Vietnam is a nation in Southeast Asia with more than two thousand years of recorded history. Throughout Vietnamese history, a number of foreign powers, including the Chinese, Japanese and French, have controlled its territory. Vietnam’s rich cultural heritage has been influenced by each of these foreign cultures, as well as by America through its almost twenty-year involvement in support of the former government of South Vietnam.
From 1945 to 1975 Vietnam was the scene of significant international conflict. The split that created the separate nations of North and South Vietnam eventually resulted in a Cold War confrontation. The U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War escalated throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s. In 1975 the Communist government from the North defeated the South and unified Vietnam into a single nation. Political opponents of the North fled Vietnam or faced persecution as well as internment in “re-education camps.”
Vietnam and the U.S. normalized relations in 1995. Full political and economic exchanges are now taking place.
The Vietnamese people are ethnic Kinh. Ethnic Chinese are a small minority but play an important role in the merchant class. Additionally, there are more than 50 highland minority groups each of which has its own language and culture.
Vietnamese is the official language of Vietnam. It is also possible that some older and formally educated adults may speak French due to France’s colonial rule over Vietnam.
Most Vietnamese are Buddhists. Taoism and Roman Catholicism are also practiced as minority religions.
Arrival in U.S.
Thousands of Vietnamese fled Vietnam following the Communist take over in 1975. Many of these refugees were persecuted or feared persecution resulting from their support and assistance of South Vietnam and the U.S. Many of them are referred to as “boat people” because they fled Vietnam by boat.
Between 1979 and 1999 almost 15,000 Vietnamese refugees arrived in Minnesota. The Vietnamese population is currently estimated at 20,000.