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Cộng Hòa Xã Hội Chủ Nghĩa Việt Nam
Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Flag of Vietnam Coat of Arms of Vietnam
Flag Coat of Arms
Motto: Độc lập - Tự do - Hạnh phúc ( Vietnamese, "Independence, liberty, happiness")
Anthem: Tiến Quân Ca
Location of Vietnam
Capital Hanoi
21°2′ N 105°51′ E
Largest city Ho Chi Minh City
Official language(s) Vietnamese
General Secretary
Prime Minister
Communist single-party state
Nông Ðức Mạnh
Trần Đức Lương
Phan Văn Khải
- Declared
- Recognized
From France
September 2, 1945
• Total

•Water (%)

329,560 km² ( 65th)
127,244 mi²

• 2005 est.
• 1999 census

• Density

83,535,576 ( 13th)

253/km² ( 31st)
• Total
• Per capita
2005 estimate
1.6 billion ( 39th)
,782 ( 131st)
HDI ( 2003) 0.704 ( 108th) – medium
Currency đồng (₫) ( VND)
Time zone
• Summer ( DST)
( UTC+7)
( UTC+8, does not observe)
Internet TLD .vn
Calling code +84
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is a communist country in Southeast Asia. Situated in eastern Indochina, it borders China, Laos, Cambodia, as well as the South China Sea. It is the most populous country among the mainland Southeast Asian countries.

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Etymology - Contents

The name of the country comes from the Vietnamese Việt Nam, which is in turn a reordering of Nam Việt, the name of an ancient kingdom from the ancestral Vietnamese that covered much of today's northern Vietnam. Its name is cognate to the Chinese words: Yuè Nán (越南; Yuet6 Naam4 in Cantonese) means "southern extension" or "over the south" since they were outside Han territory. The word Yue4/Yuet6/Việt was also a name for ethnic groups living in the proximity of southern China during ancient times. See Yue (peoples).

History - Contents

Vietnamese legends tells that native people populated and civilized the land more than 4,000 years ago. Chinese historical records tell of an indigenous people that existed about 2,500 years ago. Some historians, both in Asia and in the West, hold that the various peoples of today's Vietnam were brought together by a Qin Dynasty-era general who was fed up with the despotic rule of the Qin Shi Huang (First Emperor of China) and escaped to the "southern Yue [Viet] mountains" to set up his own kingdom. He and his soldiers conquered the land and established a civilized society modeled after ancient Chinese customs. This Chinese general adopted the native language (which sounded similar to southern Chinese dialects anyway) and married local women, who gave birth to sons that inherited the kingdom. Whether this is indeed historically true or not is still subject to debate.What is known for sure is that for most of the period from 207 BC to the early 10th century, it was under the rule of successive dynasties of China. Sporadic independence movements were attempted, but were quickly extinguished by the Chinese army. In 939, the Vietnamese defeated Chinese forces at the Bạch Đằng River and gained independence. They gained complete autonomy a century later. For most of its history, Vietnam has been strongly influenced by its much bigger northern neighbor, China. However, during the rule of the Trần Dynasty, it defeated three Mongol attempts of invasion by the Yuan Dynasty. Feudalism in Vietnam reached its zenith in the Lê Dynasty 1400s, especially with the emperor Le Thanh Tong. Between the 13th and 17th centuries, the Vietnamese expanded southward in a process known as nam tiến (southward expansion). They eventually conquered the kingdom of Champa and much of the Khmer empire. The independent period ended in the mid- 19th century, when the country was colonized by France.French rule continued until World War II, when Japan occupied Vietnam and used the country as a base to launch attacks against the rest of Indochina and India. When the war ended, France attempted to re-establish control but failed, after they were defeated at Dien Bien Phu. The Geneva Accords subsequently divided the country into North Vietnam and South Vietnam, separated by a demilitarized zone.During the Cold War, the North was supported by China and the Soviet Union while the South was supported by United States.The conflict quickly escalated into the Vietnam War. The war continued even after the Paris Peace Accords on January 27, 1973, which formally recognized the sovereignty of both sides.
The Bản Giốc Falls in Cao Bằng, North Vietnam
The Bản Giốc Falls in Cao Bằng, North Vietnam
All American troops were withdrawn by March 29, 1973. By April 30, 1975, North Vietnam had overtaken South Vietnam and by 1976, Vietnam was officially unified under the North Vietnamese government as The Socialist Republic of Vietnam.After reunification, political and economic conditions deteriorated to near-famine conditions. Millions of South Vietnamese became boat people over the next two decades. In late 1978, the Cambodian people, with the support of the Vietnamese army, removed the Khmer Rouge from power. Only one month later, however, partially in retaliation, China launched a short-lived incursion into Vietnam: the Sino-Vietnamese War.In 1986, the Communist Party of Vietnam implemented economic reforms known as đổi mới (renovation). During much of the 1990s, economic growth was rapid, and Vietnam reintegrated into the international community. It reestablished diplomatic relations with the United States in 1995, one year after the United States' trade embargo on Vietnam was repealed.

Politics - Contents

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is governed through a highly centralized system dominated by the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) (Đảng Cộng sản Việt Nam), which was formerly the Vietnamese Labor Party ( 1951- 1976). The Socialist Republic of Vietnam exists today as a communist state. From 2001 until now, Nong Duc Manh has been General Secretary of CPV. Senior Politburo members ( Trần Đức Lương, Phan Văn Khải, Nguyễn Văn An, Nguyễn Tấn Dũng, Lê Hồng Anh, Phạm Văn Trà and Trương Quang Được) concurrently hold high positions in the Government and the National Assembly.There are no legal opposition parties in Vietnam, although a number of opposition groups do exist scattered overseas among exile communities within countries such as France and the United States. These communities have supported demonstrations and civil disobedience against the government. The most prominent are the Vietnamese Constitutional Monarchist League, and the Government of Free Vietnam. The Government of Free Vietnam has claimed responsibility for a number of guerilla raids into Vietnam, which the Vietnamese government has denounced as terrorism.Former political parties include the nationalist Việt Nam Quốc Dân Đảng of Nguyễn Thái Học, the Can Lao party of the Ngô Đình Diệm government and the Viet Nam Duy Tan Hoi of Phan Bội Châu during the colonial period.Vietnam is a member of the United Nations, La Francophonie, ASEAN, and APEC, and applied for membership to the World Trade Organization in 2001.

Provinces - Contents

Vietnam's capital (thủ đô) is Hanoi. There are also four municipalities (thành phố trực thuộc Trung ương, singular and plural) existing at provincial level: Can Tho, Da Nang, Hai Phong, and Ho Chi Minh City (Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh). Ho Chi Minh City was formerly known as Saigon.Besides the five cities, the country is divided into fifty-nine provinces: An Giang, Bắc Giang, Bắc Cạn, Bạc Liêu, Bắc Ninh, Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu, Bến Tre, Bình Định, Bình Dương, Bình Phước, Bình Thuận, Cà Mau, Cao Bằng, Đắk Lắk, Đắk Nông, Điện Biên, Đồng Nai, Đồng Tháp, Gia Lai, Hà Giang, Hải Dương, Hà Nam, Hà Tây, Hà Tĩnh, Hòa Bình, Hậu Giang, Hưng Yên, Khánh Hòa, Kiên Giang, Kon Tum, Lai Châu, Lâm Đồng, Lạng Sơn, Lào Cai, Long An, Nam Định, Nghệ An, Ninh Bình, Ninh Thuận, Phú Thọ, Phú Yên, Quảng Bình, Quảng Nam, Quảng Ngãi, Quảng Ninh, Quảng Trị, Sóc Trăng, Sơn La, Tây Ninh, Thái Bình, Thái Nguyên, Thanh Hóa, Thừa Thiên-Huế, Tiền Giang, Trà Vinh, Tuyên Quang, Vĩnh Long, Vĩnh Phúc, Yên Bái.

Geography - Contents

Map of Vietnam
Map of Vietnam
The country is approximately 331,688 square kilometers (128,066 mi²) in area, which is slightly larger than New Mexico and slightly smaller than Germany. The topography consists of hills and densely forested mountains, with level land covering no more than 20 percent. Mountains account for 40 percent, hills 40 percent, and forests 75 percent. The northern part of the country consists of highlands and the Red River Delta. Phan Xi Păng, located in Lào Cai province, is the highest mountain in Vietnam at 3,143 metres (10,312 ft). The south is divided into coastal lowlands, Dai Truong Son (central mountains) with high plateaus, and the Mekong River Delta.The climate is tropical and monsoonal; humidity averages 84 percent throughout the year. Annual rainfall ranges from 120 to 300 centimetres (47 to 118 inches), and annual temperatures vary between 5°C (41° F) and 37°C (99° F).Land boundaries: Total: 4,639 km (2,883 mi) Border countries: Cambodia 1,228 km (763 mi), China 1,281 km (796 mi), Laos 2,130 m (1,324 mi)

Economy - Contents

In 1986, the Sixth Party Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam formally abandoned Marxist economic planning and began introducing market elements as part of a broad economic reform package called " đổi mới" ("Renovation").In many ways, this followed the Chinese model and achieved similar results. On the one hand, Vietnam achieved around 8% annual GDP growth from 1990 to 1997 and continued at around 7% from 2000 to 2002, making it the world's second-fastest growing economy. Simultaneously, investment grew three-fold and domestic savings quintupled.On the other hand, urban unemployment has been rising steadily in recent years due to high numbers of migration from the countryside to the cities, and rural unemployment, estimated to be up to 35% during nonharvest periods, is already at critical levels. Layoffs in the state sector and foreign-invested enterprises combined with the lasting effects of a previous military demobilization further exacerbated the unemployment situation. The country is attempting to become a member of the WTO. Vietnam, however, is still a relatively poor country with GDP of US billion (est., 2004). This translates to US00 per capita. Inflation rate is estimated at 14% per year in 2004. This figure has been scaled down by the Government to 9.5% per annum to avoid the ‘double digit’ classification.The spending power of the public has noticeably increased. The reason lies in the high property prices. In Hanoi, the capital, property prices can be as high as those in Tokyo or New York City. This has amazed many people because GDP per capita of this city is around US,000 per annum. The booming prices have given the poor land owners the opportunity to sell their homes for inflated prices. Corruption, bribery and embezzlement committed by many government officials have pushed property prices even higher, as real estate investment is a popular form of money laundering.Tourism has become an increasingly important industry in Vietnam. Many of the over 3 million annual visitors are Vietnam War veterans.

Demographics - Contents

Street scene in Haiphong
Street scene in Haiphong
According to official figures from the 1999 census, of Vietnam's then population of 76.3m, the largest of 54 government recognized ethnic groups of Vietnam were:
  1. Viet/ Kinh: 65.8 million (86.21%)
  2. Tày: 1.48 million (1.94%)
  3. Thái: 1.33 million (1.74%)
  4. Mường: 1.14 million (1.49%)
  5. Khmer: 1.06 million (1.38%)
  6. Hoa: 0.862 million (1.13%)
  7. Nung people: 0.856 million (1.12%)
  8. Hmong: 0.787 million (1.03%)
The majority ethnic Vietnamese, also called Viet or Kinh, make up about 86 percent of the nation's population. They are concentrated largely in the alluvial deltas and in the coastal plains and have little in common with the minority peoples of the highlands, whom they have historically regarded as hostile and barbaric. A homogenous social group, the Viet exert influence on national life through their control of political and economic affairs and their role as purveyors of the dominant culture. By contrast, the ethnic minorities, except for the Khơ-me Crôm (Khmer Krom) and the Hoa (ethnic Han Chinese), are found mostly in the highlands that cover two-thirds of the national territory.

On the way to the Perfume Pagoda outside Hanoi
On the way to the Perfume Pagoda outside Hanoi
According to the 1999 Socialist Republic of Vietnam's census numbers, eighty percent of Vietnamese subscribe to no religion. But according to the majority of other sources, Vietnamese people are predominantly Confucian and Mahayana Buddhist (esp. Mainstream Pure Land schools and Zen-inspired syncretists); with a sizeable Roman Catholic following, Protestant, Cao Đài, and Hoa Hao minorities. The largest Protestant churches are the Evangelical Church of Vietnam and the Montagnard Evangelical Church. Membership to Sunni and Bashi Islam are usually accredited to the ethnic Cham minority, but there are also a few ethnic Vietnamese adherents to Islam in the southwest.

The Tày people live primarily in the mountains and foothills of northern Vietnam. Their language is a member of the Tai languages, belonging to the Central Tai subgroup and closely related to the Zhuang language of southern China.Thái is a name used by Vietnamese authorities for a group of people also from the mountainous northern region of Vietnam and whom western linguists say actually speak separate languages: Tai Dam, Tai Dón, Tai Daeng, Tai Hang Tong, Tày Tac, and Tai Thanh. All these languages are closely related and belong to the Southwestern Tai subgroup of the Tai languages. This official "Thái" ethnicity should not be confused with the Thai people of Thailand. The Thai people of Thailand speak languages belonging to the Lao-Phutai branch of the Southwestern Tai subgroup, while the "Thái" of Vietnam speak languages belonging to the East Central branch of the Southwestern Tai subgroup. Although the Thái ethnicity is officially recognized in Vietnam, western linguistics do not recognize it and prefer to classify Tai Dam, Tai Dón, Tai Daeng, etc., as separate ethnic groups, in which case the Mường minority moves to second largest minority of Vietnam, Khơ-me Crôm move to third position, and Hoa to fourth position.The Mường live in the mountains of north central Vietnam and speak a Mon-Khmer language closely related to the Vietnamese language.The Khơ-me Crôm live in the fertile delta of the Mekong River in southern Vietnam and are ethnically the same as the Khmer people who make up the majority of the population of Cambodia. There is no consensus on the exact number of Khơ-me Crôm living in Vietnam. The Vietnamese government reported 1,055,174 Khơ-me Crôm at the 1999 census.The Hoa (ethnic Han Chinese) are mainly lowlanders and, more specifically, urban dwellers. They speak predominantly Cantonese (known to the Vietnamese as Quảng Đông), but there are also speakers of Hakka (Khách Gia), Min Nan/ Hokkien/ Fujian (Mân Nam/Phúc Kiến), Chaozhou (Triều Châu), etc. Up to the 1979 Vietnamese census, the Hoa were the largest minority of Vietnam. However, since the North Vietnamese took over South Vietnam in 1975 many Hoa left Vietnam, especially in the 1980s, so that at the 1999 census the Hoa were only the fifth largest minority (or the fourth largest if the Thái are not considered as an homogenous ethnic group).Beyond these five largest ethnic minorities, there are 48 other minorities officially recognized by the Vietnamese government, giving a total of 53 minorities altogether. Many of these 53 minority groups only have a few thousand members or so. Vietnam also has a small number of racial Eurasians, people of Asian and Caucasian parentage. Most of them are descendants of Vietnamese people mixed with either early French settlers or white American soldiers and personnel (or both), during the colonial period and Vietnam War. There are also a few of those descended from Indian or Pakistani setttlers also during the colonial era. There are some who are racially mixed with blacks as well, another product during the Vietnam War from American soldiers. Mixed race individuals face the most discrimination in Vietnamese society and government, especially ones who are product of American soldiers (white or black) from the Vietnam War.Officially, the ethnic minorities are referred to as "national minorities". The French used the name Montagnard (plural Montagnards, meaning "mountain people") to refer to all the minorities (except the Khơ-me Crôm and the Hoa), no matter what their actual language. The name Montagnard is still sometimes used today. Sometimes, the name Montagnard is used specifically for the Mường ethnic group.Human Rights NGOs point out the Vietnamese government's poor record with respect to ethnic minorities. In particular, the large Khơ-me Crôm (Khmer Krom) minority of southern Vietnam is denied elementary human rights in an effort by the Vietnamese government to Vietnamize the Khơ-me Crôm, or force them to leave their native land and relocate to Cambodia. The Vietnamese government is afraid that the large native Khơ-me Crôm population in the Mekong delta could allow Cambodia to officially claim back the fertile areas of the delta that were annexed by Vietnam more than 200 years ago. On the other hand, some in the Vietnamese government still pursue the centuries old policy of colonizing Khơ-me land, and it was reported that in the 1980s and 1990s some local Vietnamese officials have pushed the Cambodian-Vietnamese border several kilometers inside Cambodian territory, annexing tens of Cambodian villages, in violation of international treaties, thus further increasing the ethnic Khơ-me population inside Vietnam.Further north, there have been reports of tensions with the Tày people due to the government sponsored relocation of ethnic Vietnamese from the lowlands to the highlands inhabited by the Tày and other minorities. Protests and demonstrations by highland minorities have been reported.

Percentage of Ethnic Vietnamese
According to the 1999 census, ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh) numbered 65,795,718 and thus accounted for 86.2% of the total population of Vietnam.In terms of land area, the ethnic Vietnamese inhabit a little less than half of Vietnam, while the ethnic minorities inhabit the majority of Vietnam's land (albeit the least fertile parts of the country).The birth rate of the ethnic Vietnamese (and also the Hoa), which historically has been very high, decreased significantly since the 1980s and is now reaching much lower levels, comparable to the birth rates in Thailand or Malaysia. The birth rate of the minorities is still very high, comparable to birth rates in Cambodia or Laos.As a result, the ethnic minorities are now growing at a faster rate than the ethnic Vietnamese, which means that the percentage of ethnic Vietnamese in the total population is slowly decreasing year after year. According to official figures, at the 1979 census the ethnic Vietnamese accounted for 87.4% of the total population. The figure was down to 86.9% at the 1989 census, and 86.2% at the 1999 census.

According to official figures, 86.2% of the population speak Vietnamese as a native tongue.Various other languages are spoken by the several minority groups in Vietnam. The most spoken languages are: Tày (1.5 million), Mường (1.2 million), Khmer (1.05 million), Cantonese (870,000, this figure also includes speakers of other Chinese dialects), Nùng (860,000), H'Mông (790,000), and Tai Dam (700,000).French, a legacy of colonial rule, is spoken by some (mostly older) Vietnamese as a second language. Russian- and to a much lesser extent Czech or Polish- is often known among " baby-boomers" whose families had ties with the Soviet bloc. In recent years, English has become a more popular language to learn and is increasingly used in business, among other things.See also: List of ethnic groups in Vietnam

Culture - Contents

In its early history, Vietnamese writing used Chinese characters. In the 16th century, the Vietnamese developed their own set of characters called Chữ nôm. The celebrated epic Đoạn trường tân thanh (Truyện Kiều or The Tale of Kieu) by Nguyễn Du is written in Chữ nôm. During the French colonial period, Quốc ngữ, the romanized Vietnamese alphabet representation of spoken Vietnamese, became popular and brought literacy to the masses.Due to Vietnam's long association with China, Vietnamese culture remains strongly Confucian with its emphasis on familial duty. Education is highly valued. Historically, passing the imperial Mandarin exams was the only means for Vietnamese people to socially advance themselves.The majority of Vietnamese are adherents to Mahayana Buddhism, influenced by Confucianism and Daoism, and with a strong emphasis on ancestor worship. Others say that the Vietnamese' second religion is superstition and fatalism, brought on by the decades of war.Vietnam's cuisine and music have three distinct flavors, related to Vietnam's three regions: Bắc or North, Trung or Central, and Nam or South. Northern classical music is Vietnam's oldest and is traditionally more formal. Vietnamese classical music can be traced to the Mongol invasions, when the Vietnamese captured a Chinese opera troupe. Central classical music shows the influences of Champa culture with its melancholic melodies. Southern music exudes a lively laissez faire attitude. Vietnamese cuisine is based on rice, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Its characteristic flavor is sweet (sugar), spicy (serrano peppers), and flavored by a variety of mints.See Also:
  • Cuisine of Vietnam
  • Music of Vietnam
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