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International Information: U-Z

International Information: U-Z

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UGANDA
Uganda is a thickly populated country in east-central Africa. The Africans in Uganda belong to several ethnic groups. English is Uganda's official language, but the people speak many African languages.
Uganda has magnificent scenery, including snow-capped mountains, thick tropical forests, and semidesert areas. Lakes cover more than a sixth of Uganda. Part of Lake Victoria, the world's second largest freshwater lake, lies in the country. Many wild animals roam the vast national parks.
For almost 70 years, Britain governed the territory as the Uganda Protectorate. Uganda won independence in 1962. Kampala is Uganda's largest city.
Capital
Kampala.
Official Language:
English.
Area
91,074 sq. mi. (235,880 sq. km).
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 19,278,000; density, 207 persons per sq. mi. (80 per sq. km); distribution, 89 percent rural, 11 percent urban. 1991 census - 16,671,705. Estimated 2001 population - 22,056,000.
Money
Basic unit - shilling.
Chief Products
Agriculture - bananas, cassava, coffee, corn, cotton, sweet potatoes, tea.
Mining - copper.
National Anthem
"Oh Uganda, Land of Beauty".
"Uganda."Flag: A white-crested crane is centred on horizontal stripes of black (for Africa), yellow (sunshine), and red (brotherhood).


UKRAINE
Ukraine is the second largest country in area in Europe. Only Russia, its neighbour to the east, is bigger. Until 1991, both Ukraine and Russia were part of an even larger country - the Soviet Union. Ukraine lies in southeastern Europe and borders the Black Sea. Kiev is Ukraine's largest city.
About three-fourths of the country's people are ethnic Ukrainians, a Slavic nationality group that has its own customs and language. Russians are the second largest group and make up about a fifth of Ukraine's population.
Ukraine is famous for its vast plains called steppes. The plains are covered with fertile black soil, which has made Ukraine one of the world's leading farming regions. Ukraine is also rich in minerals and has large deposits of coal, manganese, and natural gas.
Ukraine is a major producer of iron and steel, machines, ships, chemical fertilisers, grain, sugar beets, dairy products, meat, and wine. Since the early 1990's, Ukraine has been changing its economy from one owned and controlled by the government to an economy based on free enterprise. In this kind of system, individual owners and managers run their own businesses.
During the A.D. 800's, Kiev became the center of a Slavic state called Kievan Rus. In the 1300's, most of Ukraine came under Polish and Lithuanian control. Ukrainian soldiers called Cossacks freed Ukraine from Polish rule in 1648. In the late 1700's, nearly all of Ukraine came under Russian control. A revolt by Russian Bolsheviks in 1917 led to the establishment of a Communist government in Russia. The next year, Ukraine became an independent country but soon came under the rule of Communist Russia. It later became part of the Soviet Union and was called the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1932 and 1933, millions of Ukrainians died of famine. For many decades, a Soviet policy called Russification forced Ukrainians to use the Russian language and favored the Russian culture over the Ukrainian one. Ukrainians began protesting these restrictions in the 1960's.
In 1991, following an upheaval in the Soviet government, Ukraine declared its political independence. Late that year, it became recognised as an independent country after the breakup of the Soviet Union. It also joined the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose association of former Soviet republics.
Official name
Ukrayina (Ukraine).
Area
233,090 sq. mi. (603,700 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 550 mi. (885 km);
east-west, 830 mi. (1,335 km).
Coastline - 1,800 mi. (2,900 km).
Elevation
Highest - Mount Goverla, 6,762 ft. (2,061 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level along the coast of the Black Sea.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 52,498,000; density, 225 persons per sq. mi. (87 per sq. km); distribution, 67 percent urban, 33 percent rural. 1989 census - 51,706,742. Estimated 2001 population - 53,936,000.
Chief products
Agriculture - barley, beef and dairy cattle, corn, hogs, potatoes, sugar beets, sunflowers, tobacco, wheat.
Manufacturing - chemical fertilisers, clothing, iron and steel, machinery, military equipment, processed foods, shoes, refrigerators, television sets, transportation equipment, washing machines.
Mining - coal, iron ore, manganese, natural gas, salt.
Capital city
Kiev
1323 miles from London
GMT +2 hours
International aircraft prefix
UR
International dialling code
00 380
Currency
Hryvna (UAH) and Karbovanet (UAK)
Language
Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian, Polish and Hungarian
National holidays
24 August - Independence Day
Embassy details
British Embassy
01025 Kiev Desyatinna 9
Telephone (00 380) (44) 4620011-4
Opening hours 0800 to 1615 Monday to Thursday, 0800 to 1600 Friday (local time)
email ukembinf@sovam.com
National Anthem
"Ukraine's Glory Has Not Perished".
National flag
2 equal horizontal bands of azure and yellow


UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven independent Arab states in southwestern Asia. These states lie along the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, at the south end of the Persian Gulf. From west to east, they are Abu Dhabi, Dubayy (also spelled Dubai), Ash Shariqah, Ajman, Umm al Qaywayn, Ras al Khaymah, and Al Fujayrah. The capital city of each state has the same name as the state.
Most people of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are Arab Muslims. The city of Abu Dhabi is the federation's capital and second largest city. Dubayy, the largest city, is an important port and commercial centre.
Beginning in the mid-1800's, Britain began to protect the states from attack by outsiders. By the early 1900's, Britain had taken control of the states' foreign affairs and guaranteed their independence. Known as the Trucial States, they remained under British protection until 1971, when they gained full independence. That year, six states joined and formed the United Arab Emirates. Ras al Khaymah joined the union in 1972.
Before the mid-1900's, the region that is now the UAE was one of the most underdeveloped in the world. Most of the people earned a living by fishing and pearl fishing, herding camels, trading, or date farming. The discovery of oil during the late 1950's brought sudden wealth to the region and led to the development of modern industries and cities. Many people left their traditional ways of life and took jobs in the oil industry and other modern fields. By the 1970's, the United Arab Emirates had one of the world's highest per capita (per person) incomes.
Area
32,278 sq. mi. (83,600 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 250 mi. (402 km);
east-west, 350 mi. (563 km).
Coastline - 483 mi. (777 km).
Elevation
Highest - Jabal Yibir, 5,010 ft. (1,527 m) above sea level.
Lowest - Salamiyah, a salt flat slightly below sea level.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 1,820,000; density, 56 persons per sq. mi. (21 per sq. km); distribution, 84 percent urban, 16 percent rural. 1980 census - 1,043,225. Estimated 2001 population - 2,007,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - dates, melons, tomatoes.
Fishing - fish, shrimp.
Mining - petroleum, natural gas.
Capital city
Abu Dhabi
3407 miles from London
GMT +4 hours
International aircraft prefix
A6
International dialling code
00 971
Currency
UAE Dirham (AED) (One hundred fils equal one dirham).
Language
Arabic, Persian, English, Hindu and Urdu
National holidays
2 December - National Day
Embassy details
British Embassy
P O Box 248
Abu Dhabi
Telephone (00 971) (2) 6326600
Opening hours 0730 to 1430 Saturday to Wednesday (local time)
email ala@emirates.net.ae
National Anthem
"Long Live My Homeland".
National flag
3 equal horizontal bands of green, white and black with a thick vertical red band on the hoist side. It was adopted in 1971.


URUGUAY
Uruguay is a small country on the southeastern coast of South America. Among the independent nations of South America, only Suriname has a smaller area. Gently rolling grasslands cover almost all of the interior of Uruguay. Beautiful sandy beaches line the country's Atlantic coast.
Most Uruguayans are descended from Spanish settlers who came to the country in the 1600's and 1700's and Italian immigrants who arrived during the 1800's and early 1900's. Spanish is the nation's official language. Most Uruguayans live in urban areas, especially along the country's southern coast. Montevideo, the largest city, has about two-fifths of the nation's total population.
Service industries, such as government, tourism, and transportation, employ more people than any other part of Uruguay's economy. But a mild climate and abundant natural pasture have made agriculture, particularly livestock raising, the base of the economy. Huge cattle and sheep ranches occupy most of the nation's interior. The leading manufacturing industries of Uruguay process meat, wool, and other livestock products.
Indians were the original inhabitants of what is now Uruguay. However, almost all of them were eventually killed by European settlers or died of diseases brought by the Europeans. Spanish and Portuguese forces fought for control of Uruguay during the 1700's, and Brazil later tried to dominate the country. Uruguay became an independent republic in 1828. During the early 1900's, it developed into one of the most prosperous and democratic nations in South America. But an economic decline during the 1950's and 1960's brought about a period of widespread unrest and military rule. Today, Uruguay is once again ruled by an elected civilian government but remains troubled economically.
Capital
Montevideo.
Official Language
Spanish.
Official Name
Republica Oriental del Uruguay (Eastern Republic of Uruguay).
Area
68,500 sq. mi. (177,414 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, about 330 mi. (530 km);
east-west, about 280 mi. (450 km).
Coastline - about 410 mi. (660 km).
Elevation
Highest - Mirador Nacional, 1,644 ft. (501 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 3,204,000; density, 47 persons per sq. mi. (18 per sq. km); distribution, 86 percent urban, 14 percent rural. 1985 census - 3,032,100. Estimated 2001 population - 3,292,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - cattle, sheep, wheat, corn, sugar cane, rice.
Manufacturing - meat products, leather goods, textiles, beer, cement.
Mining - gravel, sand, stone.
National Anthem
"National Hymn of Uruguay".
Money
Basic unit - peso.


UZBEKISTAN
Uzbekistan is a country in central Asia. It extends from the foothills of the Tian Shan and Pamir mountains to land just west of the Aral Sea. Its largest city is Tashkent. Uzbekistan became independent in 1991, after nearly 70 years as a republic of the Soviet Union.
Capital
Tashkent.
Official Language
Uzbek.
Official Name
Uzbekiston Respublikasi (Republic of Uzbekistan).
Area
172,742 sq. mi. (447,400 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 575 mi. (925 km);
east-west, 900 mi. (1,450 km).
Elevation
Highest - peak in the Gissar mountain range, 15,233 ft. (4,643 m).
Lowest - Sarykamysh Lake (seasonal salt lake bed), 65 ft. (20 m) below sea level.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 23,308,000; density, 135 persons per sq. mi. (52 per sq. km); distribution, 59 percent rural, 41 percent urban. 1989 census - 19,905,158. Estimated 2001 population - 25,861,000.
Money
Basic unit - som.
Chief Products
Agriculture - cotton, eggs, grapes, livestock, milk, potatoes, rice.
Manufacturing - agricultural machinery, chemicals, food products, paper, textiles.
Mining - coal, copper, gold, natural gas, petroleum.
National Anthem
"Uzbekistan's National Anthem".
Flag
The flag has three broad horizontal bands - light blue, white, and light green (top to bottom) - separated by thin red lines. The blue band shows a white crescent and stars.


VANUATU
Vanuatu is an island country that lies in the southwest Pacific Ocean. Vanuatu consists of 80 islands with a total land area of about 4,700 square miles (12,200 square kilometres). The country's largest islands are, in order of size, Espiritu Santo, Malakula, Efate, Erromango, and Tanna. Vanuatu has a population of about 182,000. Port-Vila, located on the island of Efate, is the capital and ranks as the largest urban community. in the nation. The town has a population of about 19,000.
From 1906 to 1980, Britain and France jointly governed the islands, which were then called the New Hebrides. In 1980, the islands became the independent nation of Vanuatu.
Vanuatu is a republic. A Parliament, whose 46 members are elected by the people to four-year terms, makes the country's laws. A prime minister, who heads the majority party in Parliament, runs the government with the aid of a Council of Ministers. Village, regional, and island councils handle local government affairs. The Parliament and the regional council presidents elect a president to a five-year term. The president's role is chiefly ceremonial.
Over 90 percent of Vanuatu's people are Melanesians. Asians, Europeans, and Polynesians make up the rest of the population. About 80 percent of the people live in rural villages. Many village houses are made of wood, bamboo, and palm leaves. Port-Vila and Santo - on Espiritu Santo - are the only urban communities. Over 100 languages are spoken in Vanuatu. Bislama, a type of Pidgin English that combines mainly English words and Melanesian grammar, is commonly used throughout the country. Vanuatu has about 300 elementary schools and several high schools. About 85 percent of the people are Christians and most of the rest practice local religions.
The islands of Vanuatu form a Y-shaped chain that extends about 500 miles (800 kilometres) from north to south. Most of the islands have narrow coastal plains and mountainous interiors. Several have active volcanoes. The northern islands have a hot, rainy climate, with a year-round temperature of about 80 °F (27 °C) and annual rainfall of about 120 inches (305 centimetres). Temperatures in the southern islands range from about 67 to 88 °F (19 to 31 °C), and the yearly rainfall totals about 90 inches (230 centimetres). Vanuatu lies in an area where cyclones occur.
Economy of Vanuatu is based on agriculture. Rural families produce nearly all the food they need. They grow fruits and vegetables, raise chickens and hogs, and catch fish. Some families produce copra (dried coconut meat), cacao, and coffee beans for sale. Tourism is important to the economy. Small ships and airplanes serve as the main means of transportation among the islands. Vanuatu has few good roads and no railroads. The government publishes a newspaper and operates a radio station.
Melanesians have lived in what is now Vanuatu for at least 3,000 years. In 1606, Pedro Fernandez de Queiros (also spelled Quiros), the commander of a Spanish expedition from Peru, became the first European to see the islands. The British explorer James Cook mapped the region in 1774 and named the islands the New Hebrides after the Hebrides islands of Scotland.
British and French traders, missionaries, and settlers began coming to the islands during the 1840's. In 1887, Britain and France set up a joint naval commission to oversee the area. In 1906, the commission was replaced by a joint British and French government called a condominium.
After the United States entered World War II in 1941, the New Hebrides became a major Allied military base. United States troops built roads, bridges, and airstrips there. A movement for independence began in the islands during the 1960's. The New Hebrides became the independent nation of Vanuatu on July 30, 1980.
In 1987, a cyclone struck Vanuatu. It caused a number of deaths and much damage.
National Anthem
"We, We, We".


VATICAN CITY
Vatican City (pop. 1,000), is the smallest independent country in the world. It serves as the spiritual and governmental centre of the Roman Catholic Church, the largest Christian church in the world. Vatican City covers only 109 acres (44 hectares). But it exercises spiritual sway over millions of Roman Catholics. Its ruler is the pope. Vatican City lies entirely within the city of Rome, Italy. But it is foreign soil to Italian citizens. Vatican City has been an independent country since 1929.
The official name of Vatican City in Italian is Stato della Citta del Vaticano (The State of Vatican City). The Vatican is a short name for the country and for the city that makes up the country. People often use the term Vatican to refer to the pope and the government of Vatican City.
Vatican City is about as large as an average city park. It lies on Vatican Hill in northwestern Rome, just west of the Tiber River. High stone walls surround most of the city. The irregularly shaped area within these walls contains picturesque buildings in several architectural styles. It also contains many courtyards, landscaped gardens, and quiet streets. The huge St. Peter's Basilica, with its giant dome, dominates the entire city.
St. Peter's Basilica is one of the largest Christian churches in the world. A basilica is a church that is given certain ceremonial privileges by the pope. Contrary to popular belief, St. Peter's is not a cathedral, which is the principal church of a bishop's diocese and contains his official throne. The pope is the bishop of Rome, and his cathedral church is St. John Lateran.
Vatican Palace is a group of connected buildings with well over 1,000 rooms. The various chapels, apartments, museums, and other rooms cluster around several open courts. The pope's apartment, the offices of the Secretariate of State, and reception rooms and halls occupy one part of the palace. The remainder is devoted largely to the Vatican Museums, the Vatican Archive, and the Vatican Library.
Vatican Museums have a priceless collection of statuary, including the famous Apollo Belvedere and the Laocoon. The museums also have large sections devoted to pagan and Christian inscriptions, to Egyptian and Etruscan antiquities, and to modern religious art. The many rooms and chapels within the museums are decorated by the works of such master artists as Fra Angelico, Pinturiccio, Raphael, Titian, and Leonardo da Vinci. Some of Michelangelo's greatest paintings decorate the ceiling and one large wall of the Sistine Chapel.
Vatican Archive contains important religious and historical documents. Pope Paul V organised the archive in 1612. It houses such important documents as the original report on the trial of Galileo (1633), the request of the English Parliament for the annulment of the marriage of Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon (1530), and the concordat of Napoleon (1801). Pope Leo XIII opened the archive to scholars in 1881. Since then, many European nations have created historical institutes to search the archives for information on their particular countries.
Vatican Library has one of the world's largest and most valuable collections of early manuscripts and books.
Other buildings belonging to Vatican City but located outside the city walls include the basilicas of St. John Lateran, St. Paul's-outside-the-Walls, and St. Mary Major, all in Rome; and the pope's summer villa and the Vatican observatory at Castel Gandolfo.
The pope, as absolute ruler of Vatican City, heads all government branches. But, since he devotes his time primarily to spiritual and ecclesiastical matters, he delegates most of his temporal authority to other officials.
The internal domestic affairs of Vatican City are the responsibility of the Pontifical Commission for the State of Vatican City, which is appointed by the pope. A governor, whose duties resemble those of a mayor, directs Vatican City's administration. Foreign affairs are handled by the Cardinal Secretary of State, who also coordinates ecclesiastical and political affairs. The Vatican has civil law courts in addition to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, which handles religious cases. But most civil criminal cases are prosecuted by the Italian government. The office of the Master of Papal Ceremonies directs all ceremonies in which the pope takes part. The Prefecture of the Papal Household arranges audiences with the pope and also handles matters of protocol and etiquette. Vatican finances are controlled by a number of administrations, or departments.
Vatican City issues its own postage stamps, coins, and license plates. The pope's yellow-and-white banner is the official state flag of Vatican City.
The Vatican maintains its own mail system, telephone and telegraph systems, water supply, and lighting and street-cleaning services. It also has its own bank, a large printing plant, and a rarely occupied jail. Although the state has its own railroad station, no one has ever bought a ticket to Vatican City. The 300 yards (270 metres) of track that connect the station in Vatican City with an Italian railroad carry only freight.
Vatican City has no army or navy capable of fighting a war. The Vatican does, however, maintain a military corps known as the Swiss Guard. The Swiss Guard maintains a constant watch over the pope and his personal residence. In addition, the Central Office of Vigilance guards Vatican City. Also, the St. Peter and Paul Association provides Vatican City with everyday police services.
Diplomatic corps of Vatican City includes about 80 legates (ambassadors), as well as other diplomatic personnel. The highest ranking legates are the nuncios. Legates of lesser rank are called pro-nuncios. Nuncios and pro-nuncios head the Vatican's delegations to other countries. They also serve as representatives to the Roman Catholic Church in those countries. Countries with large Catholic population majorities and strong Catholic traditions, such as Ireland and Spain, receive nuncios from the Vatican. Pro-nuncios represent the Vatican in many other countries, including Canada, Britain, and the United States. Papal representatives in countries that have no formal diplomatic relations with the Vatican are called apostolic delegates. Such delegates serve in Mexico, South Africa, and many other nations.
The Vatican publishes L'Osservatore Romano, one of the most influential daily newspapers in the world. Other publications include Osservatore della Domenica, published weekly; and the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, which prints official church documents. A powerful radio transmitter broadcasts news and papal messages in 30 languages, including Latin.
Vatican Hill was once the site of Roman emperor Nero's public gardens and circus. Many early Christians suffered martyrdom there. According to tradition, St. Peter was crucified on the hill and buried nearby. The early popes believed that a shrine built in the A.D. 100's marked the site of Peter's tomb. Because of this belief, they erected Vatican City on that spot.
In the A.D. 300's, the Christian emperor Constantine the Great built a basilica over the tomb in which St. Peter was believed to be buried. The Vatican Palace and other structures were gradually built around the basilica. But the main residence of the popes during the Middle Ages was the Lateran Palace in Rome, not the Vatican. From 1309 to 1377, the popes lived at Avignon, France. On their return to Rome, they found the Lateran Palace burned, so they moved to the Vatican. Beginning in the 1500's, St. Peter's Basilica was built on the site of the first basilica.
Through the years, the popes gained control over an area in central Italy called the Papal States. In 1870, after a series of political defeats, Pope Pius IX lost his power over the Papal States. In protest, he and his successors withdrew inside the Vatican and refused to deal with the Italian government. Finally, in 1929, the Treaty of the Lateran was signed. By this treaty, the pope gave up all claim to the Papal States, and Italy agreed to the establishment of the independent State of Vatican City.
In 1939, Pope Pius XII initiated a series of excavations beneath St. Peter's Basilica. These excavations unearthed, among other things, a tomb thought to be the original tomb of St. Peter.
National Anthem
"Pontifical Anthem & March".


VENEZUELA
Venezuela is a South American country that ranks as one of the world's leading producers and exporters of petroleum. Before its petroleum industry began to boom during the 1920's, Venezuela was one of the poorer countries in South America. Its economy was based on such agricultural products as cacao and coffee. Since the 1920's, however, Venezuela has become one of the wealthiest and most rapidly changing countries on the continent. Income from petroleum exports enabled Venezuela to carry out huge industrial development and modernization programs.
Venezuela lies on the north coast of South America along the Caribbean Sea. Mountain ranges extend across much of northern Venezuela, which is the most densely populated region of the country. Caracas, the capital and largest city, lies in this region. Vast plains called the Llanos spread across central Venezuela. High plateaus and low mountains cover the south.
Most of Venezuela's people live in cities and towns. Nearly all Venezuelans speak Spanish. Most of the people are descendants of Europeans, American Indians, and Africans who intermarried.
Christopher Columbus landed in what is now Venezuela in 1498 on his third voyage to the New World. It was his first landing on the mainland of the Americas. Later, European explorers in northwestern Venezuela found Indian villages where the houses were built on poles over the waters of the Gulf of Venezuela and Lake Maracaibo. Some of the explorers were reminded of the Italian city of Venice, where buildings stood along the water. They named the area Venezuela, which is Spanish for Little Venice. Later, the name Venezuela was applied to a large area of northern South America. Spain ruled Venezuela for about 300 years. In 1811, Venezuela declared its independence.
Official Name
Republica de Venezuela (Republic of Venezuela).
Area
352,145 sq. mi. (912,050 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 790 mi. (1,271 km);
east-west, 925 mi. (1,489 km).
Coastline - 1,750 mi. (2,816 km).
Elevation
Highest - Pico Bolivar, 16,411 ft. (5,002 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level along the coast.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 20,490,000; density, 58 persons per sq. mi. (22 per sq. km), distribution, 93 percent urban, 7 percent rural. 1990 census - 18,105,265. Estimated 2001 population - 22,459,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - bananas, beef cattle, chickens and eggs, milk, coffee.
Manufacturing - refined petroleum, petrochemicals, aluminum, steel, processed foods, textiles.
Mining - petroleum, natural gas.
National Anthem
"Gloria al Bravo Pueblo" ("Glory to the Brave People").
Capital city
Caracas
4661 miles from London
GMT -4 hours
International aircraft prefix
YV
International dialling code
00 58
Currency
Bolivar (VEB)
Language
Spanish
National holidays
5 July - Independence Day
Embassy details
British Embassy
Edificio Torre las Mercedes (Piso 3)
Avenida la Estancia
Chuao
Caracas 1061
Telephone (00 58) (2) 9934111, 9934224
Opening hours 0800 to 1230/1330 to 1630 Monday to Thursday, 0800 to 1330 Friday (local time)
email embcarac@ven.net
National Anthem
"Glory to the Brave People".
National flag
3 horizontal bands of yellow, blue and red with the coat of arms on the hoist side of the yellow band and an arc of seven white five-pointed stars centred in the blue band


VIETNAM
Vietnam is a tropical country in Southeast Asia. It extends south from China in a long, narrow S-curve. Laos and Cambodia lie west of Vietnam, and the South China Sea lies to the east. Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, and Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city.
Most Vietnamese live in villages on the coastal plain and on deltas formed by rivers. They raise rice and a few other crops on the fertile land. Many people who live near the coast catch fish for a living.
In ancient times, the Vietnamese people lived in what is now northern Vietnam. China governed the area from about 100 B.C. until the A.D. 900's, when the Vietnamese established an independent state. During the next 900 years, the Vietnamese people expanded their territory until they gained control over the entire region that is now Vietnam.
France gained control of Vietnam in the late 1800's. The French governed the country until Japan occupied it during World War II. After Japan's defeat in 1945, France tried to regain control of Vietnam. But the Vietminh, a group controlled by Communists and headed by Ho Chi Minh, gained power in northern Vietnam. Fighting broke out between French forces and the Vietminh in 1946. It ended in 1954, with the French defeat in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu and an international conference to arrange a peace settlement. The conference, held in Geneva, Switzerland, decided to divide Vietnam temporarily into two zones. The Communists received control of the northern zone, called North Vietnam. Non-Communist Vietnamese received control of the southern zone, called South Vietnam.
In 1957, Vietminh members in the South began to rebel against the South Vietnamese government. North Vietnam began publicly supporting the revolt in 1959. The Communists' goal was to unify the country under their control. The fighting developed into the Vietnam War. China, the Soviet Union, and other Communist countries sent aid to the Vietnamese Communists during the war. Non-Communist countries supported South Vietnam. The United States became the chief ally of the South. It backed the South's war effort with supplies and hundreds of thousands of troops.
Official Language
Vietnamese.
Area
128,066 sq. mi. (331,689 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 1,030 mi. (1,657 km);
east-west, 380 mi. (612 km).
Coastline - 2,140 mi. (3,444 km).
Elevation
Highest - Fan Si Pan, 10,312 ft. (3,143 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level along the coast.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 75,280,000; density, 588 persons per sq. mi. (227 per sq. km), distribution, 79 percent rural, 21 percent urban. 1989 census - 64,375,764. Estimated 2001 population - 83,024,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - -ice.
Manufacturing - cement, fertiliser, iron and steel, paper products, textiles.
Mining - coal.
Capital city
Hanoi
5736 miles from London
GMT +7 hours
International aircraft prefix
VN
International dialling code
00 84
Currency
Dong (VND)
Language
Vietnamese, Chinese, English, French and Khmer
National holidays
2 September - Independence Day
Embassy details
British Embassy
Central Building
31 Hai Ba Trung
Telephone (00 84) (4) 8252510
Opening hours 0830 to 1630 Monday to Friday (local time)
email behanoi@fpt.vn
National Anthem
"Song of Advancing Soldier".
National flag
Red with a large yellow 5-pointed star in the centre


VIRGIN ISLANDS
Virgin Islands is the name of two groups of small islands east of Puerto Rico. They lie between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. One group consists of St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas islands, together with many nearby islets. This group is called The Virgin Islands of the United States. It is the easternmost U.S. possession. The other group includes Anegada, Jost van Dyke, Tortola, and Virgin Gorda islands, with their surrounding islets. It is called the British Virgin Islands.
Christopher Columbus arrived at the Virgin Islands on his second voyage to America in 1493. The fresh beauty and untouched appearance of their hills rising from the sea charmed him. He named the group the Virgin Islands, in memory of St. Ursula and her 11,000 maidens.
Columbus claimed all the islands for Spain. However, the Spaniards did not settle there. The British Virgin Islands have been under the British flag since 1672. About that same time, Denmark established a permanent settlement on St. Thomas. The Danes took possession of St. John in 1717, and bought St. Croix from France in 1733. In 1917, Denmark sold its West Indian possessions to the United States for $25 million, or about $295 an acre.
All the Virgin Islands except Anegada and St. Croix are rugged and hilly. A few good harbours in the group make it an important trade centre. Alumina, watch movements, petroleum products, rum, and perfume are among the major exports of the Virgin Islands of the United States. The soil is fertile, but the land has not been intensively cultivated. The islands produce some beef cattle and chickens and some fruits and vegetables.
The Virgin Islands of the United States had great military importance during World War II, especially as an outpost to protect the Panama Canal. Today, the island group is a popular tourist and resort area. Congress created the Virgin Islands National Park in 1956, adding more interest in the group as a tourist centre.
Capital
Charlotte Amalie (since 1917).
Government
U.S. Congress - one delegate in the House of Representatives who votes only in committees.
Territorial legislature - a one-house legislature of 15 senators.
Area
132 sq. mi. (342 sq. km).
Coastline - 117 mi. (188 km).
Elevation
Highest - Crown Mt. on St. Thomas, 1,556 ft. (474 m) above sea level;
Lowest - sea level along the coasts.
Population
1990 census - 101,809; density, 771 persons per sq. mi. (298 per sq. km); distribution, 61 per cent rural, 39 per cent urban.
Chief Products
Agriculture - beef cattle, chickens, eggs, goats, hogs, milk, vegetables.
Manufacturing - alumina, concrete products, petroleum products, rum, scientific instruments, textiles, and watches.


WAKE ISLAND
Wake Island is a United States possession in the west-central Pacific Ocean. It is a triangular atoll made up of three small coral islets, Wake, Peale, and Wilkes. The islets cover a land area of about 3 square miles (8 square kilometres). They have about 300 people, all of whom are U.S. citizens. With a curving reef, they enclose a lagoon that is less than 4 square miles (10 square kilometres) in area. Wake's vegetation consists mainly of shrubs and bushes.
Spaniards probably sighted Wake when they explored the Pacific in the late 1500's. The British schooner Prince William Henry landed there in 1796. In 1841, Lieutenant Charles Wilkes of the United States Exploring Expedition surveyed Wake with the aid of the naturalist Titian Peale. They found no indication that the atoll had ever been inhabited. Wake Island became an unincorporated territory of the United States in 1898. The United States claimed Wake because it lay on the cable route from San Francisco to Manila. In 1935, Wake became a base for Pacific air traffic.
Wake Island was the site of an early World War II battle. For two weeks in December 1941, a force of 400 U.S. Marines and about 1,000 civilians fought off a Japanese invasion. But the Japanese captured Wake in late December 1941. The Japanese garrison on Wake surrendered at the end of the war, in 1945.
Today, Wake is used primarily for emergency stopovers for airplanes and ships. The U.S. National Weather Service and the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration have research and monitoring units on the atoll.


WALES
Wales is one of the four major political divisions that make up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. England, Northern Ireland, and Scotland are the other divisions of the United Kingdom, which is often called simply Great Britain or Britain. Cardiff is the capital and largest city of Wales.
Wales lies on the west coast of the island of Great Britain. It takes up about a tenth of the island. Wales has a wealth of scenic beauty. Its landscape includes low, broad mountains and deep, green valleys. Wales is bordered by extensions of the Atlantic Ocean on the north, west, and south, and by England on the east. Most of the Welsh people live in towns, cities, and industrial areas of southern Wales. The rest of Wales is mainly rural.
The Welsh take great pride in their heritage. Although Wales has been united with England for more than 400 years, the Welsh have kept alive their own language, literature, and traditions. The Welsh name for Wales is Cymru.
Capital
Cardiff.
Official Languages
Welsh and English.
Area
8,018 sq. mi. (20,766 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 137 mi. (220 km);
east-west, 116 mi. (187 km).
Coastline - 614 mi. (988 km).
Elevation
Highest - Snowdon, 3,561 ft. (1,085 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level, along the coast.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 2,929,000; density, 365 persons per sq. mi. (141 per sq. km); distribution, 78 percent urban, 22 percent rural. 1991 census - 2,812,000. Estimated 2001 population - 2,964,000.
Welsh National Anthem
"Land of My Fathers."
Chief Products
Agriculture - barley, cabbage, cattle, cauliflower, hay, oats, potatoes, sheep.
Manufacturing - aluminium, chemicals, electrical and electronic equipment, iron, motor vehicle and airplane parts, petroleum products, plastics, steel, synthetic fibres, tin plate.
Mining - coal, limestone, slate.


WALLIS FORTUNA


WESTERN SAMOA
Western Samoa is an independent island country in the South Pacific Ocean. It lies about 1,700 miles (2,740 kilometres) northeast of New Zealand. American Samoa, a United States territory, lies east of Western Samoa. Western Samoa, one of the smallest countries in the world, consists of two main islands, Upolu and Savai'i, and several smaller islands.
Samoans are Polynesians. Most live by raising their own food on small plots of land.
Polynesians have lived in Western Samoa for at least 2,000 years. The first Europeans landed there in the 1700's, and Germany took control in 1900. During World War I (1914-1918), New Zealand occupied the islands. It ruled them until Western Samoa gained independence in 1962. The noted writer Robert Louis Stevenson lived in Western Samoa for several years. He died there and was buried near Apia in 1894. Stevenson's house, called Vailima, is now the residence of the head of state.
Western Samoa's official name in Samoan is Samoa i Sisifo. Apia, a city that has approximately 36,000 people, is the capital and only city.
Capital
Apia.
Official Languages
Samoan and English.
Area
1,093 sq. mi. (2,831 sq. km).
Greatest distances
east-west, on each of the two main islands, 47 mi. (76 km);
north-south, 15 mi. (24 km) on Upolu, 27 mi. (43 km) on Savai'i.
Coastline (total for both islands) - about 230 mi. (370 km).
Elevation
Highest - Mount Silisili (on Savai'i), 6,095 ft. (1,858 m).
Lowest - sea level.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 160,000; density, 146 persons per sq. mi. (57 persons per sq. km); distribution, 79 percent rural, 21 percent urban. 1986 census - 157,158. Estimated 2001 population - 163,000.
Money
Basic unit - Tala.
Chief Products
Agriculture - bananas, cacao, coconuts.
Flag
The flag has a red field with a blue canton in the upper left-hand corner. Five white stars on the canton symbolise the Southern Cross constellation. Adopted in 1962.


YEMEN
Yemen is a country in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula. The Gulf of Aden borders Yemen on the south and the Red Sea on the west. Most of the people of Yemen are Arab Muslims.
Sana is Yemen's capital and largest city. Aden is an important port and oil centre. Most of Yemen is hot and dry, though there are a few fertile areas where the land can be farmed. The high interior of northwestern Yemen is the most beautiful and best-cultivated part of Arabia.
Most of the workers in Yemen are farmers or craftworkers, but employment in modern businesses is growing. The country is famous for its Mocha coffee. Yemeni craftworkers have been famous for their textiles, leatherwork, and ironwork since ancient times.
In 1990, two nations - Yemen (Aden), also called South Yemen or Southern Yemen; and Yemen (Sana), also known as North Yemen or Northern Yemen - merged to form Yemen. Yemen's full name in Arabic, the country's official language, is Al-Jumhuriyah al Yamaniyah (the Republic of Yemen).
Capital
Sana.
Official language
Arabic.
Area
203,850 sq. mi. (527,968 sq. sq. km).
Coastline - about 1,020 mi. (1,642 km).
Elevation
Highest - 12,336 ft. (3,760 m).
Lowest - sea level.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 14,361,000; density, 70 persons per sq. mi. (27 per sq. km); distribution, 66 percent rural, 34 percent urban. 1994 census - 14,561,330. Estimated 2001 population - 16,956,000.
Chief products
Agriculture - coffee, fruits, grains, khat, vegetables.
Manufacturing - building materials, handicrafts.
Mining - petroleum.
Money
Basic unit - rial.
National Anthem
"Yemen's National Anthem".
Flag
Red, white, and black horizontal stripes.


YUGOSLAVIA
Yugoslavia is what remains of a much larger country, also called Yugoslavia, that broke up into several independent nations in 1991 and 1992. The new Yugoslavia, like the former, lies on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. Belgrade is the nation's largest city.
The name Yugoslavia means Land of the South Slavs. The name comes from the fact that the first Yugoslav state was formed in 1918 with the goal of uniting three groups of South Slavs: the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. Yugoslavia's mix of people gave the country a rich variety of cultures. However, differences in religion, language, and culture eventually contributed to Yugoslavia's breakup.
From 1946 to 1991, Yugoslavia was a federal state consisting of six republics. In 1991 and 1992, four of the republics - Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, and Slovenia - declared their independence. Fighting then broke out between Serbs and other ethnic groups in Croatia and in Bosnia-Herzegovina. A cease-fire ended most of the fighting in Croatia in January 1992, but some fighting continued.
Capital
Belgrade.
Official Language
Serbo-Croatian.
Official Name
Federativna Republika Jugoslavija (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia).
Area
39,449 sq. mi. (102,173 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 305 mi. (490 km);
east-west, 235 mi. (380 km).
Elevation
Highest - Mount Daravica, 8,714 ft. (2,656 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level along coast.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 10,931,000; density, 277 persons per sq. mi. (107 per sq. km); distribution, 53 percent rural, 47 percent urban. 1991 census - 10,337,504. Estimated 2001 population - 11,369,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - cattle, cherries, corn, figs, grapes, hogs, olives, peaches, pears, plums, potatoes, sheep, tobacco, wheat.
Manufacturing - aluminium, automobiles, cement, iron and steel, paper, plastics, textiles, trucks.
Mining - bauxite, coal, copper ore, lead, zinc.
National Anthem
"Hej Sloveni" ("Hey Slavs").
Money
Basic unit - dinar.


ZAIRE
Congo (Kinshasa) is a large country in the heart of Africa. A narrow strip of Congo borders the Atlantic Ocean. But most of the country lies deep in the interior of Africa, slightly south of the centre of the continent. The equator runs through northern Congo.
One of the world's largest and thickest tropical rain forests covers about a third of Congo. The mighty Congo River flows through the forest and is one of the country's chief means of transportation. Many kinds of wild animals live in Congo.
Most of Congo's people are farmers and live in small rural villages. But each year, many villagers move to the cities. Kinshasa is Congo's capital and largest city.
Belgians ruled Congo from 1885 until it became an independent nation in 1960. The nation was known as Zaire from 1971 to 1997. That year, rebels seized power and restored the name Congo. The country is called Congo (Kinshasa) to distinguish it from neighbouring Congo (Brazzaville). Its full name in French, the official language, is Republique Democratique du Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo).
Europeans greatly influenced Congo's economic and cultural life up to the time of independence. Congo's people are divided into a large number of different ethnic groups, and the country has faced severe economic problems.
Capital
Kinshasa.
Official language
French.
Area
905,355 sq. mi. (2,344,858 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, about 1,300 mi. (2,090 km);
east-west, about 1,300 mi. (2,090 km).
Coastline - 25 mi. (40 km).
Elevation
Highest - Margherita Peak, 16,762 ft. (5,109 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level along the coast.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 45,142,000; density, 50 persons per sq. mi. (19 per sq. km); distribution, 60 percent rural, 40 percent urban. 1984 census - 29,916,800. Estimated 2001 population - 52,489,000.
Chief products
Agriculture and forestry - bananas, cassava, cocoa, coffee, cotton, corn, palm oil, peanuts, rice, rubber, tea, timber.
Manufacturing - beer, cement, processed foods, soft drinks, steel, textiles, tires.
Mining - cadmium, cobalt, copper, gold, industrial diamonds, manganese, oil, silver, tin, zinc.
National Anthem
"Zaire National Anthem".


ZAMBIA
Zambia is a country in south-central Africa. It ranks as one of the world's largest producers of copper. Zambia exports copper to many parts of the world and gains much income from the exports.
Zambia takes its name from the Zambezi River, which forms most of the country's southern border. Victoria Falls, one of the world's most beautiful waterfalls, lies on the river. The great Kariba Dam, one of the world's largest hydroelectric projects, and Kariba Lake also are on the Zambezi River, serving both Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Zambia was formerly a British protectorate called Northern Rhodesia. From 1953 to 1963, it formed part of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland with Nyasaland (now Malawi) and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Zambia became an independent nation in 1964. Lusaka is its largest city.
Capital
Lusaka.
Official Language
English.
Official Name
Republic of Zambia.
Area
290,587 sq. mi. (752,618 sq. km).
Greatest distances
east-west, 900 mi. (1,448 km);
north-south, 700 mi. (1,127 km).
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 9,623,000; density, 33 persons per sq. mi. (13 per sq. km); distribution, 51 percent rural, 49 percent urban. 1990 census - 7,818,447. Estimated 2001 population - 10,945,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - cassava, corn, millet, sorghum grain, sugar cane.
Fishing - perch, whitebait.
Manufacturing and processing - cement, copper products, flour, wood products.
Mining - copper, cobalt.
Money
Basic unit - kwacha.
National Anthem
"Stand and Sing of Zambia, Proud and Free".
Flag
The flag has an orange eagle in the upper right corner over three vertical stripes of red (for freedom), black (for the people), and orange (for mineral wealth) on a field of green (for natural resources).


ZIMBABWE
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in southern Africa. Most of the country is a high plateau. Zimbabwe lies in the tropics but has a pleasant climate because of the high altitude. Zimbabwe's beautiful scenery includes the famous Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River along the country's northern border. Zimbabwe is a leading mineral producer. Harare is the largest city.
Since the late 1800's, the area that is now the country of Zimbabwe has had a troubled, often violent, political history. The vast majority of Zimbabwe's people are black Africans, but whites controlled the government from about 1890 to 1979. During the last years of white rule, black nationalists in Zimbabwe - then called Rhodesia - engaged in guerrilla warfare against the government. At the same time, the nation's economy was crippled by international trade sanctions (restrictions).
In the face of mounting opposition both at home and abroad, white Rhodesians finally agreed to hand over political power to the blacks. The first black-majority government was elected in 1979. However, many blacks rejected this government because they felt it was unrepresentative and that it allowed whites to retain many special privileges.
Capital
Harare.
Official Language
English.
Area
150,873 sq. mi. (390,759 sq. km).
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 11,845,000; density, 79 persons per sq. mi. (30 per sq. km); distribution, 71 percent rural, 29 percent urban. 1992 census - 10,401,767. Estimated 2001 population - 13,521,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - cattle, coffee, corn, cotton, sugar, tea, tobacco, wheat.
Manufacturing and processing - chemicals, clothing and footwear, iron and steel, metal products, processed foods, textiles.
Mining - asbestos, chromite, coal, copper, gems, gold, nickel.
Money
Basic unit - Zimbabwe dollar.
National Anthem
"Blessed be the Land of Zimbabwe"
Flag
The flag has seven horizontal stripes of green, yellow, red, black, red, yellow, and green. A white triangle on the left contains a yellow Great Zimbabwe bird on a red star.


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