NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The moment word broke that Cypriot lawmakers in Parliament had voted down a bailout deal that would have raided everyone's savings to prop up a collapsing banking sector, a huge cheer rose up from hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside that echoed through the building's corridors.

Many relished it as a kind of David-against-Goliath moment — a country of barely a million people standing up to the will of Europe's behemoths who wanted it to swallow a very bitter pill to fix its broken-down economy.

"Shame on Europe for trying to snatch people's savings. It's a mistaken decision that will have repercussions on other economies and banking systems," said protester Panayiotis Violettis. "People have stopped trusting the EU which should be our protector."

Fighting back is not a new experience for Cypriots. From the 1950s guerrilla war against British rule to Greek Cypriots' defiant refusal in 2004 to accept a U.N.-backed peace plan to reunite the island, they are used to holding their own against big opponents.

Just as quickly as Cyprus' euro area partners decided that a deposit grab was the only way out, so Cypriots decided their tiny island was ground zero in Europe's new financial scorched earth policy and that it had to be resisted at all costs.

"Better die on your feet than live on your knees," one placard among the throngs of protesters read. Another said: "It starts with us, it ends with you" as a warning to other Europeans that their savings were no longer safe.

Politicians seized on the public mood. "This is another form of colonization," Greens lawmaker Giorgos Perdikis spouted in Parliament. "We won't allow passage of something that essentially subjugates the Cypriot people for many, many generations.

"Unfortunately, instead of support and solidarity, our partners offered blackmail and bitterness," said Parliamentary Speaker Yiannakis Omirou. The indignant leader of the country's Orthodox Christian Church, Archbishop Chrysostomos II, added: "This isn't the Europe that we believed in when we joined. We believed we would receive some kind of help, some support."

The country's foreign minister, Ioannis Kasoulides, even acknowledged that Cypriot negotiators had contemplated exiting the euro instead of accepting their euro area partners' terms.

In the end, Cyprus accepted a deal that would safeguard small savers but where depositors with more than 100,000 euros in the country's two most troubled banks would lose a big chunk of their money.

Nonetheless, Europe was stunned at the sheer brazenness. How could a pipsqueak country on Europe's fringes thumb its nose to continental juggernauts Germany and France and dare to turn down a deal meant to save it from economic chaos?

It's not the first time the country has pushed back in defiance, even against what many would consider as insurmountable odds. The island's majority Greek Cypriots fought former colonial ruler Britain to a draw in a four-year guerrilla campaign in the 1950s that aimed for union with Greece. That conflict ended in the country's independence in 1960.

Just 14 years later, a Turkish invasion prompted by an abortive coup by supporters of union with Greece resulted in the island's division into an internationally recognized, Greek-speaking south and a breakaway, Turkish-speaking north.

The invasion and its fallout remains an existential matter in the minds of Cypriots and it still informs many of the political and economic decisions the country and its people make.

"Greek Cypriots lost nearly everything during the 1974 invasion," said University of Cyprus History Professor Petros Papapolyviou. "So they reason, what else do we have to lose? Why accept another injustice?"

In 2004, Greek Cypriots again defied international expectations when they voted down a United Nations-backed reunification plan they believed was unfairly weighted against them.

A few days later, the island joined the European Union and some EU leaders were left fuming at what they saw as Greek Cypriot deceit for promising to sign up to a peace deal in exchange for EU membership.

Nearly a decade later and European acrimony at the Cypriot "no" hasn't entirely dissipated. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaueble told the Sunday edition of German newspaper Welt am Sonntag that "Cyprus was admitted to the EU in hopes that the plan of then-U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to overcome the (island's) divide would be honored."

"I interpret (that) as indicating a sense of vindictiveness rather than rational, result-oriented thinking." said University of Cyprus Associate Professor Yiannis Papadakis.

Were the tough bailout terms some sort of belated punishment? Whether that's true or not, such notions only feed a Cypriot proclivity for conspiracy theories. As in other small, insular societies, threats — real or imagined — sharpen a sense of collective victimhood.

Papadakis said Cypriots see their political culture as underpinned by personal relationships. Hence their reference to "friends" instead of "allies," which implies a more pragmatic relationship.

"That's why Greek Cypriots often complain of a 'betrayal from our friends'," he said. But it's wrong for the EU to foist all the blame on Cypriots when things go awry, Papadakis added.

"I believe that the rest of the EU has made a large share of mistakes during this arduous process."

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  • Cypriots show their palms reading 'No' during a protest against an EU bailout deal outside the parliament in Nicosia on March 18, 2013. Cyprus's parliament has postponed until March 19 a session to vote on the bailout deal that slaps a levy on all Cypriot bank savings, as negotiators scrambled to soften the blow for small deposit holders. AFP PHOTO/PATRICK BAZ (Photo credit should read PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Cypriots protest outside the parliament building in Nicosia, on March 18, 2013. Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades was seeking the backing of MPs for an EU bailout deal that slaps a levy on bank savings under harsh terms that have jolted global markets and raised fears of a new eurozone debt crisis. AFP PHOTO /PATRICK BAZ (Photo credit should read PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Euro coins from Cyprus, center, surrounded by coins from other Euro zone countries, are displayed in a coin collectors' shop window in downtown Lisbon, Tuesday, March 19, 2013. The Cypriot government sought Tuesday to shield small savers from a plan that is intended to raise euro 5.8 billion ($7.5 billion) toward a financial bailout by seizing money from bank accounts. The plan, which is part of a larger bailout package being negotiated with other European countries, has been met with fury in Cyprus and has sent jitters across financial markets. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

  • A Cypriot man wearing a mask of Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras smokes a cigarette during a protest against an EU bailout deal outside the parliament in Nicosia on March 18, 2013. Cyprus's parliament has postponed until March 19 a session to vote on the bailout deal that slaps a levy on all Cypriot bank savings, as negotiators scrambled to soften the blow for small deposit holders. AFP PHOTO/PATRICK BAZ (Photo credit should read PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Cypriots holding cut-out masks of German Chancellor Angela Merkel (top-R), European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso (C) and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades (top-L) take part in a protest against an EU bailout deal outside the parliament in Nicosia on March 18, 2013. Cyprus's parliament has postponed until March 19 a session to vote on the bailout deal that slaps a levy on all Cypriot bank savings, as negotiators scrambled to soften the blow for small deposit holders. AFP PHOTO/PATRICK BAZ (Photo credit should read PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A Cypriot woman wearing a mask of German Chancellor Angela Merkel stands next to a fellow demonstrator wearing a mask of Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades during a protest against an EU bailout deal outside the parliament in Nicosia on March 18, 2013. Cyprus's parliament has postponed until March 19 a session to vote on the bailout deal that slaps a levy on all Cypriot bank savings, as negotiators scrambled to soften the blow for small deposit holders. AFP PHOTO/PATRICK BAZ (Photo credit should read PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Protesters shout slogans during a protest outside of the parliament in Nicosia, Cyprus, Monday, March 18, 2013. A vote on a bailout package for Cyprus that includes an immediate tax on all savings accounts has been postponed until Tuesday evening. Yiannakis Omirou, the speaker of Parliament, said the delay was needed to give the government time to amend the deal reached over the weekend that prompted an outcry from those who thought their money was safe. In order to get euro 10 billion ($13 billion) in bailout loans from international creditors, Cyprus agreed to take a percentage of all deposits — including ordinary citizens' savings — an unprecedented step in Europe's 3 ½-year debt crisis. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

  • A protestor with a mask of German Chancellor Angela Merkel shout slogans during a protest outside of the parliament in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Monday, March 18, 2013. A vote on a bailout package for Cyprus that includes an immediate tax on all savings accounts has been postponed until Tuesday evening. Yiannakis Omirou, the speaker of Parliament, said the delay was needed to give the government time to amend the deal reached over the weekend that prompted an outcry from those who thought their money was safe. In order to get euro 10 billion ($13 billion) in bailout loans from international creditors, Cyprus agreed to take a percentage of all deposits — including ordinary citizens' savings — an unprecedented step in Europe's over 3 year debt crisis. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

  • A Cypriot couple hang placards from their necks during a protest against an EU bailout deal outside the parliament in the capital, Nicosia, on March 19, 2013. The party of Cyprus' President Nicos Anastasiades will abstain from taking part in a parliamentary vote on an EU bailout, that slaps a levy on all Cypriot bank savings, a party member said. The banner on the right reads in Greek: 'It's capitalism idiots!' AFP PHOTO/PATRICK BAZ (Photo credit should read PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Two man pass by the people using the ATM machines outside of a Laiki Bank branch in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Sunday, March 17, 2013. Cyprus parliament had postponed the debate and vote on the controversial levy on all bank deposits that the cash-strapped countrys creditors demanded in exchange for euro10 billion (US$13 billion) in rescue money, officials said. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

  • A man sits and drink as women use the ATM machine outside of a Bank of Cyprus branch in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Sunday, March 17, 2013. Cyprus parliament had postponed the debate and vote on the controversial levy on all bank deposits that the cash-strapped countrys creditors demanded in exchange for euro10 billion (US$13 billion) in rescue money, officials said. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

  • A police officer stands by a protest banner outside of parliament before a meeting in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Monday, March 18, 2013. Cyprus' president is briefing lawmakers ahead of a crucial parliamentary vote on a controversial levy on bank deposits that the cash-strapped country's creditors have demanded in exchange for a euro10 billion (US$13 billion) rescue package.(AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

  • Children are seen by a protest banner held by protestors outside of the parliament during a crucial meeting in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Monday, March 18, 2013. Cyprus' president is briefing lawmakers ahead of a crucial parliamentary vote on a controversial levy on bank deposits that the cash-strapped country's creditors have demanded in exchange for a euro10 billion (US$13 billion) rescue package.(AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

  • A protestor shout slogans outside of parliament during a meeting in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Monday, March 18, 2013. Cyprus' president is briefing lawmakers ahead of a crucial parliamentary vote on a controversial levy on bank deposits that the cash-strapped country's creditors have demanded in exchange for a euro10 billion (US$13 billion) rescue package.(AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

  • A protestor with his child hold a banner outside of parliament during a crucial meeting in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Monday, March 18, 2013. Cyprus' president is briefing lawmakers ahead of a crucial parliamentary vote on a controversial levy on bank deposits that the cash-strapped country's creditors have demanded in exchange for a euro10 billion (US$13 billion) rescue package.(AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

  • A view of the Bank of Cyprus UK in Charlotte Street, central London, Monday, March 18, 2013. The euro 10 billion (US dlrs13 billion) Cyprus bailout agreed by the EU and IMF demands that all bank customers pay a one-off levy on all bank deposits, to save the country from bankruptcy. Cyprus' president Nicos Anastasiades urged lawmakers to approve the tax when they vote Monday, saying he wants to amend the unpopular eurozone bailout plan to reduce its effect on small savers. (AP Photo / Nick Ansell, PA) UNITED KINGDOM OUT - NO SALES - NO ARCHIVES

  • A man uses an ATM at a bank, right, in Pamplona northern Spain on Monday, March 18, 2013. A plan to tax depositors in Cypriot banks as a way to partly fund a bailout of the Mediterranean island nation impacted on the euro-zone Monday, as officials in Spain and Italy tried over the weekend to reassure their citizens by saying the situation in Cyprus is unique, and that bank deposits in their countries will remain safe. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

  • Protesters hold up their hands as they protest outside the parliament in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Monday, March 18, 2013. A vote on a bailout package for Cyprus that includes an immediate tax on all savings accounts has been postponed until Tuesday evening. Yiannakis Omirou, the speaker of Parliament, said the delay was needed to give the government time to amend the deal reached over the weekend that prompted an outcry from those who thought their money was safe. In order to get euro 10 billion ($13 billion) in bailout loans from international creditors, Cyprus agreed to take a percentage of all deposits — including ordinary citizens' savings — an unprecedented step in Europe's 3 ½-year debt crisis. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

  • Cypriots hold placards during a protest against an EU bailout deal outside the parliament in Nicosia on March 19, 2013. The party of Cyprus' President Nicos Anastasiades will abstain from taking part in a parliamentary vote on an EU bailout, that slaps a levy on all Cypriot bank savings, a party member said. AFP PHOTO/PATRICK BAZ (Photo credit should read PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A man use his mobile phone as he passes outside of the a Russian commercial bank in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Tuesday, March 19, 2013. A high proportion of deposits in Cypriot banks are believed to be held by Russians and Cypriot Finance Minister Michalis Sarris is flying to Moscow Tuesday to meet with his Russian counterpart. Financial markets are reported to be tense Tuesday as investors await a vote in Cyprus on a contentious plan to help fund the country's bailout by a one off charge on bank deposits although there may be a change to the proposed levy to spare small account holders. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

  • Cypriots use the ATM machines outside of a closed Laiki Bank branch in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Tuesday, March 19, 2013. Cypriot finance officials are revising a planned financial bailout to relieve small account holders from having to pay a charge on their savings in order to secure an international rescue of the country's troubled banks.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

  • A Cypriot man asks for help from a member of bank stuff to get money from an ATM machine outside a closed Laiki Bank branch in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Tuesday, March 19, 2013. Cypriot finance officials are revising a planned financial bailout to relieve small account holders from having to pay a charge on their savings in order to secure an international rescue of the country's troubled banks.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

  • Pensioner Adreas Tartis 74 years old sits on chair in central Nicosia, Cyprus, Tuesday, March 19, 2013. Tartis said that the situation of Cyprus is difficult. Cypriot finance officials are revising a planned financial bailout to relieve small account holders from having to pay a charge on their savings in order to secure an international rescue of the country's troubled banks.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

  • An employee of the Stock Exchange walks next to a display showing stock price movements in Athens, Tuesday, March 19, 2013. Banks stocks were sharply lower on the Athens Stock Exchange, as trading resumed for the first time in Greece since the details of a bailout in Cyprus and a shock levy on bank deposits were announced. Trading in the shares of Bank of Cyprus and Laiki was suspended for two days on the Athens Stock Exchange. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

  • A man passes outside of the a Russian commercial bank in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Tuesday, March 19, 2013. A high proportion of deposits in Cypriot banks are believed to be held by Russians and Cypriot Finance Minister Michalis Sarris is flying to Moscow Tuesday to meet with his Russian counterpart. Financial markets are reported to be tense Tuesday as investors await a vote in Cyprus on a contentious plan to help fund the country's bailout by a one off charge on bank deposits although there may be a change to the proposed levy to spare small account holders. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)