Friday, April 17, 2009

Vietnam history - part I (1858-1955)

History weighs heavily on Vietnam. For more than a decade, reportage of the infamous war that racked the country portrayed it as a savage netherworld, yet, nearly thirty years after the war's end, this incredibly resilient nation is beginning to emerge from the shadows.

The national history stretches back thousand of years to a kingdom in the Red River Delta. However most interesting to me was the recent history - the french rule and war with the USA ... so here in brief what everyone should hear at least once.

In the nineteenth century France began to see Vietnam as a potential route into the resource-rich province of southern China (and maybe their competitive spirit against the English that had many colonies in Asia at the time), and in 1858 an armada of fourteen French ships captured Da Nang, and by 1887 had power over the whole country ... for 70 years Vietnam would be under foreign occupation.

Vietnam's first Marxist-Lenist organization, the Revolutionary Youth League, was founded in 1925 by Ho Chi Minh. (Born in 1890, Uncle Ho left Vietnam in 1911, became founding member of the French Communist Party and, by 1923, was in Moscow, training as a communist agent).

In 1930, Ho persuaded the various rival anti-colonial movements to unite into one Indochinese Communist Party whose main goal was and independent Vietnam. The German occupation of France in 1940 overturned the established order, and the Japanese forces seized full control in March 1945 and declared a nominally independent state under the last Nguyen emperor.

Japanese surrender on August 14 and on September 2, 1945 Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam ... the Potsdam agreement failed to recognise such and the French tried to move back in, starting the First Indochina War. By 1953, France was tired of the war and agreed to peace (last battle in Dien Bien Phu, in which the French surrendered).

The Geneva Conference divided Vietnam at the Seventeenth Parallel, with a "communist north" and "democratic south". In Saigaon the last empror named himself president (with Ngo Dinh Diem as a vehemently anti-communist prime minister), while Ho Chi Minh set about constructing a socialist society up in Hanoi.

In early 1955, the White House began to bankroll the southern government and the training of their ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam).

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