Vietnam – the land of smiles
For many people, Vietnam is forever associated with the barbaric rage of the Americans there. A symbol for the murder of the Christian-conservative US administration is the small town of My Lai – located approx. 540 km northeast of what was then Saigon. On March 16, 1968, under the command of First Lieutenant Calley, the Americans slaughtered more than 500 people – mainly women and children and numerous old people – at higher orders. It was the final end of the moral foundations for this war!
But Vietnam is also one of the countries with the highest population density. It is approx. 1,700 km long in its north-south extension and only 50 km wide at its narrowest point. The history of the country is marked by permanent attacks by its neighbors (China and Cambodia). Up until recent history, the Vietnamese have offered fierce resistance to invaders. Most recently in the Vietnam War.
The country is extremely diverse in terms of its climate and culture, not least due to its history and geographic location. Many of its historical sites are part of the UNESO world heritage. For the traveler, Vietnam is a country that has something to offer in many areas: a long coast with wonderful sandy beaches, a varied nature and culture as well as excellent Vietnamese cuisine. Vietnam is, however, a relatively “young” travel destination that only opened to tourism in the early 1990s after decades of war. However, it is enjoying growing popularity, especially in the field of cycling or trekking.
The country’s political development is still stagnating, however, as the state still has only one party, the Communist Party of Vietnam. But economically, the country has made enormous strides.
|Name of the country||Socialist Republic of VietnamCong Hoa Xa Hoi Chu Nghia Viet Nam|
|Form of government||One-party system|
|Geographical location||Southeast Asia, southern China|
|National anthem||Tiến Quân Ca (marches to the front)|
|Population||91.5 million (Credit: Countryaah: Vietnam Population)|
|Languages||Vietnamese is the official language.English, French, Chinese, Khmer and other languages and dialects are also spoken.|
|Capital||Hanoi with 6.5 million residents|
|Highest mountain||Fan Si Pan 3 with a height of 3,144m|
|Longest river||The Mekong with a length of 4,400 km.The Red River also called Hong Ha or Song Hong with a length of around 800 km is the longest river that only flows in Vietnam.|
|Largest lake||The Ho Ba Be Lake with an area of about 10 km² is the largest natural lake.The Hoa Binh reservoir is the largest artificial lake in the country with an area of approx. 250 km².|
|International license plate||VN|
|Time difference to CET||+ 6 h, in summer time + 5 h|
|International phone code||0084|
|Mains voltage, frequency||220 volts and 50 hertz|
|Internet TLD (Top Level Domain)||.vn|
Until around the year 1200
There is evidence of the settlement of Vietnam around 50,000 years ago. The Đông Sơn Bronze Age culture develops in the 3rd century BC. Relics are the impressive large drums from that time.
According to Abbreviationfinder website, the Funan empire developed in the south between the 1st and 6th centuries AD. It was heavily influenced by India and was highly developed in terms of art and architecture. Under the rule of the Funan, a sophisticated system of canals for irrigation and transportation was created. The main town Eco On, today’s Kien Giang, developed into a trading hub. Archaeological finds still provide information about the widespread network. Finds from China, Indonesia, India and the Mediterranean were also made. Towards the end of the 6th century however, the empire was gradually taken over by its western neighbors, the ancestors of the Ankgor Empire in what is now Cambodia.
In central Vietnam, the Champa empire expanded southwards from the 2nd century onwards. Also strongly under Indian influence, Hinduism as a religion and Sanskrit as a religious language were cultivated here. From the north, between 300 AD and 938 AD, the Chinese penetrated the red river delta and tried to establish a centralized system. However, they encountered resistance from the Vietnamese. However, practical things like irrigation systems and agriculture were taken over by the Vietnamese from the invaders. The cultivation of rice allowed the population to grow.
Vietnam developed into an important stopover on the trade route from China to India.
In the 10th century, the Tang dynasty in China disintegrated. The Vietnamese took advantage of the phenomenon of disintegration and drove out the Chinese in the battle of the Bach Dang River in 938 under the leadership of Ngo Quyen.
Ngo Quyen established an independent Vietnam, which however fell into anarchy after his death.
The Dinh Bo Linh dynasty ruled between 968 and 980, but it was still heavily dependent on the Chinese and had to pay tribute. It was followed by the early Ly dynasty, which ruled until 1009.
In the following years, Vientman became more and more independent from China. Ly Thai To founded the Ly dynasty, which lasted from 1010-1225. He also founded the first Vietnamese university in the Temple of Literature in Hanoi.
From the year 1200
Under the Tran dynasty, which lasted from 1225 to 1499, the Vietnamese were able to defy the invading Mongols. In 1407, however, the Chinese managed to regain control of the country. From around 1418, Lei Loi began to mobilize the people against the Chinese occupiers. In the uprising of 1428 he succeeded in defeating the Chinese. He then proclaimed himself ruler. After the expulsion, the Vietnamese tried to emancipate themselves culturally. The language of scholars, which had previously been Mandarin, was replaced by the Vietnamese language. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Vietnam was ruled by the Trinh Lords in the north and the Ngyuyen Lords in the south.
The first Europeans (Romans) reached Vietnam as early as 166 AD and explored the country in the area of the Red River delta. Coin finds provided information about this. The Portuguese (see also Portugal) arrived in Dangang in 1516. They were followed by missionary Dominicans. It should also be mentioned at this point that it was the French Jesuit (see also Jesuit) Alexandre de Rhodes (1591 – 1666) who transcribed the Vietnamese script into the Latin writing system. Towards the end of the 17th century, only the missionaries remained in the country. The land was not lucrative enough for the merchants. The Catholic Church was able to expand its sphere of influence in Vietnam relatively far.
In 1765 a riot took place in the city of Tay Son over the prevailing mismanagement, in which almost the entire royal family was killed. The merchants, who had significantly fueled the revolt, became the new rulers after the successful rebellion. The Ngyuyen dynasty lasted from 1802 to 1945. At the same time, from around 1849 to 1954, the French (see also France) expanded their sphere of influence. They attacked the port of Da Nang in 1847 and took Saigon, today’s Ho Chi Minh City, in 1859.
In the battle of Ky Hoa, the power of the Vietnamese finally waned. The French laid out huge rubber plantations which, among others, supplied the French company Michelin with raw materials. In addition, they built infrastructure such as irrigation systems, levees and the railway line from Saigon to Hanoi.
Under the French occupation, almost 70% of the rural population became landless, which certainly contributed to the founding of the Communist Party of Vietnam. The party was founded in 1946 by Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969), who was born on May 19, 1890 as Nguyễn Tất Thành.
The Viet Minh received arms and other support from the United States to fight the Japanese during World War II.
The Viet Minh were composed of nationalist and communist-oriented groups.
The political leader and one of its founders was Ho Chi Minh, the military leadership was incumbent on the leader of the nationalist movement Vo Nguyen Giap.
Ho declared Vietnam independent on September 2, 1945. A civil war followed in Saigon and the north was occupied by the Chinese. As a result, the Vietnamese began to flee south. At the end of 1946, the French were able to take power again, this time with the result of the Franco-Vietnam War, which has gone down in history as the Indochina War.
The French had suffered a crushing defeat at Dien Bien Phu, where they suffered a crushing defeat on May 7, 1954 after a gruesome battle under Colonel de Castries that lasted 55 days, and then had to leave the country.
At the peace conference in July 1954, the provisional division of Vietnam along the 17th parallel into a northern and southern part was decided. The Viet Minh took control of the northern part, with Ho Chi Minh becoming Prime Minister of the communist state “Democratic Republic of North Vietnam”.
The south of the country was ruled by the anti-communist Ngo Dinh Diem (1901-1963). guided. In 1955 he declared himself President of the Republic of Vietnam. With the support of the United States, he did not allow the free elections provided for in 1956 by the Geneva Agreement for fear of Ho Chi Minh’s victory. This led to the creation of the “National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam”, which the deployed US soldiers called the Viet Cong (Viet Cong).
The result was a guerrilla movement that was to fight extremely persistently and successfully in the Vietnam War. The Diems regime was recognized by a large number of countries such as the USA and New Zealand.
His tyrannical, corrupt and strongly nepotistic system lasted until his assassination in 1963.
In January 1975 the North Vietnamese crossed the 17th parallel, on April 30th the capitulation of South Vietnam was signed in Saigon. The war had cost the lives of around 4 million civilians. In the years that followed, many Vietnamese left the country. Remember the “Boat People”, whose pictures went around the world.
In their desperation, countless Vietnamese dared to go out to sea on unseaworthy, overloaded boats in the hope of finding a better future somewhere else.
Vietnam War and the USA
The Vietnam War took place at the end of the 30-year conflict (1945-1975) over independence, also known as the Indochina War. The Viet Cong fought against South Vietnam, which was allied with the USA, Australia and New Zealand. China and the USSR (see also Russia) supported North Vietnam with weapons, but not in direct combat. From 1970 the confrontation escalated and the Americans expanded their combat zones to Cambodia and Laos.
On August 7, 1964, the Tonking Resolution was passed by the Americans. These had previously faked a raid on US warships by North Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonking. Therefore, on March 8, 1965, the Americans sent the first troops to Vietnam. These were strengthened until 1968.
The large number of casualties, around 100 a week, and the moderate success of the fighting, were grueling for the Americans.
On January 30, 1968, the Americans launched the so-called Tet Offensive.
Even though the Americans killed more than half of the enemy’s army, they still couldn’t control the situation, which led many to consider it impossible. The resistance in the American as well as the European civilian population, who witnessed the atrocities of the war directly on TV, became more and more violent.
The Americans had the planes that dropped napalm and gas on the civilian population take off from Guam. The Vietnam War mobilized a whole generation of young people around the world.
They went down in history as the so-called 68s and walked through the capitals of the world with loud Ho Chi Minh shouts in protest. A particularly cruel symbol of the inhuman warfare of the Americans – especially under the Christian-conservative President Richard Nixon (1913-1994) – was the massacre in the South Vietnamese village of My Lai.
On higher orders, US soldiers under the command of Lieutenant Calley killed over 500 civilians there – mostly women and children as well as old people. The unleashed Soldateska not only killed people, but also raped numerous women beforehand and mutilated many in the most horrific way.
In this context, however, the helicopter pilot Hugh Thomson (1943-2006) should also be remembered, who saved a number of people from the murder of his comrades and even gave the order to shoot his own soldiers if they continued to attack survivors.
After their victory over the USA, the Vietnamese fought from 1979 to 1989 against the Khmer Rouge (Khmer Rouge) in Cambodia, under whose terror regime led by Pol Pot (1928-1998) several million people were murdered. In 1992 a peace treaty was signed and Cambodia became independent.