations. The villages of Pyla, Deneia, Athienou, and Troulloi are the only villages in the UN buffer zone, an area that was established by the UN itself in 1974 in order to prevent any possible invasions by the Turkish military force that still occupies Northern Cyprus (Juriste). These villages are proof that the country can return to how it used to be in the past before the dispute since they are really close to the divide of the country. However, the main focus for this is going to be Pyla since this is the only village in the entire country of Cyprus that has Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriots living together well enough that the village can stay standing as a symbol for the possible future of Cyprus.

Pyla is a small village of about 2,000 people of mixed ethnic roots (Panayides). Greek and Turkish Cypriots live together in Pyla in relative harmony, although the political pressure of the negotiations between the TRNC and Cyprus occasionally increases and decreases with time. The village is a tourist attraction, given the mixed cultures, languages, and the beauty of its landscape. Everyday life is conducted with tranquility, though there is a specific, but metaphorical divide between the mixed population that can be signified by the signs that are put up around the village; one can see which part of the village there are in just by viewing the language of the signs. The buildings, specifically residential buildings, on each side of the village are also very distinctive in terms of design. The Greek Cypriot side of the village has buildings with very large terraces and many archways throughout the area (Theodorou). However, the Turkish Cypriot side has buildings that are described to be more closed off to the eyes of people in general in order to retain more privacy and attract less attention overall (Theodorou).

Christou, Jean. Cyprus Mail, 29 June 2016, Accessed 10 Nov. 2021. 

The education system of the two languages coexisting together is also separated by the ethnicity of the children in order to facilitate language development for each respective group. The possibility of interlingual mingling is quite high, even though the research does not specify anything of the sort when it comes to local affairs. Relating to local affairs, public disputes and crimes are handled in a unique way in Pyla due to the location of the village itself in the buffer zone that the UN established. The Turkish police and the Greek police are gathered along with the UN officials that are in charge of keeping the peace in the village and the other villages mentioned in the buffer zone (Theodorou). The UN officials have the final say in the dispute that is being discussed in those proceedings, but the police of both sides of the village collaborate with the UN peacekeepers in order to make sure that there is not any bias when it comes to the final verdict of the crime committed (Theodorou). Also within the town are various churches for those who follow the Greek Orthodox faith and a beautifully decorated mosque that is made for those of the Islam faith, specifically those who identify themselves as Sunni Muslims. These sacred places that house those of each respective faith are located more in the areas where the religion is generally more prevalent, i.e. the churches in the Greek Cypriot side of the town and the mosque in the Turkish Cypriot side (DW). That does not mean, however, that none from the Turkish side of the village do not go to one of the Greek Orthodox churches and vice versa, it is just quite more common in Pyla to see each side go to their respective places of worship in their areas.

Oswald, Alexis. International Storytelling, 2016, 10 Nov. 2021. 

Diverting away from the separating nature of the people within the united village, there is a multilinguistic choir there that carries the message of unification of the country within all of their songs. This choir accepts anybody from the village, advocates for the goal of unifying the country, and the destigmatizing of the hostility that has been present between the two ethnic groups since the day of the Greek-supported coup d’état (DW). The songs that are sung by the inclusive music group revolves around tolerance for the ethnic differences of the two groups all around the country, acceptance, and love towards each other in order to end the Cyprus Dispute. The people who are a part of the choir are those who promote a jovial atmosphere and constantly strive for the goals that they sing about profusely. In addition, they even do language lessons for each language so that the equality of the choir is maintained, and mutual understanding is promoted in order to break language barriers (DW). The choir is a group in Pyla that is supported by the UN due to the fact that it is one of the very rare instances at the time of writing this where the two fighting groups are coexisting in harmony (DW). It is essentially a cross-culture project that is living proof that the two sides can put their differences aside and come to an agreement regarding territorial disputes and hostilities that range over many decades. In essence, it is the symbol of what is to be desired for the future of the country.

Overall the situation in Pyla is quite stable and is harmonious enough to allow tourists to visit and experience the unique occurrence of two distinct cultures living side by side amidst the ongoing political war between the two governments. There is a certain amount of separation within the village itself that specifies the sides where the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots reside generally, the education system of each side, the places of worship, and the attractions that each side provides for tourists, but it does not signify the shattering of unity that the village encompasses. This unity is the soul of the choir that fights daily for the end of the dispute that has been going on for centuries. It must be clarified that the separation of these ethnic groups is not means for claiming that segregation is at work and unity is a falsehood in this circumstance. Mutual cultural understanding is the name of the game here and Pyla continues to pioneer for the unity that was had almost a century ago. Pyla is the start of a new future for the country of Cyprus, a future of Cypriot harmony.


(, Deutsche Welle. “Pyla, Cyprus: Life in a Divided Village: DW: 09.11.2003.” DW.COM, 11 Sept. 2003,

Kondakova-Theodorou, Evgeniya. “Pyla: Where Cultures Meet: Cyprus for Travellers.” Pyla: Where Cultures Meet | Cyprus For Travellers, 8 Sept. 2018,

Panayides, Theo. “Pyla Community Leader on His Unusual Village.” Cyprus Mail, Cyprus Mail, 10 Mar. 2021,

Organization, Turkish Heritage (THO). “The Cyprus Dispute at a Glance.” The Cyprus Dispute at a Glance, 22 May 2017,

Canno. “The Unresolved Cyprus Problem.” Le Petit Juriste, 28 Apr. 2016,


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