Many Vietnamese people lived in the countryside and have a deep sense of connection to rivers, seas and mountains.
Vietnam has a long history of struggle for independence. The Vietnamese people have developed their own distinctive and diverse culture which has reinterpreted elements of neighbours and invaders' cultures too. Vietnamese society was based on agriculture especially in the fertile, tropical south, which is shaped by rivers and long coastlines. The centre and north have much harsher landscapes. Many Vietnamese people lived in the countryside and have a deep sense of connection to rivers, seas and mountains. Their land is peopled and productive, and spirits and ancestors are an intrinsic part of homeland.
Vietnam has suffered long periods of recent warfare. French colonists fled when Japan invaded in WW2, but Vietnamese nationalists, including communists, drove the Japanese out. The French tried to re-establish control but were opposed by Vietnamese forces until 1954, when Ho Chi Minh led an army which defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu, and declared an independent Vietnam. The United Nations divided the country into a communist-led Democratic Republic of Viet Nam (DRNV) in the north and the American-supported Republic of Viet Nam (RNV) in the south. Many Catholics were encouraged by the RNV to move south, fearing religious persecution. Southern nationalists and communists, supported by the DRVN, resisted increasing American presence in the south. When US forces moved in (1965) to support the RVN, fighting erupted. This 'American War' caused incredible destruction of human life and the environment. Land mines and effects of chemical warfare are still causing damage.
The Socialist Republic of Viet Nam was formed and Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. This prompted a mass exodus of refugees who had supported the RVN, with many going to Canada, USA, Europe and Australia.
In 1975, the RVN fell after the Americans withdrew troops. The Socialist Republic of Viet Nam was formed and Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. This prompted a mass exodus of refugees who had supported the RVN, with many going to Canada, USA, Europe and Australia. It was the first time in Vietnamese history that so many people had left Vietnam.
After 1975 many former employees of the RVN government and critics of the new government were sent to harsh re-education camps in dry, remote areas. Drought conditions and the failure of rice crops made life difficult for many Vietnamese people, as did rising surveillance. In 1978 the end of private ownership led some people to decide conditions were intolerable as their businesses and homes were confiscated, and they decided to leave.