On 2 July 1976, Vietnam became the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (fig. 1). Just over a year after the end of the Second Indochina War, crowds gathered across a united Vietnam. With its formation, Vietnam proudly stated its united independence for the first time in just under 80 years.
A History of War
The annexation of Vietnam by China in the 2nd century made Vietnam a division of China for over a millennium. Successive imperial dynasties expanded southward throughout Vietnam until the advent of French colonisation in 1887.
Hồ Chí Minh declared Vietnamese independence on 2 September 1945. In his Declaration of Independence (fig. 1) delivered to a large crowd at Ba Đình Square in Hanoi, he outlined the right of the Vietnamese to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”1 He proposed Vietnam’s freedom from Japanese occupation during World War II as well as from French colonialism. In doing so, he also announced the creation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV).
However, the formation of the French Indochinese Federation in 1947 dashed Hồ Chí Minh’s goal of an independent Vietnam. He and his ideals were ostracised by reinforced French control, aided by British and American support. In the ensuing First Indochina War, Hồ Chí Minh lived in isolation in the autonomous Việt Bắc region, from where he organised the Việt Minh resistance.
Dreams of Independence Dashed
After the Việt Minh won at the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ, Hồ Chí Minh and the communist population of Vietnam once again imagined independence and unity. Instead, the Geneva Accords ratified the division of the country along the demilitarised 17th Parallel. Ngo Dinh Diem’s illegal and gerrymandered South Vietnamese elections followed. Unhappy with these events, North Vietnam and communist Vietnamese went to war, once again.
North Vietnam’s inspirational leader Hồ Chí Minh, or Uncle Hồ, died at the beginning of the Second Indochina War. The ideal for unification and independence, however, lived on. Until, on 31 April 1975, People’s Army of Vietnam troops and the National Liberation Front (NLF) took Saigon.
Only on 2 July 1976 did the formation of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam point to Vietnam’s complete independence.