Why is Vietnam called Vietnam

The history of Vietnam

From the perspective of the Vietnamese, the history of Vietnam is above all a history of constant resistance and defense against conquerors such as China, Japan, the USA or France.

The first traces of human activity in what is now Vietnam can be dated back to 300,000 to 500,000 years ago. Around 207 BC, the Lac Viet tribe conquered the Au Lac empire. The Lac Viet called the area Nam Viet, which means “southern country of the Viet”. About 100 years later, Nam Viet was conquered by the Chinese, and a thousand years of Chinese rule began over the Vietnamese, who were to significantly shape their culture and political system.

The rule of the Chinese

The Chinese language became the official language in Nam Viet. Finally, in the 10th century, the Chinese were driven out by the Vietnamese to establish the Empire of Annam in 968. Although local rulers were at war and fought for sole power at that time, Chinese suzerainty still existed. Around 1100 Buddhism and Vietnamese art flourished under the Ly Dynasty, Vietnam's first important dynasty. In the following years there was a constant back and forth between the Chinese and Vietnamese seizure of power until Le Loi founded the Le dynasty in 1427, which lasted until 1789. Among the Le, Vietnamese traditions were again consciously given importance. Champa is conquered under the rule of the Le and Vietnamese power can extend to the Mekong. In 1771 a civil war broke out, the so-called Tay Son Rebellion, from which Prince Nguyen Phuc Anh, son of an influential family of traders, emerged victorious in 1802. He crowns himself Emperor Gia Long, gives the country the name Viet Nam for the first time and moves the country's capital to Hue. The territory of the empire was quickly expanded, so that as early as 1834 large parts of what is now Cambodia belonged to Vietnam.

The French protectorate

In 1884 France captured the not yet colonized part of Vietnam as a French protectorate. The country was divided into three parts: Cochinchina (South Vietnam), Annam (Central Vietnam) and Tongking (North Vietnam). At this time, many Vietnamese students and intellectuals came to Europe, especially in France, who came into contact with the ideas of nationalism and communism. Ho Chi Minh was one of them; in 1929 he united the communist parties in Annam, Cochin-China and Tonkin into a single party.

The threat from Japanese troops is growing

In the years that followed, the threat posed by Japanese troops increased. In 1938 they were able to take the port city of Canton and the island of Hainan. In July 1941, they finally invaded the country and occupied Vietnam. Until the end of the Second World War in August 1945, Vietnam was administered by Japan in cooperation with the French colonial administration. The Vietnamese were exploited by both the French and the Japanese. The occupiers demanded more and more food, which resulted in a severe famine in 1945, in which around two million Vietnamese people lost their lives.

The "League for the Independence of Vietnam" prevailed against the occupiers

After Ho Chi Minh returned from exile in 1941, the Viet Minh, a "League for the Independence of Vietnam", was founded from a large number of resistance groups. It had set itself the task of fending off Japanese imperialism and French colonialism and asserting itself against the occupiers. The Viet Minh received US support.

On August 25, 1945 Japan surrendered and the Emperor Bao Dai had to abdicate. Just a few days later, on September 2, 1945, Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, which was initially recognized by the French as an autonomous state within the Union Francaise. Vietnam thus became the first independent republic in Southeast Asia. After the Potsdam Conference, Vietnam fell under the control of the British. However, after the uprisings broke out in the south of the country, the British asked the defeated Japanese to help them and intervene in the south. In September 1945, Chinese troops marched into the north of the country. On September 23, 1945, the French finally forced the reestablishment of the colonial regime in South Vietnam, so that French troops occupied Saigon on October 5 and the Chinese and British surrendered Vietnam back to France. After France wanted to regain compliance with the now independent North Vietnam, the Indochina War broke out in 1946, which, after years of guerrilla warfare, finally succeeded in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu on May 7, 1954 with a victory for the Viet Minh. At the Geneva Conference on July 21, 1954, the division of Vietnam into the northern Democratic Republic of Vietnam with the capital Hanoi and the southern Republic of Vietnam with the capital Saigon was finally decided. Chaos and corruption reigned in the years that followed, until the US finally installed a military junta and made Duong Van Minh head of state.

US military attacks - start of the Vietnam War

From 1964 onwards, the US massively upgraded its military resources and launched attacks on North Vietnam, which eventually turned into a violent air war. At that time, the USA assumed, according to the domino theory, that the west-oriented South Vietnam could overturn through the infiltration of North Vietnamese - i.e. communist - forces and also become communist.

In 1968 the Viet Cong were able to take some cities in South Vietnam in the Tet Offensive and attack the US embassy in Saigon. As it became more and more clear that the conflict was getting worse and the war could no longer be won, the United States decided in 1969 to withdraw its troops. On September 3, 1969, the President of North Vietnam Ho Chi Minh died. However, the bombings and air strikes, particularly the use of defoliant, continued until 1973. On January 28, 1973, an armistice was agreed between the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the USA, and the corresponding peace treaty was signed in Paris. This ends the direct involvement of the USA in the war, but the North Vietnamese continued the fight against South Vietnam until Saigon finally faced the fall on April 21, 1975 and head of state Nguyen Van Thieu resigned from office. Seven days later, Saigon is taken; South Vietnam unconditionally surrenders. The Vietnam War is over.

The history of Vietnam:
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North and South Vietnam unite

On July 2, 1976, North and South Vietnam were reunified under the name of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The former capital of South Vietnam, Saigon, is renamed Ho Chi Minh City.

In 1979, Vietnam invades Cambodia to put an end to the Khmer Rouge terror regime that emerged as a result of the Vietnam War and the armed conflict on Vietnamese territory. On January 7, 1979, the Vietnamese troops succeed in conquering the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. However, it is said to be another ten years before the troops withdraw from the area.