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North Vietnam was a communist state that ruled the northern half of Vietnam from 1954 until 1976. It was officially the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (Vietnamese: Việt Nam Dân chủ Cộng hòa), and was proclaimed in Hanoi in 1945. Vietnam was partitioned following the Geneva Conference at the end of the First Indochina War.
During World War II, Vietnam was a French colony under Japanese occupation. Soon after Japan surrendered in 1945, the DRV was proclaimed in Hanoi. Viet Minh leader Hồ Chí Minh became head of the government while former emperor Bảo Đại became "supreme advisor." France accepted Hồ's government in March 1946, but at the same time set up a puppet government for the South in Saigon. Non-communist figures were ousted from the DRV on October 30 and fled to the South. In November, the French reoccupied Hanoi and the French Indochina War followed. Bảo Đại became head of the Saigon government in 1949, which was then renamed the State of Vietnam. Following the Geneva Accords of 1954, Vietnam was partitioned at the 17th parallel. The DRV became the government of North Vietnam while the State of Vietnam retained control in the South.
The Geneva Accords provided that nationwide elections would be held in 1956. Although France and the Vietminh had agreed to this provision, it was rejected by the State of Vietnam government. During the Vietnam War (1955–75), North Vietnam and its communist allies, including the Soviet Union and China fought against the military of the Republic of Vietnam government and its anti-communist, Free World allies. At one point, the U.S. had 600,000 troops in the South. The war ended with the total victory of the North Vietnamese forces, not long after American troops withdrew from the South. The two halves of Vietnam (the North and the South) were united into the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in 1976.
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.
Vietnam became part of French Indochina in 1887 and was administered by the pro-German Vichy government during World War II. In 1940-1945, French Indochina was occupied by Japan, which used the colony as a base from which to conduct military operations further south. Soon after the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II, the Vietminh entered Hanoi and Hồ proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on September 2, 1945. U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt had spoken against French rule in Indochina and America was supportive of the Viet Minh at this time.
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.
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. The French reoccupied Hanoi and the First Indochina War (1946–54) followed. Chinese communist forces arrived on the border in 1949. Chinese aid revived the fortunes of the Viet Minh and transformed it from a guerrilla force into a regular 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 Indochina
Further information: First Indochina War, Operation Passage to Freedom, and Geneva Conference (1954)
Following the partition of Vietnam in 1954 at the end of the First Indochina War, around a million Vietnamese migrated to the South Vietnam, under the U.S.-led evacuation campaign named Operation Passage to Freedom, with an estimated 800,000 of those are Catholics. 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. Canadian observers who were part of Operation Passage to Freedom have reported Viet Cong troops forcibly preventing civilians in inland, more rural areas from fleeing. Concurrently, an estimated 130,000 people from South Việtnam who supported the Viet Minh headed for the North with the aid of Polish and Soviet ships.
Between 1953 and 1956, the North Vietnamese government instituted various agrarian reforms, including land redistribution. 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. 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. Up to an estimated 172,000 North Vietnamese died through the mass slaughter of "landlords". Dr. Steven Rosefielde, professor of economics at the University of North Carolina, places an estimated death toll at between 200,000 to 900,000. Hundreds of thousands of peasants were massacred in Ho Chi Minh's home province of Nghe An, in a peasant revolt against the communist regime's collectivization of farmland across the North. A widespread famine also occurred across North Vietnam throughout the 1950s, due to the regime's mismanagement of collectivized food supplies to the civilian population.
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 atop of labor-intensive work forced upon them. Many died of exhaustion, starvation, illness (who often died without any medical attention), or assault by prison guards.
North Vietnam was also known for it's inhumane, brutal and abusive treatment of Vietnam War POWs. Worldwide attention focused on this issue when American troops raided the Son Tay Prison near Ha Noi on November 21, 1970, to rescue American POWs suspected to be held there.
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.. Freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and other basic civilian freedoms were soon revoked after the government's attempt of destroying the literary movement.
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.
In the late 1950s, Hanoi created a southern communist force (the Vietcong) to invade South Vietnam and overthrow the Saigon government. 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 Free World nations, including Australia, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, New Zealand, the Kingdom of Laos and the Khmer Republic also contributed troops and military aid to South Vietnam in its defensive war effort against North Vietnam. 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).
In addition to the Vietcong in South Vietnam, other communist insurgencies also operated within neighboring Laos and Cambodia, both formerly part of the French colonial territory of Indochina. These were the Khmer Rouge and the Pathet Lao. These insurgencies were heavily aided by the Hanoi government, who even sent troops to fight alongside them.
North Vietnam was largely isolated from the international community. North Vietnam was not recognized by many Western countries, and many other anti-communist & democratic nations worldwide, as these nations only extended recognition to the anti-communist, republican government of South Vietnam. North Vietnam however, was recognized mostly by Communist countries and other Third World countries, like the Soviet Union and other Socialist countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, China, North Korea, India and Cuba, and received aid from these nations.
Fall of Saigon
After the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam, or Vietcong, nominally governed South Vietnam for a time, however it was seen as a puppet government under the command of the North Vietnamese government. In practice, the newly conquered territory was administered by the PAVN. North and South Vietnam merged on July 2, 1976, to form the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
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