Myanmar’s history can be said to begin when Burmese immigrated from the north and founded the capital Pagan (Bagan) in 849. Buddhism and Hinduism became dominant religions. In the 1000s, the country was united into one kingdom. Mongols briefly conquered Pagan in 1287 and the country was dissolved into smaller kingdoms. In the 16th century, the kingdom of Pegu (Bago) in Lower Burma gained control of most of the country, and in the 18th century the av empire in Upper Burma increased its power.
In 1852 the British took coastal provinces and the Burmese kingdom consisted of Upper Burma. In 1885 the British moved in and the following year the country became part of British India. In 1937, Burma was separated as a separate province. It was occupied by the Japanese in 1942 and recaptured by British forces in 1945. Burma became an independent republic in 1948.
A military junta seized power in Burma in 1962 and introduced a one-party state. Protests were beaten down hard by the military, and in 1974 the country was renamed Burma. The party ruled unanimously until 1988, when a new military coup deposed the entire political leadership and distributed all ministerial posts to military leaders. The following year, the country changed its name from Burma to Myanmar. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Myanmar.
At the beginning of our era were two cultural people in the current Myanmar: mon along the coast, and pyu (a Tibeto-Burmese people) further inland. Both were exposed to Indian cultural influence early on and adopted Buddhism from India. The Burmese immigrated from the north and founded their capital Pagan (Bagan) in 849. During Anawrahta (1044-1077), they succeeded in unifying the country into one kingdom, and Bagan became one of the most magnificent cities in Asia in the following 200 years.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Provides latest population data about Myanmar. Lists by Year from 1950 to 2020. Also includes major cities by population.
The Mongol conquest of Pagan in 1287 was short-lived, but led to the state disintegrating and gradually leaving the city. Pagan now fell apart in smaller kingdoms. One of these was the kingdom of Ava, which was further up the Ayayarwady River, a few miles northeast of Pagan. In the 16th century, Ava became subject to the kingdom of Bago, but around 1750 it tore loose and conquered little by little the coastal landscapes of Bago, Taninthayi and Rakhine.
Soon there were border disputes between Ava and the United Kingdom. In the first and second Anglo-Burmese wars (1826 and 1852), the British conquered coastal provinces in the area they called Burma, and the Burmese kingdom was reduced to include Upper Burma with the city of Mandalay as its capital. The last king, Thibaw, sought an approximation to France, but when he put difficulties in the way of British trade, Britain in the Third Anglo-Burmese War entered Mandalay (1885). On January 1, 1886, the country was drawn into British India.
In 1937, Burma was excreted as its own province, and by the constitution of 1937 the country was given its own national assembly and government. Foreign and defense policy, however, was left to the British governor. A national bloc was formed that fought against British rule. In October 1941, the national movement demanded dominion status for Burma.
The Japanese occupation during World War II, in 1942-1945, was seen as an opportunity for secession from the United Kingdom. In August 1943, the Japanese gave Burma formal independence, and the Japanese-friendly government declared war on the Allies. Towards the end of the war, the British organized a partisan force that took up the fight against the Japanese. The soldiers in this force were largely recruited from ethnic minorities.
British forces recaptured Burma in the spring of 1945. The country suffered heavy losses. Agricultural production declined sharply, the mining industry stopped altogether, and the infrastructure suffered from military operations. After the liberation, the country remained under military administration for a short time, but in October 1945 the civilian government was reinstated.
A constitutional assembly elected in April 1947 decided that Burma should be released from the British regime. The British government had already promised Burma full dominion status as early as May 1945, but the nationalists were not satisfied with this. After protracted negotiations, Burma became an independent republic on January 4, 1948, organized as a federal state.
In the first few years after independence was proclaimed, Burma was threatened by civil war. Two conflicting groups of communists sought to secure control over the state. The Karen people also opposed the central government’s authority through the armed group Karen National Union (KNU). Eventually, several ethnic minorities revolted and more civil wars and bloody clashes broke out. Prime Minister U Nu retained power until 1958. Then the organization he supported, the People’s Anti-fascist Freedom League, was split.
U Nu became dependent on the support of an alliance of several left parties, and in October 1958 General Ne Win took over the actual power in the country. After 18 months, he let U Nu return as head of state. The board was labile, Burma was characterized by growing unrest and in March 1962 Ne Win carried out a new coup. This marked the beginning of 49 years of military rule.
In the period from 1962 to 1966, energetic attempts were made to streamline the state administration. The Revolutionary Council started an action program to introduce socialism, based on Marxist and Buddhist ideals. The state secured control over the means of production and the entire economy. Tough measures led foreigners, including hundreds of thousands of Indians and Chinese, to leave Burma in the mid-1960s. Foreign investment was banned in Burma, and extensive construction projects were halted. The economic situation was poor throughout most of the 1960s, and the government’s position was under threat. At the same time, the civil wars between the military and a number of different groups of communists and ethnic minorities continued.
In 1974, the country was given a new constitution following a referendum which stated that Burma was a one-party socialist country. In the mid-1970s, there were several bloody riots among students and workers, mainly due to dissatisfaction with economic policy, called the “Burma Road to Socialism”. In 1981, Ne Win resigned as head of state and was succeeded by General San Yu. However, Ne Win continued as leader of the country’s only allowed party.
An economic crisis in 1988 became a trigger for a broad popular uprising against the military regime. After bloody clashes between the military and protesters, Ne Win resigned as party leader and left the reins to security chief Sein Win. Subsequent student-led demonstrations were brutally beaten, and thousands are believed to have been killed.
Following popular pressure, Sein Win was deposed by a military coup on September 18, 1988. The military regime was reorganized and a junta called the State Council for the Restoration of Law and Order (SLORC) took charge. Junta leader Saw Maung became head of state and government. The junta admitted to the opposition, which formed political parties and engaged in limited political activity.
Leading opposition formed the National Democracy League (NLD) with Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of freedom hero Aung San, as secretary general. In July 1989, she was arrested and subsequently held under house arrest.