In popular understandings of the modern history of Vietnam we are familiar with Ho Chi Minh’s anti-imperialism, but we know much less about the anticommunist nationalism of South Vietnam – officially the Republic of Vietnam (RVN). The RVN tends to be viewed as a creation of the French and later a “puppet” of the Americans. But as Nu-Anh Tran shows in her book, Disunion: Anticommunist Nationalism and the Making of the Republic of Vietnam (U Hawaii Press, 2022), the RVN was heir to a revolutionary tradition that developed out of the anti-French resistance, that was quite distinct from the communist one to the north. Although the many different political and religious factions in the south shared a fierce anticommunism, the RVN was plagued by disunity. And ironically, despite the democratic ideals that these groups claimed to advocate, the RVN was subject to authoritarian rule for most of its brief existence.
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