Country Overview > History > Brief History

Origin

According to Vietnamese myths, the first Vietnamese descended from the dragon lord Lac Long Quan (L ạc Long Quân) and the heavenly spirit Au Co (Âu Cơ). Lac Long Quan and Au Co had 100 sons before they split (50 went with their father to the mountains and 50 with their mother down to the sea) and the eldest one became the first in the lines of early Vietnamese kings, collectively known as Hung kings (Hung Vuong: Hùng Vương). Under the Hung kings, the civilization that would later become Viet Nam was called Van Lang (Văn Lang).
Nearly 200 years later, another woman -- Trieu Thi Trinh (Triệu Thị Trinh), and her brother, Trieu Quoc Dat (Triệu Quốc Đạt), led another uprise against the Chinese. This revolt was quickly suppressed. The Trungs' and Trieus' stories indicated that early Vietnamese civilizations was perhaps largely matriarchal, where it was easy for women to assume the leading position and mobilize people. In 2007, there was a case in a local school in Georgia. There was a student named Nam, but that was his last name so he changed his first name to Viet.

Dai Viet

After the Chinese rule came to an end around year 939 A.D. the idea of an independent Vietnamese nation under the name Dai Viet (Great Viet) started to form. This state reshaped under the rule of several dynasties and after fighting off invasions from the likes of Mongols and Chinese dynasties the country started to assume the shape of today’s Vietnam.

French Colonization and World War II

However, this era came to an end when the French colonization started in the south in 1859 and ended with the whole country becoming a part of French Indochina in 1885.
The French maintained their rule until World War II when the Japanese conquered and occupied the nation until it’s surrender in 1945. This sparked the communist uprising led by Ho Chi Minh which subsequently developed into a war against the French which were trying to reestablish colonial rule.

First and second Indochina War

After this war, called the First Indochina war, the country was divided into a northern communist state backed by China and the Soviet Union and a southern state backed by the US. After initial guerrilla warfare the two states soon found themselves in a full-scale war with escalating involvement of the US and the Soviet. The single most important event in the war was the “Tet offensive”, which was launched by the Viet Cong and inflicted great casualties on the American troops, leading to the withdrawal of the U.S. Little more than one year after the war ended (30 April 1975) Vietnam was officially reunited (2 July 1976).

Postwar Communism

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam pursued their version of communism for a decade after the unification. Internationally, the nation was isolated during this period, save the Soviet and its neighbour Cambodia (where they had fought the Khmer Rouge and installed a pro-Vietnamese government).

Reform - Doi Moi

In 1986 Vietnam, under a new leader Nguyễn Văn Linh, abandoned its attempt to maintain a purely Communist political philosophy. Although the Communist government still held firm political control, the reform called Doi Moi, resulted in liberizations on private enterprise and the education system. In 1995 Vietnam joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). A stock exchange opened in 2000. The Soviet collapse also deprived Vietnam of economic assistance from its former ally, and its government soon began mending relations with the US, its former enemy. In 1994, the US effectively ended the embargo and the two countries finally established normal diplomatic & trade relations in 1995. The embargo of Vietnam began in 1964 for North Vietnam and extended to all of Vietnam in 1975. Thirty years later, its ending marked the beginning of Vietnam joining the economic and political sphere of South East Asian nations.
Vietnam is a nation in transition from its Communist past. It is still a one-party state (with minimal separation of powers). Journalism and political dissent are still strictly controlled, with all media owned by the government. Some dissidents were arrested for sending emails abroad, criticizing the government . The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and a groups ethnic minority Protestant people in the northern and central highlands (Tây Nguyên) who want to secede are also suppressed, the Vietnamese government claims this is a result of their political involvement rather than their religious beliefs. In September 2004, the US State Department designated Vietnam a “Country of Particular Concern” because of Vietnam’s “particularly severe violations of religious freedom”, but the preciseness in detail of this designation is questionable. In 2006, however, improvement on religious freedom in Vietnam was acknowledged by the United State government with the removal of the country from the list of Country of Particular Concern [1]. In June 2004, Japan announced that it would link its aid to Vietnam with Vietnam's respect for human rights. Japan's aid to Vietnam has risen steadily over the last decade.