The country has an area of 5,747 square miles and an estimated population in the government-controlled area of 789,000. Prior to 1974, the country experienced a long period of strife between its Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities. In response, the UN Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) began peacekeeping operations in 1964. The island has been divided de facto since the Turkish military intervention of 1974, following a coup d'état directed from Greece. The southern part of the island is under the control of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus, while the northern part is administered by Turkish Cypriots. In 1983 their administration proclaimed itself the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" ("TRNC"). The United States does not recognize the "TRNC," nor does any other country except Turkey. A buffer zone, or "green line," patrolled by UNFICYP, separates the two parts. In 2003 Turkish Cypriot authorities relaxed many restrictions on movement between the two communities, including abolishing all crossing fees. The new procedures led to relatively unimpeded contact between the communities and permitted Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to visit religious sites located in the other community; however, citizens, as well as foreigners, must show identification at the buffer zone crossing points to go from one side to the other.
According to the most recent (2001) population census, 95 percent of the permanent population in the government-controlled area belongs to the Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus. Religious groups that constitute less than 5 percent of the population include Roman Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Maronite Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Jewish, and other groups.
There is a Buddhist temple in Nicosia. There is a synagogue in Larnaca. Both the Buddhist temple and the synagogue are used primarily by expatriates and foreign residents. The Jewish community, numbering approximately 2,000, includes a very small number of native Jewish Cypriots and a greater number of Israeli, English, and other European Jews who are part of the expatriate community, which includes both observant and nonpracticing members.
A 2006 opinion poll indicated that 19 percent of Greek Cypriots attended church services every Sunday, 23 percent attended once or twice a month, 35 percent attended only for major religious holidays and ceremonies such as weddings and funerals, and 19 percent rarely attended. The remainder did not attend religious services.