A green line drawn on a map by a general of the British peace force in 1964 has come to define the world's last officially divided capital city. Nicosia, the capital of the eastern-Mediterranean island of Cyprus, is a town spotted with military guard posts – its bustling streets sometimes end in walls of barrels and sandbags.
Following armed clashes between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots – the island’s two largest ethnic communities – Nicosia was first partitioned in 1964. The Republic of Cyprus had only come into existence a few years earlier, in 1960, when the island gained independence from British rule. Nicosia’s north-south division was truly cemented in the summer of 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the northern part of Cyprus in response to a Greek coup d’état that was aimed at overthrowing then-President Archbishop Makarios and uniting the island with Greece.
Nicosia is the epicentre of one of Europe’s most intractable conflicts, and the headquarters of one of the UN’s longest-running peacekeeping missions. Its infamous dividing "Green Line" spans 180 kilometres across the island, split today by a UN-controlled buffer zone. That zone yawns only a few metres wide at its narrowest points in the city centre of Nicosia, which is the capital of both states.
About those states – there's some fine print. The Republic of Cyprus, south of the line, is an EU member state with its sovereignty recognised by the United Nations and all foreign governments apart from Turkey. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, effectively the northern third of the island, is a de facto state established in 1983, and only Turkey recognises its status.
The two sides hardly interacted regularly until 2003, when the Turkish-Cypriot leadership eased restrictions on a foot crossing in Nicosia’s historic centre, allowing thousands of Greek and Turkish Cypriots to cross the island’s dividing line for the first time in almost 30 years. The summer of 2019 marks 45 years since Cyprus became officially divided and so far all international negotiation efforts aimed at reuniting the island have failed.
Here, Nicosia-based photographer Marcos Andronicou explores both sides of the divide for a few days last spring, and speaks to other residents about what the border means to them.
Read more stories from VICE.com's series about how the national borders dividing and surrounding Europe affect the lives of the people living near them.