The Socialist Republic of Vietnam consists of the former Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) and the former Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). The division of the country resulted from the defeat of the French by Communist-inspired nationalists in 1954. A prolonged civil war resulted in a victory for the Communist north, and reunification occurred in mid-1976.
Vietnam has an area of 127,207 square miles (329,465 square kilometers) and is located in Southeast Asia. The country has a coastline of nearly 1,440 miles (2,317 kilometers), much of which fronts on the South China Sea. Border countries are China, Cambodia, and Laos. The latter two countries, along with Vietnam, constituted the former French Indochina.
Northern Vietnam is quite mountainous, especially the extreme north and northwest. The Red River (Song Hong), which originates in China's Yunnan Province, is the principal river of the north and is about 725 miles (1,167 kilometers) in length. The major lowland area is a delta that has been created by deposits from the Red River as it enters the Gulf of Tonkin. The river passes through the capital city of Hanoi. For more than 2,000 years the Tonkin Lowland, considered the cradle of Vietnamese civilization, has been the scene of considerable water control efforts in the form of canals and dikes.
The southernmost portion of the country is dominated by another lowland that is much more extensive than that in the north. This lowland has essentially been created by the Mekong River (Song Cuu Long) and its various tributaries. Just north of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) the landscape becomes more varied and rolling with forested hills.
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