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Vietnam (Việt Nam)

Vietnamese. Name of the easternmost Southeast Asian nation on the Indochina Peninsula, stretching from north to south along the South China Sea. It was established after the Vietnam War with the unification of South Vietnam, officially the Republic of Vietnam, which was itself created in 1954 by combining Cochinchina with southern Annam, and North Vietnam, which encompasses the regions formerly referred to as northern Annam and Tonkin. The name literally means ‘Viet [of the] South’ and refers to the people who lived here, i.e. to the south of China, the Asian giant of which it was part for over a millennium. Though of unknown linguistic origin, it has been suggested that the word Viet in its Chinese form, i.e. Yue (越), which means ‘beyond’ or ‘to surpass’ and which besides and abbreviation for Yue Nan (越南), i.e. ‘Vietnam’, is a generic word for peoples or states of south China, or south of China, and hence Vietnam may be understood to mean the land or people from southern China, or beyond the southern border of China, depending on the historical period. Vietnam is situated along the South China Sea, which by the Vietnamese is referred to as the East Sea, and borders China, Laos and Cambodia. Vietnam's total population is around 96 million, of which over 85% are ethnic Vietnamese, who are also referred to as the Viet or Kinh, whilst the rest consists of 53 different minority groups. Vietnam covers a total area of ca. 331,212 km², has 4,639 kilometers of land borders, a coastline of 3,444 kilometers, and at its narrowest point, the country is only 50 kilometers across. Whereas Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is the largest city, the country's capital is Hanoi, Fansipan (Phan Xi Păng) with an altitude of with 3,143 meters is the highest mountain, and the Mae Khong is the longest river. The Dong has since long been the name for the currency of Vietnam, even during the French occupation of Indochina, when the currency was officially known as the French Indochinese Piastre (fig.), it had the value printed on the banknotes in multiple languages, i.e. French, Chinese, Khmer, Lao, and Vietnamese, and the currency for the latter was already referred to as Dong. The country today is a Unitary Marxist–Leninist One-party Socialist Republic and is officially known as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. See Vietnam's Places of Interest.