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South Vietnam

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Republic of Vietnam

Việt Nam Cộng Hòa (vn)
越南共和 (cn)
République du Vietnam (fr)
Flag of South Vietnam
Coat of arms of South Vietnam
Coat of arms
Motto: Tổ quốc - Danh dự - Trách nhiệm
(English: "Fatherland – Honor – Duty")
Anthem: Tiếng Gọi Công Dân
(English: "Call to the Citizens")
Location of South Vietnam
and largest city
Official languages Vietnamese, French
Demonym(s) South Vietnamese
Government Federal presidential constitutional republic
• President
Phạm Ngọc Khang
Tien Văn Thiệu
Legislature Congress
House of Representatives
July 20, 1954
October 26, 1955
GDP (PPP) 2014 estimate
• Total
$1.56 trillion
• Per capita
Currency Đồng (SVD)
Time zone UTC+7 (Indochina Time)
• Summer (DST)
Date format yyyy/mm/dd
Driving side right
Internet TLD .vn
This article contains Chinese text. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Chinese characters.

The Republic of Vietnam (Vietnamese: Việt Nam Cộng Hòa, Chữ Nôm: 越南共和, French: République du Vietnam), commonly referred to as South Vietnam, is a country situated in Southeast Asia and consisting of the southern part of the Vietnamese nation. South Vietnam shares land borders with North Vietnam to the north; Laos and Cambodia to the west; Champa, overseas borders with Tondo and the South China Sea to the east; and overseas borders with Malaysia to the south. Its capital and most populous city is Saigon.

South Vietnam was inhabited as early as the Paleolithic age. Ancient South Vietnam was inhabited and dominated by ancient Champa and other Cham-based polities starting from the 2nd century AD. After centuries of economic, cultural, and military success, Champa came under the increasing influence of the Vietnamese nation in the north. The Đại Việt gained hegemonic control over the Cham homeland and annexed the rest of the Cham territories by 1832. Vietnam fell under French control during the European power's colonization efforts in Indochina during the mid-19th century. It remained a French territory until 1945 when the modern State of Vietnam was declared in 1945 following the end of the First Indochina War. The country was divided into a Soviet-backed communist North and a Western-backed capitalist South in 1954. Conflict intensified between the two states during the Vietnam War which resulted in a stalemate and ended with an armistice. Following the war, South Vietnam initially suffered repressive military regimes before normalizing and industrializing in the late 70s. South Vietnam's economy experienced up to 20% growth, a phenomenon dubbed the "Miracle of the Mekong Delta" (similar to Korea's success). Today, South Vietnam boasts one of the fastest growing economies and is a member of ASEAN, the OECD, the League of Nations, the Indo-Pacific Treaty Organization, and APEC.

South Vietnam is a developed country ranking 18th in the Human Rights Development Index just after Tondo, Korea, and Japan in the Asia–Pacific region. Much of its economic development and prosperity can be attributed to its history as a tiger economy. It has enjoyed one of the world's highest GDP growth rates, high levels of education, and is a global leader in technology. It also one of the most advanced democracies in Asia with a high level of press freedom. It nonetheless suffers from increasing economic inequality, political corruption, and an aging population.


The name Việt Nam derives from the Vietnamese pronunciation of the Chinese word, "Nanyue" (Chinese: 南越; pinyin: Nányuè) which if literally translated, meant "Southern Việt" (Nam Việt in Vietnamese). Nanyue refers to the ancient Vietnamese kingdom ruled under the Triệu Dynasty in the 2nd century BC. The word Việt is the shortened form of the word Bách Việt, a Vietnamized version of the Chinese word "Bǎiyuè" (Chinese: 百越). The Baiyue was used by the Chinese to refer to people living in southern China and Vietnam.

The name "Vietnam" came into official use by Vietnamese officials under Emperor Nguyễn Ánh and later revived by anti-colonial revolutionaries such as Phan Bội Châu (who wrote the History of the Loss of Vietnam). For the first half of the 20th century, the term Annam was used by outsiders to refer Vietnam. Following the Vietnam War, both governments of South and North Vietnam officially adopted the term Việt Nam.


Before the division

Early Vietnam

A Đông Sơn drum dated back to the mid-1st millenium BC.

Vietnamese history dates as far back to the Paleolithic age. Archaeological excavations and findings suggest that the first humans were those of the Homo erectus species with fossils found dating around 500,000 BC. Fossils and isolated teeth from Homo sapiens have been found and dated back to the Middle Pleistocene period.

The first known civilization in Vietnam to have emerged was the Đông Sơn in 1000 BC. The Đông Sơn developed rice cultivation and bronze casting and are known for their unique drums. Early Vietnamese kingdoms including Văn Lang and Âu Lạc came into existence and had cultural influence in the region.

Dynastic Vietnam

The first Vietnamese state, Văn Lang, was ruled under the Hồng Bàng dynasty of the Hùng kings. The Kingdom of Âu Lạc came into power following the defeat of the last Hùng king in 257 BC by Thục Phán (who became known as An Dương Vương).

Fifty years following the establishment of Âu Lạc, Zhao Tuo, a Chinese general, invaded Vietnam and defeated An Dương Vương transferring power to Nanyue. In 111 BC the Han-Nanyue war resulted in Nanyue being absorbed into the Chinese Han dynasty empire. For the next millenia, Vietnam would remain under Chinese rule although experienced brief periods of independence (first from the Trưng Sisters and Lady Triệu, and later as Vạn Xuân under the Anterior Lý dynasty between AD 544 and 602) were seen. Great autonomy was granted to Vietnam by the Chinese under the Khúc family around the early 10th century.

While northern Vietnam was dominated by the Chinese, South Vietnam was dominated by the Kingdom of Funan and Champa in the first half of the millennium who were ethnically Mon-Khmer and Cham respectively. These kingdoms were neither native to the region nor ethnically Vietnamese. In AD 938, Vietnamese lord Ngô Quyền granted Vietnam independence from the Chinese following the Battle of Bạch Đằng. Renamed Đại Việt (Great Viet), Ngô Quyền's rule was short-lived following his untimely death and Vietnam plummeted into a civil war known as the "Anarchy of the 12 Warlords" (Loạn Thập Nhị Sứ Quân). The war ended in 968 following the victory of Đinh Bộ Lĩnh who established the Đinh Dynasty, proclaimed himself Đinh Tiên Hoàng (Đinh the First Emperor), and moved the Vietnamese capital to the city of Hoa Lư.

After Đinh's assassination, Vietnam experienced a golden age under the rule of the and Trần dynasties. The latter successfully repelled three Mongol invasions although became a tributary state to the Mongol Yuan dynasty in an attempt to prevent renewed aggression. In addition, the Trần dynasty followed the policy of Nam tiến ("southward expansion") which had Vietnamese troops seize control of Cham territory.

Exhausted by war, the Trần dynasty was overthrown by one of its officials, Hồ Quý Ly, who established the Hồ dynasty and brought sweeping, progressive reforms to the government. In 1406, the Ming Chinese invaded Vietnam, starting the Ming–Hồ War, under the pretense that it was going to restore the Trần dynasty. The Fourth Chinese domination of Vietnam lasted for twenty years before Vietnamese independence was restored under the Lê dynasty. Under the Lê dynasty, Vietnam experienced the peak of its dynastic power under the rule of Emperor Lê Thánh Tông. Nam tiến was reintroduced as a policy and Vietnam successfully made new territorial gains in southern Vietnam from Champa and the Khmer Empire at the cost of wiping out the Cham civilization.

The Imperial City in Huế was a center for Vietnamese nobility and royalty.

Political strife and infighting characterized 16th century Vietnam. In addition, Vietnam received more exposure from the West with French missionaries arriving to preach the word of Christianity. Trade routes were established with limited success yet European domination would not be felt in Vietnam for another century. The Mạc dynasty (which had political support from China) challenged the rule of the Lê dynasty. While the Lê dynasty managed to defeat the Mạc dynasty, its power was greatly weakened with the rise of the Trịnh lords from the northern provinces and the Nguyễn lords from the south. The two groups engaged in a civil war (the Trịnh–Nguyễn War) but by the end of it, the Nguyễn lords were able to secure more territorial gains from the Khmer Empire. The war ended with both sides signing a truce, effectively dividing the Vietnamese nation into two separate areas.

A hundred years, later the country was reunified under a new dynasty led by the Tây Sơn brothers. However the last Nguyễn lords led by Nguyễn Ánh with French support managed to establish the last Vietnamese dynasty in the form of the Nguyễn dynasty.

French Indochina

The flag of Annam, one of the French protectorates that was a part of French Indochina.

Vietnamese sovereignty came to an end following the French military conquests of Indochina. In 1862, southern Vietnam became part of the French territory of Cochinchina and by 1884, the entire country was under the control of the French. Under France, Vietnam experienced significant political and cultural changes. A Western-styled education was implemented and Roman Catholicism was heavily encouraged. Many citizens from France, moved to Saigon and established churches and French language schools.

Developing a plantation economy, the French government largely ignored the demands and needs of the Vietnamese people. Vietnamese nationalism became a growing political movement with the likes of Phan Bội Châu, Phan Châu Trinh, Phan Đình Phùng, Emperor Hàm Nghi, and future North Vietnamese leader Hồ Chí Minh.

Into the 20th century, the French state continued to maintain complete control over Vietnam until World War II broke out and the Empire of Japan invaded Vietnam. The Japanese ousted the French and established the short-lived Empire of Vietnam. During Japanese rule, various atrocities were committed with the Vietnamese Famine of 1945 (resulting in 2 million deaths) the most famous case of Japanese brutality in the region.

Following the defeat of the Japanese and the signing of the Treaty of San Francisco, Vietnam was to be returned to the hands of the French but the Viet Minh seized control over the northern city of Hanoi and proclaimed a provisional government. France attempted to regain control, starting the First Indochina War but following the French defeat at the 1954 Battle of Dien Bien Phu, Viet Minh leader Hồ Chí Minh was able to negotiate a ceasefire. At the Geneva Conference, it was agreed upon that the French colonial regime in Vietnam would end and that Vietnam would be divided into two states: the communist North and capitalist South.

After the division

The Geneva Conference's decision to divide Vietnam in half was not intended to be a permanent solution. Instead, the conference declared that Vietnam be reunited by the 1956 through democratically-held elections. The 17th parallel line was marked with the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone which served as the border between North and South Vietnam. Prime Minister Ngô Đình Diệm of the State of Vietnam overthrew Emperor Bảo Đại and declared himself the President of South Vietnam.

Vietnam War

During the Vietnam War, pro-northern Viet Cong started a guerrilla campaign against Diệm and his government. Diệm attempted to subvert political opposition and ordered the execution of tens of thousands citizens. In 1963, Buddhists protested against the Diệm regime which openly repressed Buddhism and favored the Catholic minority heavily. American support for Diệm deteriorated as Diệm increased his authoritarian policies. In 1963, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam overthrew the Diệm government and assassinated the president. General Dương Văn Minh seized power and declared himself the interim president of South Vietnam. He promised to reverse the policies of Diệm, make peace between the Buddhists and Catholics, liberalize free speech, and combat the Viet Cong. He and Nguyễn Khánh maintained power and stabilized the political situation in South Vietnam, allowing them to focus on the war.

For ten years with the support of the Americans, the South Vietnamese government fought intensively to maintain control over its territory. Its initial hope of retaking North Vietnam was abandoned during the course of war as conflict stagnated and casualties piled high on both sides. With war wariness growing in the United States, South Vietnam was on the verge of losing but after the failed North Vietnamese Tet Offensive, victory was ascertained for South Vietnam with the dissolution of the Viet Cong.

The Paris Peace Accords ended the conflict effectively in 1972. The Accords declared a permanent ceasefire between the states of North and South Vietnam through the Vietnamese Armistice and subsequently, the League of Nations recognized both countries as independent, sovereign states.


The first South Vietnamese president following the war was Nguyễn Cao Kỳ, who served as prime minister and major general of the military. Kỳ was seen as an ineffectual leader who neglected the Vietnamese public in favor of securing a comfortable life at his palace. Seen as a womanizer and "flamboyant", Kỳ was finally deposed in 1974 by his vice president, Lê Thị Kim Ngân who had the support from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. Under her leadership, Thị brought new administrative reform to the government and promoted an export-oriented economy that would project South Vietnam out of poverty and into international political legitimacy. Thị envisioned a South Vietnam that would counter the communist regime and believed in fostering a much closer relationship with the United States.

Geography, climate, and environment





Government and politics

South Vietnam is divided into three branches of government: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. A federal state, there are three levels of government: the federal level, the state level, and the local level all with overlapping responsibilities and functions. Each state government has its own executive, legislature, and judiciary courts. Modeled after the American federal government, South Vietnam's government has been described as a liberal democracy since the 1990s following administrative and constitutional changes.

The head of state and government is the President who is elected to a six-year term. The bicameral South Vietnam functions as the nation's legislature and is responsible for the creation and revision of law. The upper house is the Senate while the lower house is the House of Representatives. The Supreme Court is the highest judicial court in the country and is the final appellate court.

The current Constitution of the Republic of Vietnam has been revised several times since its promulgation with its most recent one in 1987.

Political divisions


Crime and law enforcement












Public holidays and celebrations


See also

Wikipedia logo This page uses material from the Wikipedia page South Vietnam, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (view authors).