North Vietnam

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Democratic Republic of Vietnam[lower-alpha 1]
Việt Nam Dân chủ Cộng hòa
"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 Officially none
Government Marxist–Leninist one-party state
Party Chairman
First Secretary
 •  1945–1956 Trường Chinh
 •  1956–1960 Hồ Chí Minh
 •  1960–1976 Lê Duẩn
 •  1945–1969 Hồ Chí Minh
 •  1969–1976 Tôn Đức Thắng
Prime Minister
 •  1945–1955 Hồ Chí Minh
 •  1955–1976 Phạm Văn Đồng
Historical era Cold War · Vietnam War
 •  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 (60,960 sq mi)
 •  1960 est. 15,916,955 
     Density 101/km2 (261/sq mi)
 •  1974 est. 23,767,300 
     Density 151/km2 (390/sq mi)
Currency đồng
Preceded by
Succeeded by
French Indochina
Empire of Vietnam
Nguyễn Dynasty

The Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV; Vietnamese: Việt Nam Dân chủ Cộng hòa),[lower-alpha 1] commonly known in English as North Vietnam, was a state in Southeast Asia which existed as a state from 1945 to 1976. Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh declared independence from France on 2 September 1945 and announced the creation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. France reasserted its colonial dominance and a war ensued between France and the Viet Minh, led by Ho. The Viet Minh ("League for the Independence of Vietnam") was a coalition of nationalist groups, mostly led by communists, In February 1951, the communists announced the creation of the Lao Động Party (Labor Party), gradually marginalizing non-communists in the Viet Minh.[9]

Between 1946 and 1954, the Viet Minh captured and controlled most of the rural areas of Vietnam. In 1954, after the French were defeated, the negotiation of the Geneva Accords ended the war between France and the Viet Minh and granted Vietnam independence. The Geneva Accords divided the country provisionally into northern and southern zones, and stipulated general elections in July 1956 "to bring about the unification of Viet-Nam."[10] The northern zone was commonly called North Vietnam and the southern zone South Vietnam, or, formally, the Republic of Vietnam.

Supervision of the implementation of the Geneva Accords was the responsibility of an International Commission consisting of India, Canada, and Poland. The United States did not sign the Geneva Accords but instead stated that the U.S. "shall continue to seek to achieve unity through free elections supervised by the United Nations to insure that they are conducted fairly."[11] In July 1955, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem, announced that the Republic of Vietnam would not participate in elections to unify the country. He said that South Vietnam had not signed the Geneva accords and was not bound by it.[12]

With the failure to reunify Vietnam by elections, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam attempted to unify the country by force in the Vietnam War (1955–75). North Vietnam and the Viet Cong insurgents supported by their communist allies, including the Soviet Union and China, fought against the military of South Vietnam, the U.S. and other anti-communist military forces, including South Korea, Australia, Thailand and smaller players. North Vietnam also supported indigenous communist rebels in Cambodia and Laos against their respective U.S,-backed governments. The war ended when Democratic Republic of Vietnam forces and the Viet Cong defeated the Republic of Vietnam and in 1976 united the two parts of the country into the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

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.[13] 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.[14][15] 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.[16]

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.

Provisional military demarcation 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,[17] under the U.S.-led evacuation campaign named Operation Passage to Freedom,[18] with an estimated 60% of the north's one million Catholics fleeing south.[19][20] 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 Ngo Dinh Diem.[21] 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.[22] 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.[23] Concurrently, between 14,000 and 45,000 civilians and approximately 100,000 Viet Minh fighters moved in the opposite direction.[19][24][25] The communists rejected the "American Plan" to hold reunification elections monitored by the United Nations to ensure fairness.[26]

Consolidation of Power

Democratic Republic of 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[citation needed]. 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.[27]

Democratic Republic of 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. However, aftermath documents show that Democratic Republic of Vietnam obeyed international regulations of treatment for POWs. Vietnamese soldiers shared food ration for America POWs.[28]

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.[29] 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."[30]

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.

Land reform

Land reform was an integral part of the Viet Minh and communist Democratic Republic of Vietnam. A Viet Minh Land Reform Law of 4 December 1953 called for (1) confiscation of land belonging to landlords who were enemies of the regime; (2) requisition of land from landlords not judged to be enemies; and (3) purchase with payment in bonds. The land reform was carried out from 1953 to 1956. Some farming areas did not undergo land reform but only rent reduction and the highland areas occupied by minority peoples were not substantially impacted. Some land was retained by the government but most was distributed without payment with priority given to Viet Minh fighters and their families.[31] The total number of rural people impacted by the land reform program was more than 4 million. The rent reduction program impacted nearly 8 million people.[32]

Results.The land reform program was a success in terms of distributing much land to poor and landless peasants and reducing or eliminating the land holdings of landlords and rich peasants. However it was carried out with violence and repression primarily directed against large landowners identified, sometimes incorrectly, as landlords. On 18 August 1956, North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh acknowledged the serious errors the government had made in the land reform program. Too many farmers, he said, had been incorrectly classified as "landlords" and executed or imprisoned and too many mistakes had been made in redistributing land. Severe rioting protesting the excesses of the land reform program broke out in November 1956 in one largely-Catholic rural district. About 1,000 people were killed or injured and several thousand imprisoned. Democratic Republic of Vietnam initiated a "correction campaign" which by 1958 had resulted in the return of land to many of those harmed by the land reform.[33] As part of the correction campaign as many as 23,748 political prisoners were released by North Vietnam by September 1957.[34]

Executions. Executions and imprisonment of persons classified as "landlords" or enemies of the state were contemplated from the beginning of the land reform program. A Politburo document dated 4 May 1953 said that executions were "fixed in principle at the ratio of one per one thousand people of the total population." .[35] The number of persons actually executed by communist cadre carrying out the land reform program has been variously estimated. Some estimates of those killed range up to 200,000.[36] Other scholarship has concluded that the higher estimates were based on political propaganda emanating from South Vietnam and that the actual total of those executed was probably much lower. Scholar Edwin E. Moise estimated the total number of executions at between 3,000 and 15,000 and later came up with a more precise figure of 13,500.[37] Moise's conclusions were supported by documents of Hungarian diplomats living in Democratic Republic of Vietnam at the time of the land reform.[38] Author Michael Lind in a 2013 book gives a similar estimate of "at least ten or fifteen thousand" executed.[39]

Collective farming The ultimate objective of the land reform program of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam government was not to achieve equitable distribution of farmland but rather the organization of all farmers into co-operatives in which land and other factors of agricultural production would be owned and used collectively.[40] The first steps after the 1953-1956 land reform were the encouragement by the government of labor exchanges in which farmers would unite to exchange labor; secondly in 1958 and 1959 was the formation of "low level cooperatives" in which farmers cooperated in production. By 1961, 86 percent of farmers were members of low-level cooperatives. The third step beginning in 1961 was to organize "high level cooperatives", true collective farming in which land and resources were utilized collectively without individual ownership of land.[41] By 1971, the great majority of farmers in North Vietnam were organized into high-level cooperatives. Collective farms were abandoned gradually in the 1980s and 1990s.[42]

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.[43][44][45] 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 Republic of Vietnam via its proxy the Viet Cong, in an attempt to annex South Vietnam and reunify Vietnam under communist rule.[46] Troops and supplies were sent along the Ho Chi Minh trail. In 1964 the United States sent combat troops to South Vietnam to support the South Vietnamese government, but the U.S. had had advisors there since 1950. 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 and troops in support of North Vietnamese military activities. This was known as the Vietnam War, or the American War in Vietnam itself (1955–75). According to estimates by political scientist R. J. Rummel, Democratic Republic of Vietnam and Viet Cong troops deliberately killed between 106,000 and 227,000 civilians in South Vietnam from 1954 to 1975.[29] Many were assassinations of political opponents in civilian hamlets and refugee camps; in the peak war years, nearly a third of all civilian deaths were the result of Viet Cong action. The remaining two-thirds were inadvertent war casualties or civilians killed by South Vietnamese and allied forces.[47] 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 aided by the Hanoi government, which sent troops to fight alongside them.

Communist and Western states

Ho Chi Minh with East German Young Pioneers near Berlin, 1957

Democratic Republic of 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 government of South Vietnam. North Vietnam however, was recognized by almost all Communist countries, such as the Soviet Union and other Socialist countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, China, North Korea, and Cuba, and received aid from these nations. Several non-aligned countries also recognized North Vietnam, mostly, similar to India, according North Vietnam de facto rather than de jure (formal) recognition.[48]

In 1969, Sweden became the first Western country to extend full diplomatic recognition to North Vietnam.[49] Many other Western countries followed suit in the 1970s. such as 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."[50]


  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.)


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External links

Preceded by
French Indochina
Nguyễn dynasty
Democratic Republic of Vietnam
Succeeded by
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

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