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North Vietnam

Democratic Republic of Vietnam
Việt Nam Dân chủ Cộng hòa



Flag (1945–1955) Coat of arms
"Độc lập – Tự do – Hạnh phúc"
(English: "Independence – Freedom – Happiness")
"Tiến Quân Ca"
(English: "Army March")
Location of North Vietnam in Southeast Asia.
Capital Hanoi
Languages Vietnamese (official)
Religion None (state atheism)
Government Marxist–Leninist single-party socialist republic
 -  1945–69 Hồ Chí Minh
 -  1969–76 Tôn Đức Thắng
First Secretary
 -  1960–86 Lê Duẩn
Historical era 20th century
 -  Republic declared September 2, 1945
 -  Viet Minh reenters Hanoi October 10, 1954
 -  PAVN enters Saigon April 30, 1975
 -  North and South Vietnam merged July 2, 1976
 -  1960 157,880 km² (60,958 sq mi)
 -  1960 est. 15,916,955 
     Density 100.8 /km²  (261.1 /sq mi)
 -  1974 est. 23,767,300 
     Density 150.5 /km²  (389.9 /sq mi)
Currency đồng

The Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV; Vietnamese: Việt Nam Dân chủ Cộng hòa), generally known as North Vietnam, was a communist government founded in 1945, laying claim to all of Vietnam yet comprising most of North Vietnam from September 1945 to December 1946, controlling pockets of territory throughout the country until 1954, and governing territory north of the 17th parallel until 1976, when the government led by the Communist Party reunified with the Southern Provisional Government governed from Hanoi.

As an era of post-dynastic Vietnamese history, the republic was preceded by the Nguyễn dynasty and followed by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The state was proclaimed by Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi in 1945 after assuming power following the abdication of Emperor Bảo Đại a few days earlier,[1] Later that year, the French reoccupied Hanoi and the First Indochina War followed. Bảo Đại became head of the Saigon government in 1949, which was then renamed the State of Vietnam. The DRV was re-established formally in the eyes of the West following the 1954 Geneva Conference at the end of the First Indochina War, when the country was partitioned at the 17th parallel. The DRV became the government of the North while the State of Vietnam retained control in the South.

The communist Viet Minh ("League for the Independence of Vietnam") shared power with non-communists and together controlled areas of North Vietnam between December 18, 1946 and July 20, 1954. However the communists gradually eliminated all the non-communists until, in February 1951, they announced the formation of the Lao Động Party (en: "Labor" Party) and openly avowed communism for North Vietnam.[2] The communists (Lao Động Party) controlled the northern half of what is now the Socialist Republic of Vietnam between July 20, 1954 and July 2, 1976.

The Geneva Accords promised elections in 1956 to determine a national government for a united Vietnam. The French accepted the proposal of Viet Minh delegate Phạm Văn Đồng,[3] who proposed that Vietnam eventually be united by elections under the supervision of "local commissions".[4] The United States countered with what became known as the "American Plan," with the support of the State of Vietnam (which later became South Vietnam) and the United Kingdom.[5] It provided for unification elections under the supervision of the United Nations, but was rejected by the Soviet delegation.[5] During the Vietnam War (1955–75), North Vietnam and the Viet Cong supported by its communist allies, including the Soviet Union and China, fought against the military of the Republic of Vietnam government, the U.S. and the Free World Military Forces, including Australia, South Korea, Thailand and various smaller players. North Vietnam also fought alongside indigenous communist rebels in Cambodia and Laos against their respective US-backed governments. China and the Soviet Union feuded with each other over their influence in North Vietnam, as both wanted to make the country their satellite state.[6] The war ended when the North Vietnamese forces violated the peace treaty and defeated the South Vietnamese army, which dwindled after American combat troops withdrew from the South about two years early. The two halves of Vietnam were reunited into one country, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, in 1976.


  • Presidency of Hồ Chí Minh (1945–69) 1
    • Proclamation of the republic 1.1
    • Early republic 1.2
    • During the First Indochina War 1.3
    • Partition of Vietnam 1.4
    • Land reform and consolidation of power 1.5
  • Presidency of Tôn Đức Thắng (1969–76) 2
    • During the Vietnam War 2.1
    • Reunification 2.2
  • Foreign relations 3
    • South Vietnam 3.1
    • Communist states 3.2
  • Notes 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Presidency of Hồ Chí Minh (1945–69)

Proclamation of the republic

After about 300 years of partition by feudal dynasties, Vietnam was again under one single authority in 1802 when Gia Long founded the Nguyễn dynasty, but the country fell under French protectorate after 1883 and under Japanese occupation after 1940 during World War II. Soon after Japan surrendered in 1945, the Viet Minh in the August Revolution, entered Hanoi and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was proclaimed on September 2, 1945, government for the entire country replacing the Nguyễn dynasty.[7] Viet Minh leader Hồ Chí Minh became head of the government. U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt had spoken against French rule in Indochina and America was supportive of the Viet Minh at this time.

Early republic

The Hanoi government of Ho Chi Minh claimed dominion over all of Vietnam, but during this time South Vietnam was in profound political disorder. The successive collapse of French, then Japanese power, followed by the dissension among the political factions in Saigon had been accompanied by widespread violence in the countryside.[8][9] On September 12, 1945, the first British troops arrived in Saigon. On September 23, 28 days after the people of Saigon seized political power, French troops occupied the police stations, the post office, and other public buildings. The salient political fact of life in Northern Vietnam was Chinese Nationalist army of occupation, and the Chinese presence had forced Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh to accommodate Chinese-backed Viet Nationalists. On June 1946, Chinese Nationalist troops evacuated Hanoi, and on the 15th of June, the last detachments embarked at Haiphong. After the departure of the British in 1946, the French controlled a part of Cochinchina, South Central Coast, Central Highlands since the end Southern Resistance War.

In January 1946, the Viet Minh held an election to establish a National Assembly. Public enthusiasm for this event suggests that the Viet Minh enjoyed a great deal of popularity at this time, although there were few competitive races and the party makeup of the Assembly was determined in advance of the vote.[nb 1]

When France declared Cochinchina, the southern third of Vietnam, a separate state as the "Autonomous Republic of Cochinchina" in June 1946, Vietnamese nationalists reacted with fury. In November, the National Assembly adopted the first Constitution of the Republic.[10]

During the First Indochina War

The French reoccupied Hanoi and the First Indochina War (1946–54) followed. Following the Chinese Communist Revolution (1946−50), Chinese communist forces arrived on the border in 1949. Chinese aid revived the fortunes of the Viet Minh and transformed it from a guerrilla militia into a standing army. The outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 transformed what had been an anti-colonial struggle into a Cold War battleground, with the U.S. providing financial support to the French.

Partition of Vietnam

Following the partition of Vietnam in 1954 at the end of the First Indochina War, more than one million North Vietnamese migrated to South Vietnam,[11] under the U.S.-led evacuation campaign named Operation Passage to Freedom,[12] with an estimated 60% of the north's one million Catholics fleeing south.[13][14] The Catholic migration is attributed to an expectation of persecution of Catholics by the North Vietnamese government, as well as publicity employed by the Saigon government of the President Ngô Đình Diệm.[15] The CIA ran a propaganda campaign to get Catholics to come to the south. However Colonel Edward Lansdale the man credited with the campaign rejected the notion that his campaign had much effect on popular sentiment.[16] The Viet Minh sought to detain or otherwise prevent would-be refugees from leaving, such as through intimidation through military presence, shutting down ferry services and water traffic, or prohibiting mass gatherings.[17] Concurrently, between 14,000 and 45,000 civilians and approximately 100,000 Viet Minh fighters moved in the opposite direction.[13][18][19] The communists rejected the "American Plan" to hold reunification elections monitored by the United Nations to ensure fairness.[5]

Land reform and consolidation of power

Between 1953 and 1956, the North Vietnamese government instituted various agrarian reforms, including "rent reduction" and "land reform". Large landowners and rich peasants were publicly denounced as landlords (địa chủ), and their land distributed to poor and middle peasants, particularly to those with ties to the Communist Party.[20] In some cases there were mass slaughters of landlords. People of the middle- and upper-class, intellectuals, anti-communists, affiliates to the French colonial government and dissidents were also persecuted, imprisoned or killed.[21] Declassified Politburo documents confirm that 1 in 1,000 North Vietnamese (i.e., about 14,000 people) were the minimum quota targeted for execution during the earlier "rent reduction" campaign; the number killed during the multiple stages of the considerably more radical "land reform" was probably many times greater.[22] Lam Thanh Liem, a major authority on land issues in Vietnam, conducted multiple interviews in which communist cadres gave estimates for land reform executions ranging from 120,000 to 200,000. Such figures match the "nearly 150,000 houses and huts which were allocated to new occupants".[23] Landlords were arbitrarily classified as 5.68% of the population, but the majority were subject to less severe punishment than execution. Official records from the time suggest that 172,008 "landlords" were executed during the "land reform", of whom 123,266 (71.66%) were later found to be wrongly classified.[24] Victims were reportedly shot, beheaded, and beaten to death; "some were tied up, thrown into open graves and covered with stones until they were crushed to death".[25] The full death toll was even greater because victims' families starved to death under the "policy of isolation."[26] As communist defector Le Xuan Giao explained: "There was nothing worse than the starvation of the children in a family whose parents were under the control of a land reform team. They isolated the house, and the people who lived there would starve. The children were all innocent. There was nothing worse than that. They wanted to see the whole family dead."[27] Former Viet Minh official Hoang Van Chi wrote that as many as 500,000 people may have died as a result of the policies of the North Vietnamese government.[28] Ironically, a number of sources have suggested that about 30% of the "landlords" executed were actually communist party members.[23][29][30][31][32] 6,000 peasants were massacred in Ho Chi Minh's home province of Nghệ An, in a peasant revolt against the communist regime's collectivization of farmland across the North.[25] There were periodic reports of famine, but not mass death.[33]

North Vietnam's capital was Hanoi and it was a one-party state led by the Vietnam Workers' Party (Vietnamese: Đảng lao động Việt Nam). Political opposition groups were suppressed; those publicly opposing the government were imprisoned in hard labor camps. Prisoners were abused and beaten as well as intensely hard labor forced upon them. Many died of exhaustion, starvation, illness (who often died without any medical attention), or assault by prison guards. Private property ownership, large-scale business, and entrepreneurship were criminalized.[33]

North Vietnam was also known for its inhumane and abusive treatment of Vietnam War POWs and North Vietnamese political dissidents. Worldwide attention focused on this issue when information on the treatment and living conditions of American POWs Hỏa Lò Prison (aka the Hanoi Hilton) in Ha Noi was publicized in the West. Poet and teacher Nguyễn Chí Thiện extensively described the torture, starvation, hard labor, illness and deplorable living conditions he and other prisoners endured while imprisoned in various prisons and labor camps in northern Vietnam, documented in hundreds of poems he made, memorized, and later published in the West via the British Embassy in Hanoi. Tien's poems are published in several books, including Flowers from Hell and Hanoi Hilton Stories by Nguyen Chi Thien.

A literary movement called Nhân văn-Giai phẩm (from the names of the two magazines which started the movement, based in Hanoi) attempted to encourage the democratization of the country and the free expression of thought. Intellectuals were thus lured into criticizing the leadership so they could be arrested later, many of whom were sent to hard labor camps (Gulags), following the model of Mao Tse-tung's Hundred Flowers Campaign in China.[34] Freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and other basic civilian freedoms were soon revoked after the government's attempt of destroying the literary movement. In his 1955 interviews, Hoang Van Chi described North Vietnam as a terrorist state where "the village guards would dig tombs" before every trial; where "ghastly" and "barbarous" torture was used; where the communists "starve the people in order to enslave them more surely"; where dissidents were either "in the other world [i.e., dead] or in the concentration camps"; and where non-communists had been "classified as landowners" and either "sentenced to hard labour" or "shot on the spot."[35]

A puritan personality cult was also established around Ho Chi Minh, later extended nationwide after the Communist reunification of the Vietnam, and is reminiscent to other Communist nations like North Korea, the Soviet Union, and China.

Presidency of Tôn Đức Thắng (1969–76)

During the Vietnam War


After the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975, the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam, or Vietcong, alongside the North Vietnamese Army, governed South Vietnam during the period before reunification. However it was seen as a puppet government of North Vietnam.[36][37][38] North and South Vietnam were officially reunited under one state on 2 July 1976, forming the Socialist Republic of Vietnam which continues to administer the country today.

Foreign relations

South Vietnam

From 1960, the Hanoi government went to war with South Vietnam via its proxy the Viet Cong, in an attempt to annex South Vietnam and reunify Vietnam under communist rule.[39] Troops and supplies were sent along the Ho Chi Minh trail. In 1964 the United States sent combat troops to Vietnam to support the South Vietnamese government, but they had advisors there since 1961. Other nations, including Australia, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, and New Zealand also contributed troops and military aid to South Vietnam's war effort. China and the Soviet Union provided aid to North Vietnam and troops in support of North Vietnamese military activities. This was known as the Vietnam War (1955–75). According to political scientist R. J. Rummel, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops murdered between 106,000 and 227,000 civilians in South Vietnam throughout the entire war.[34] Viet Cong insurgents assassinated at least 37,000 civilians in South Vietnam; the real figure was far higher since the data mostly cover 1967-72. They also waged a mass murder campaign against civilian hamlets and refugee camps; in the peak war years, nearly a third of all civilian deaths were the result of Viet Cong atrocities.[40] In addition to the Viet Cong in South Vietnam, other communist insurgencies also operated within neighboring Kingdom of Laos and Khmer Republic, both formerly part of the French colonial territory of Indochina. These were the Pathet Lao and the Khmer Rouge, respectively. These insurgencies were heavily aided by the Hanoi government, who even sent troops to fight alongside them.

Communist states

North Vietnam was diplomatically isolated by many Western states, and many other anti-communist states worldwide throughout most of the North's history, as these states only extended recognition to the anti-communist, republican government of South Vietnam. North Vietnam however, was recognized by almost all Communist countries and some other Third World countries, like the Soviet Union and other Socialist countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, China, North Korea, and Cuba, and received aid from these nations. However, North Vietnam obtained diplomatic relations with several anti-communist states in the 1970s, like with the government under Gough Whitlam of Australia. North Vietnam refused to establish diplomatic relations with the non-aligned government of Josip Broz Tito in Yugoslavia and repeatedly denounced his regime as "revisionist" for rejecting Stalinism. For example, at the Third Party Congress in 1960, First Secretary Lê Duẩn asserted that "modern revisionism remains the main danger for the international communist movement" and denounced "[t]he modern revisionists represented by the Tito clique in Yugoslavia."[41]


  1. ^ Although former emperor Bao Dai was also popular at this time and won a seat in the Assembly, the election did not allow voters to express a preference between Bao Dai and Ho. It was held publicly in northern and central Vietnam, but secretly in Cochinchina, the southern third of Vietnam. There was minimal campaigning and most voters had no idea who the candidates were. (Fall, Bernard, The Viet-Minh Regime (1956), p. 9.) In many districts, a single candidate ran unopposed. (Fall, p. 10.) Party representation in the Assembly was publicly announced before the election was held. (Springhal, John, Decolonization since 1945 (1955), p. 44.)


  1. ^ ' It's time for the Indochinese Revolution to show its true colors': the radical turn of Vietnamese politics in 1948' (2009), Southeast Asian Studies, Vol 40, Issue 3, pp. 519-542
  2. ^ ' Ho Chi Minh and the Communist Movement in Indochina, A Study in the Exploitation of Nationalism (1953), Folder 11, Box 02, Douglas Pike Collection: Unit 13 - The Early History of Vietnam, The Vietnam Center and Archive, Texas Tech University.'
  3. ^ The Pentagon Papers (1971), Beacon Press, vol. 3, p. 134.
  4. ^ The Pentagon Papers (1971), Beacon Press, vol. 3, p. 119.
  5. ^ a b c The Pentagon Papers (1971), Beacon Press, vol. 3, p. 140.
  6. ^ William H. Thornton. Fire on the rim: the cultural dynamics of East/West power politics. Lanham, Maryland, USA: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2002. Pp. 161.
  7. ^ The August Revolution and its historic significance
  8. ^ Pentagon Papers [ Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense 1969] Retrieved 28/09/12
  9. ^ Pentagon Papers Pentagon Papers 1969 Retrieved 28/09/12
  10. ^ "Political Overview"
  11. ^  .
  12. ^ Lindholm, Richard (1959). Viet-nam, the first five years: an international symposium. Michigan State University Press. p. 49.
  13. ^ a b Tran, Thi Lien (November 2005). "The Catholic Question in North Vietnam". Cold War History (London: Routledge) 5 (4): 427–49. doi:10.1080/14682740500284747.
  14. ^ Jacobs, Seth (2006). Cold War Mandarin: Ngo Dinh Diem and the Origins of America's War in Vietnam, 1950–1963. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0-7425-4447-8. p. 45
  15. ^ Truong Nhu Tang. 1986. A Viet Cong Memoir. Vintage.
  16. ^ Hansen, pp. 182–183.
  17. ^ Frankum, Ronald (2007). Operation Passage to Freedom: The United States Navy in Vietnam, 1954–55. Lubbock, Texas: Texas Tech University Press. ISBN 978-0-89672-608-6. p. 159/160/190
  18. ^ Frankum, Ronald (2007). Operation Passage to Freedom: The United States Navy in Vietnam, 1954–55. Lubbock, Texas: Texas Tech University Press. ISBN 978-0-89672-608-6.
  19. ^ Ruane, Kevin (1998). War and Revolution in Vietnam. London: Routledge.  
  20. ^ Qiang Zhai, China and the Vietnam Wars, 1950-1975
  21. ^ On the question of communist reprisals in Vietnam by Anita Lauve Nutt (1970), Rand.
  22. ^ Alec Holcombe, Politburo's Directive Issued on May 4, 1953, on Some Special Issues regarding Mass Mobilization Journal of Vietnamese Studies, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Summer 2010), pp. 243-247, quoting a translated Politburo directive from May 4, 1953. This directive was published in Complete Collection of Party Documents (Van Kien Dang Toan Tap), a 54 volume work authorized by the Vietnamese Communist Party.
  23. ^ a b Lam Thanh Liem (1990), "Chinh sach cai cach ruong dat cua Ho Chi Minh: sai lam hay toi ac?" in Jean-Francois Revel et al., Ho Chi Minh, Nam A, pp. 179-214.
  24. ^ The History of the Vietnamese Economy (2005), Vol. 2, edited by Dang Phong of the Institute of Economy, Vietnamese Institute of Social Sciences.
  25. ^ a b Readers Digest, The Blood-Red Hands of Ho Chi Minh, November 1968.
  26. ^ Nhan Vhan, November 5, 1956: "In the agrarian reform, illegal arrests, imprisonments, investigations (with barbarous torture), executions, requisitions of property, and the quarantining of landowners’ houses (or houses of peasants wrongly classified as landowners), which left innocent children to die of starvation, are not exclusively due to the shortcomings of the leadership, but also due to the lack of a complete legal code. If the cadres had felt that they were closely observed by the god of justice... calamities might have been avoided for the masses." Nhan Vhan was one of the best-known opposition periodicals that was allowed during the three-month period of relative intellectual freedom in the fall of 1956, modeled on Mao's "Hundred Flowers" campaign.
  27. ^ Turner, Robert F. "Expert Punctures 'No Bloodbath' Myth". Human Events, November 11, 1972.
  28. ^ Hoang Van Chi (1962), From Colonialism to Communism: A Case Study of North Vietnam, New York: Congress of Cultural Freedom.
  29. ^ Nhan Dan, August 13, 1957.
  30. ^ Time, July 1, 1957, p. 13, says they were given a proper burial.
  31. ^ Gittinger, J. Price, "Communist Land Policy in Viet Nam", Far Eastern Survey, Vol. 29, No. 8, 1957, p. 118.
  32. ^ Dommen, Arthur J. (2001), The Indochinese Experience of the French and the Americans, Indiana University Press, p. 340.
  33. ^ a b  
  34. ^ a b Rummel, Rudolph, Statistics of Vietnamese Democide, in his Statistics of Democide, 1997.
  35. ^ Interviews, August 17 and July 30, 1955, reprinted in Hoang Van Chi, The Fate of the Last Viets (Saigon: Hoa Mai Publishing, 1956), pp30-40.
  36. ^ Senauth, Frank [1], The Making of Vietnam, 2012, p. 54.
  37. ^ Nguyễn, Sài Đình [2], The National Flag of Viet Nam: Its Origin and Legitimacy,p. 4.
  38. ^ Emering, Edward J. [3], Weapons and Field Gear of the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong, 1998.
  39. ^ "The History Place — Vietnam War 1945–1960". Retrieved 2008-06-11. 
  40. ^ Guenter Lewy, America in Vietnam, (Oxford University Press, 1978), pp272-3, 448-9.
  41. ^ Le Duan (1964), On Some Present International Problems, pp. 51-52.

External links

  • Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam
  • recorded sound of that declaration on YouTube
  • video of this ceremony on YouTube
Preceded by
French Indochina
Nguyễn dynasty
Democratic Republic of Vietnam
Succeeded by
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

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