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see MyanmarMyanmar
or Burma
, officially Republic of the Union of Myanmar, republic (2005 est. pop. 42,909,000), 261,789 sq mi (678,033 sq km), SE Asia. It is bounded on the west by Bangladesh, India, and the Bay of Bengal; on the north and northeast by China; on the east by Laos
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Union of Burma (in Burmese: Myanma [Bama], Pyidaunzu myanmanaingan).

Burma is a state in Southeast Asia, situated on the Indochina Peninsula and the adjoining territory of the continent. Burma also includes the islands along its shores. It is bordered by India and Bangladesh on the west, China on the northeast, Laos on the east, and Thailand on the southeast. In the southwest and south, its shores are washed by the Bay of Bengal, the Gulf of Martaban, and the Andaman Sea. Its area is 678,000 sq km. Its population is 27.6 million (1970). The capital is Rangoon, which has the status of an administrative unit. The administrative divisions of Burma are shown in Table 1.

Burma is a federal republic. After the coup d’etat in March 1962 the constitution of 1947 was suspended and parliament dissolved. Absolute power was assumed by the Revolutionary Council, which consists of a chairman and 12 members and which functions as the supreme legislative organ.

Table 1. Administrative divisions of Burma
  Area (sq km)Population1Administrative center
11969 estimate
2Seven districts: Irrawaddy, Magwe, Mandalay, Pegu, Arakan (Yakhaing), Sagaing, and Tenasserim (Taninthayi)
Burma proper2358,50022,300,000Rangoon
National states
Special division

The head of state is the chairman of the Revolutionary Council, who is also the chairman of the Council of Ministers, minister of defense, and chief of the general staff of the armed forces. The Council of Ministers (the revolutionary government) exercises supreme executive power; it consists of the chairman of the Council of Ministers and the ministers. Both of the organs are made up of high officers of the Burmese armed forces.

There are supreme state councils, appointed by the Revolutionary Council, in the national states. The administrative organs in the localities are committees of administration and security.

Since April 1962 the Chief Court has exercised judicial authority; it is the court of last resort. There are criminal courts and military tribunals to review particularly important cases; special courts are also being created. The attorney general exercises supervision over legality.

Burma is a predominantly mountainous country with a monsoonal climate and subtropical and tropical landforms.

Terrain The Yakhaing Mountains (Arakan Yoma) are located in the west of Burma. They are 1,500–3, 000 m in altitude, with summits of alpine shape. The folded-block Patkai, Kumon, and other ranges (elevations to 5,881 m) are their northern extension. The Shan Upland, with broad development of karst, and the low and intermediate-altitude steep-sloped Tenasserim (Taninthayi) ranges are located in the east. The hilly Irrawaddy plain is located between the mountains; it is undergoing active erosional processes in its central part and accumulative processes in the southern section. Low, eroded meridional ranges (the Pegu and others) rise up on the plain.

Geological structure and minerals Geostructurally, the following are evident in Burma from west to east: the alpine anticlinorium of the Arakan Yoma; the Paleogene-Pleisto-cene intermontane downwarp (the Central Depression); and the structures of various ages—primarily Mesozoic—of the Shan Upland and Tenasserim (Taninthayi). The cores of the axial ridges of the Arakan Yoma are formed of Cretaceous limestones, sandstones, and clay shales (thicknesses to 4,000 m); and the wings are made up of clays and sandstones of the Paleogene (up to 6,000 m) with instrusions of gabbro and serpentines on the eastern slope. The Irrawaddy plain is a depression made up of strata of continental, river, lake, and marine deposits (to 11,000 m thick) in which anticlinal folds were laid down, forming a series of elevations (the Pegu chain), during the Eocene and Pleistocene. The Shan Upland is composed of Archean, Proterozoic, and Cambrian orthogneisses with seams of crystalline limestones, shales, and quartzites and Devonian, Carboniferous, and Permian limestones. Outcrops of the structures of the Tenasserim form sloped large folds with granite cores. The main minerals in the Shan-Tenasserim region are tin, tungsten, silver, lead-zinc, cobalt, and iron ores; precious stones are also found. There are deposits of oil and fuel gases in the Central Depression.

Climate The climate of Burma is subequatorial, hot, and variably humid. The average temperature of the warmest month (April) is between 30° and 32° C; the January temperature between 20° and 25° C in the south and between 13° and 15° C in the north. The southwest monsoon (from May to October) brings 90–95 percent of the yearly precipitation. Maximum precipitation falls on the windward slopes of the mountains (6,000–6, 500 mm) and in maritime regions. In flat interior regions, total precipitation decreases to 500 mm; the figure changes considerably from year to year. Three climatic seasons stand out: humid hot (June-October), cool dry (November-February), and hot dry (March-May).

Rivers and lakes There is a dense network of small, deep rivers in the mountain regions of Burma. Small rivers with sharply defined drops in water during the dry seasons predominate in interior regions. The largest rivers are the Irrawaddy (navigable for 1,440 km from its mouth) with its tributary the Chindwin, the Salween, and the Sittang. About 80 percent of the annual drainage of rivers is accounted for by the season of monsoonal rains; the flow rate varies by factors of 100 and more, and the fluctuation in the water levels of rivers is up to 10–15 m. Flooding occurs every year. The hydroelectric potential of the rivers of Burma is about 30 million kilowatts (kwt). There are few lakes (the largest is the Inle Lake in the Shan Upland).

Soil The predominant soils in mountain regions are forest, highly leached, poorly nourished yellow-brown, red-brown, and red soils. The central regions, with their dry climate, have a variegated soil cover; predominating are highly eroded red-brown soils and savannas, as well as cinnamon dry forest, rough detritic, and dark compacted soils with patches of solonetz and solonchak soil types.

Flora About 60 percent of the territory of Burma is covered with forests. The maritime regions and mountains up to 900 m of northern Burma have humid tropical evergreen forests made up of species of the Rubiaceae, Myrtaceae, Leguminosae, Palmae, Euphorbiaceae, and Dipterocar-paceae families; there are numerous bamboos. At elevations of 900–1, 200 m there are mountain evergreen forests with subtropical species (chestnut, magnolia, cypress); between 1,200 m and 2,300 m there are pine forests; between 2,300 and 3,000 m, mixed and small-leaf forests; between 3,000 and 3,500 m, coniferous forests; between 3,500 and 4,000 m, rhododendron forests; and above 4,000 m, alpine meadow. On leeward chains and in the foothills of central Burma there are deciduous forests with teak, lignum vitaes (Guaiacum officinale), and other valuable varieties. In regions with annual precipitation of less than 900 mm there are dry scrub forests and sparse-forest made up of dalbergia and acacia. In the driest regions are thickets of woody spurge. There are mangrove forests in swampy deltas. The natural vegetative cover has been greatly altered; many forests are, like the savanna in the Shan Upland, of secondary growth.

Fauna Among the fauna of Burma, forest animals with terrestrial, arboreal, and semiarboreal ways of life predominate: tree shrews, flying squirrels, loris, civets, martens, clouded leopards, moon rats, porcupines, flying lemurs, and Malayan tapirs. In more open areas there are wild oxen, rhinoceroses, tigers, leopards, and elephants. Birds, reptiles, and amphibians are richly represented.

A number of reserved areas with rich fauna—Padaun, Shwezetto, Shwe-u-Daung, and others—stand out; animals include the Indian elephant, gaur, leopard, tiger, Himalayan bear, Burmese banteng, and deer.

Natural regions The west has mountain evergreen and deciduous forests. The north is an alpine region with a cool, humid climate; boreal species of trees are dominant in its forests. The Shan Upland has a warm, moderately humid climate; there are pine forests and mountain savannas. The Tenasserim (Taninthayi) is an area of medium elevation with a hot, excessively humid climate; it has humid tropical forests. Interior Burma comprises dry, hilly plains with thorny shrubs and semidesert formations. The delta of the Irrawaddy is a flat, swampy lowland, almost completely under cultivation.


Kurakova, L. I. Birma: Prirodnye raiony i landshafty. Moscow, 1967.
Long, A. “Water and Forest.” Burmese Forester, 1956, vol. 6, no. 2.
Morehead, F. T. “The Forests of Burma.” Burma Pamphlets, 1956, no. 5.
San Shein, U. “Hydro-electric Power Development of Streams.” Burma, 1952, vol. 3, no. 1.

There are about 70 nationalities and tribes living in Burma. The majority belong to the Tibeto-Burman language group (Burmans, Karens, Chins, Kachins, Kayahs, Nagas, and others) and Thai language group (Shans and others), as well as to the Mon-Khmer language family (Mon, Palaung, Wa). The largest group is the Burmese (about 20 million people; 73 percent of the population [1970, estimate]), who inhabit the southern and central sections of the country. The national minorities live on the periphery of Burma. Their numbers are as follows: in the east and in the delta region of the Irrawaddy River, Karens (2,000,000); in the east, Kayahs (100,000), Mons (400,000), and Shans (2,000,000); in the north, Kachins (400,000), Palaungs (180,000), and Was (50,000); and in the west, Chins (500,000) and Nagas (30,000). There are about 500,000 emigrants from India and Bangladesh (mainly Tamils, Telugus, and Bengalis) and 400,000 Chinese in the delta region of the Irrawaddy, on the seacoast, and in the large cities. The state language is Burmese.

The overwhelming majority of believers are Buddhists. There are also Muslims, Christians (mainly Baptists), Hindus, and Confucianists. Various groups of Kachins, Nagas, Palaungs, and Was retain ancient traditional beliefs. The Burmese calendar (lunar-solar) is official; years are counted from 638 A.D. The new year comes in the middle of April. The Gregorian calendar is employed in international relations.

Natural population growth averages about 2 percent per year. About 70 percent of the economically active population is engaged in agriculture and forestry. There about 1.3 million industrial and transportation workers (1968) and about 1.5 million agricultural workers. The distribution of the population is extremely uneven: population density reaches 500 persons per sq km in sections of the Irrawaddy delta and in central and certain coastal areas; in the mountainous regions of the north and the Shan Upland, on the other hand, it amounts to 4 to 10 persons per sq km. About 20 percent of the population is urban (1965). There are 276 cities with populations over 2,000, including three with over 100,000—Rangoon (with its suburbs, 1.8 million people in 1969), Mandalay (322,000 in 1966), and Mawlamyaing (Moulmein, 190,000 in 1966).


Period of primitive communal relations and of the first state formations The earliest archaeological monuments of Burma date to the Lower Paleolithic (Anyathian culture in northern Burma). During the Neolithic era, Burma was settled by Mon-Khmer tribes, the ancestors of the modern Mons. They engaged in hoe farming (in river valleys) and fishing and gathering (on the seacoast). Evidently the advance into Burma from the north by Tibeto-Burman tribes—ancestors of the modern Arakanese and Chin—and then by the Pyu began during the second millennium B.C. The advance of peoples of the Thai group began at the turn of the first millennium B.C. The Shans and other peoples appeared in Burma at the turn of the Common Era.

At the start of the Common Era, as the tribal system decayed—a process which was intensified by Indian influence—the first states appeared in Burma. Mon city-states arose on the southern coast of Burma during the first centuries A.D. They were characterized by comparatively developed class differentiation and a rather high level of development of slave-owning. During these centuries, a state took shape in Arakan. The first mention of the Pyu state, Sri Ksetra, which at its height (the seventh century A.D .) included northern and central Burma, dates to the fourth century A.D. A society based on farming (in part, irrigated farming) arose here; in the way that it functioned, it was close to early feudal society. The religions of the first states were Buddhism and Brahmanism, which came from India, combined with animistic beliefs. In 832 Sri Ksetra was destroyed by the troops of Nanchao (a state in China). Ramanna Desa —a federation of the Mon cities of Burma headed by Thaton, the largest of them—arose during the tenth and 11th centuries.

The migration of the predecessors of the present-day Burmese (the Mranma and Myanma) from northwestern and southwestern China took place during the seventh to ninth centuries. Pressed by Nanchao, these tribes moved down into the valley of the Irrawaddy in the ninth century and settled in the region of Chauk (central Burma), driving out the Mons and assimilating the Pyu. The traditional date for the birth of the Burmese city of Pagan (on the middle course of the Irrawaddy River) is 849. The struggle between the Burmese leaders ended in 1044 with the victory of Ana-wrahta (Aniruddha), who founded the Pagan state.

Period of the development and consolidation of feudal relations (11th century to the middle of the 18th century) Under Anawrahta (ruled 1044–77) and his successors, the Pagan state smashed Thaton (1057) and conquered all of Burma, including northern Arakan; thus it became one of the strongest powers in Southeast Asia during the 11th and 12th centuries. Pagan was apparently an early class state of the feudal type. During the Pagan era, Hinayana (Theravada) Buddhism became definitively established in Burma. It became the state religion. By the end of the Pagan era, Buddhist monasteries had grown into major landowners. The remarkable architecture of the buildings of worship of Pagan were the state’s glory. Writing in Pali, Mon, Pyu, and then in Burmese spread over the country; literature, painting, and sculpture appeared.

Burman-Mon antagonism, which began to increase in the 12th century, the raids of mountain tribes, and the struggle between the secular nobility and the clergy led to the start of Pagan’s disintegration in the 13th century. The final blow was inflicted on Pagan by the Mongols: in 1283 they routed Narathihapati, or Kansa III (ruled 1254–87), at Kaungsin.

The disintegration of the Pagan state in Burma was followed by a period of feudal fragmentation. Arakan became independent once more. Central and northern Burma were seized by the Shans, who repulsed the Mongols’ invasion and founded a number of principalities (Myinsaing, Pinya, Sagaing, Ava, and others) in the early 14th century. In the south of Burma the Mon state of Pegu arose in 1287. During the 14th and 15th centuries, Ava (where the Shans were gradually assimilated by the Burmans) and Pegu waged a constant struggle for hegemony in Burma. Arakan, the Shan principalities, and China participated actively in this struggle. In 1527, Ava was taken by the Shans of the Mohnyin principality.

The Burmese rulers of the Toungoo principality, which had arisen in the mid-14th century, became the unifiers of Burma in the 16th century. Tabinshwethi captured the city of Pegu (in 1539) and then took all of Lower Burma. In 1555 his successor, Bayinnaung, took Ava and brought northern Burma under his power, establishing control over the Shan principalities. Ayutthaya and Chiengmai (the territory of present-day Thailand) were also included in Bayinnaung’s state. The state began to weaken at the end of the 16th century: the Mons detached themselves, and Ayutthaya and Chiengmai recovered their independence. In 1599 the troops of Arakan and mutinous Burmese feudal lords captured Pegu, the capital of the state.

During the 16th century, European traders and adventurers made their appearance and attempted to consolidate their position in Burma—first the Portuguese and then the Dutch and the English. In the early 17th century, the Portuguese adventurer and conquistador de Brito established his own state in Syriam (Lower Burma). In the first quarter of the 17th century, Anaukpetlun, a ruler from Toungoo, succeeded in uniting Burma once more: in 1635, Ava became its capital. During the 1740’s the state of Toungoo virtually disintegrated into a number of feudal possessions. The Mons reestablished their state (Pegu), seized Ava in 1752, and overthrew the Toungoo dynasty. The English East India Company and French East India Company interfered in the Burman-Mon struggle, attempting to consolidate themselves on the Burmese seacoast.

Period of the formation of developed feudalism and of the creation of the preconditions for the formation of capitalist relations (middle of the 18th century to late 19th century). A new period in the history of Burma, leading to the final unification of the country by the Burmese and the formation of developed feudalism, began in the middle of the 18th century. In 1752, Alaungpaya, a minor feudal lord who founded the new Burmese Konbaung dynasty, stirred up an uprising against the Mons in Upper Burma. By 1755 he had united Upper Burma and inflicted a crushing defeat on the Mons. In 1757 he seized Pegu. The centuries-old struggle between the Burmans and Mons for hegemony in Burma ended with the defeat of the Mons. Alaungpaya repulsed the incursions from Manipur and reestablished control over the Shan principalities. He destroyed the European trading stations and put an end, for a time, to the intervention of the colonialists into Burmese affairs.

The Konbaung state achieved its greatest flowering in the late 18th and early 19th centuries under Bodawpaya and during the first years of the reign of Bagyidaw. Feudal separatism was ended. The state’s property in land served as the material base for a strong central power. Members of the ruling family and high officials received specific territories to “feed off’—that is, to administer and from which to enrich themselves. The Konbaung state’s main support came from the intermediate and small feudal lords who held their districts by inheritance. The unification of Burma aided the development of commodity-money relations, the expansion of ties between the different regions of the country, and the growth of crafts. A centralized, bureaucratic-type state apparatus took shape. At the head of the apparatus was the ruler (Mingyi), whose power was despotic. Characteristic trends of the socioeconomic history of Burma during this period were the strengthening of private feudal property (while at the same time the decisive role of the state was maintained), the destruction of the boundaries between different categories of the peasantry, and the increased peasant dependence on the feudal lord with respect to the land.

The Konbaung state turned into the strongest power on the Indochina Peninsula. It repulsed China’s attack in the late 1760’s and signed a peace treaty with it in 1770 which continued to regulate the two countries’ relations through the late 19th century. In 1784, Burma captured Arakan (which it annexed in 1785), and in the first quarter of the 19th century it took Manipur and Assam.

During the 19th century, the English colonialists, who had repeatedly attempted to penetrate Burma, began the conquest of the country. As a result of the first (1824–26) and second (1852) Anglo-Burman wars, Burma was deprived of the territory it had conquered on the border with British India, and also lost Arakan, Tenasserim, and Pegu. In 1862 the single English colony of British Burma was formed from these lands.

With the accession to power of Mindon (ruled 1853–78), Burma embarked on the path of reform. The system of administration by “feeding” off the population was limited, a single monetary tax was introduced, and the provincial administration was unified. The development of trade and navigation was encouraged, and minted money was introduced; the construction of state factories began, and foreign engineers and military instructors were invited to Burma. The reforms helped strengthen the feudal state and at the same time gave much scope to the development of commodity-money relations. The reform period was a time for the flourishing of Burmese culture. The new capital, Mandalay— founded in 1857—became the center of Buddhism, literature, and art in Burma.

During the 1860’s, Great Britain’s pressure on Burma intensified. In 1862 and 1867, Burma was forced to sign trade treaties with Great Britain granting privileges to English traders. The attempts of Thibaw (ruled 1878–85) to rely on the French for support (the Franco-Burmese treaty of 1885) brought no success. Taking advantage of a trivial pretext (the imposition of a fine on an English lumbering company by the Burmese authorities), Great Britain began the third colonial war against Burma on Nov. 14, 1885. By November 28, English forces had occupied Mandalay. On Jan. 1, 1886, the Burmese territory previously ruled by Thibaw was annexed to the British possessions. In February 1886, Burma was included in the English colony of India as a province administered by an English commissioner (from 1897, a governor).

The annexation of all of Burma by Great Britain gave rise to a broad partisan war which took the colonialists several years to suppress.

Period of the development of capitalist relations under English colonial rule (late 19th century to 1947). The general tendency in Burma’s socioeconomic development during the colonial period was the development of capitalist relations. Colonialism, however, disfigured this process. Foreign capital (English, Indian, and Chinese) played the leading role in the developing capitalist structure in Burma; a small-scale commodity structure, with numerous vestiges of feudal and patriarchal relations, predominated, and the feudal and patriarchal structures survived in the national outskirts. Colonialism forced the one-sided development in Burma of several primary export products (rice, teak lumber, oil, ore), turning the country into a market for the sale of consumer and other goods from Great Britain and the empire (particularly India). This hindered the development of a national industry.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE NATIONAL LIBERATION MOVEMENT. An upsurge in the national anticolonial struggle of the Burmese people began at the turn of the 20th century. Initially, it took the form of a movement for the revival of Burmese culture, which had been degraded under colonial rule, and for religious and cultural distinctiveness. The movement was led by the Young Men’s Buddhist Association (founded in 1906).

World War I (1914–18) and the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia gave a great impetus to the national movement. A movement for political reform began, led by the first all-Burman political organization, the General Council of Burmese Associations (founded in 1920, operated until 1930). A strike movement began among workers in 1918 (the strikes by oil workers in 1923 and 1926 were particularly significant). The so-called university boycott (a boycott of the schools controlled by the colonial government) took place in 1920. Boycotts of foreign goods were organized. There were continual peasant disturbances. A major anti-colonial peasant uprising, the Saya San uprising, took place in Burma during 1930–32. The expansion of the national liberation movement was particularly marked in the second half of the 1930’s, when the activity of Dobama Asiayon—a patriotic and revolutionary-democratic organization—unfolded: the university boycott of 1936, the spread of Marxism, the creation of the first Burma-wide workers’ and peasants’ trade-union organizations, and the mass 1938 movement of workers, peasants, urban petite bourgeoisie, and the intelligentsia. The Communist Party of Burma was created in 1939.

Under pressure from the popular masses, the English imperialists were forced to make certain concessions. In 1935, Burma received a constitution by which a colonial parliament was established (it operated during 1937–41). The parliament elected the prime minister; however, the governor retained emergency powers. In 1937, Burma was made a colony, distinct from India.

THE CREATION OF A SINGLE ANTI-IMPERIALIST FRONT AND BURMA’S CONQUEST OF INDEPENDENCE. As an English colony, Burma was automatically drawn into World War II (1939–45) on the side of Great Britain. The idea of utilizing Japan in the struggle against English imperialism was disseminated widely among national-patriotic and revolutionary forces in Burma after the start of the war. This led to temporary cooperation between these forces and the Japanese militarists: the Burma Independence Army was established, recruited by the “Thirty Heroes.” Japanese forces invaded Burma in December 1941 and occupied its most important areas by May 1942. A military-colonial regime of the fascist variety was introduced in Burma. During the years of the Japanese occupation, all Burmese patriotic and revolutionary groups, including the Communists, played an important role in the upsurge of the national struggle. They joined together in the Anti-Fascist Peoples Freedom League (AFPFL), which was founded in 1944 and led by Burma’s national hero, Aung San. Led by Aung San, Ne Win, and others, the patriotic Burmese army made up the main fighting force of the all-nation uprising of Mar. 27,1945, which played a large role in smashing the Japanese occupiers in Burma.

After Burma’s liberation from the Japanese occupiers, sharp liberation struggles were directed against the English imperialists, who were returning to the country. During 1945–47, this struggle, which was waged under the leadership of the AFPFL, expanded, drawing in all strata of the population. In September 1946 there was a general political strike. Convinced that the restoration of the colonial order was impossible, the English government was forced to acknowledge Burma’s right to independence and agree to the implementation of elections to a constituent assembly; this agreement was concluded in January 1947 at negotiations in London with a Burmese delegation. The elections (April 1947) gave an overwhelming majority of deputies to the AFPFL. On February 12, representatives of the country’s different peoples meeting at a conference in Panglong came to an agreement providing for the state integrity of the future independent Burmese state—the Union of Burma (February 12 has since been marked as Union Day in Burma). On Sept. 24, 1947, the Constituent Assembly adopted a constitution for the Union of Burma. An Anglo-Burmese treaty recognizing the republic of the Union of Burma as an independent sovereign state was signed on Oct. 17, 1947. Burma left the British Empire. The state independence of the Union of Burma was officially proclaimed on Jan. 4, 1948.

On the eve of Burma’s achievement of independence, the previously united left-wing forces were broken up and weakened. There was a split in the Communist Party of Burma as early as the start of 1946: the left-sectarian organization Red Flag was formed from among its members. At the end of 1946 there was a break between the AFPFL and the Communist Party. The forces of reaction inflicted a heavy blow to left-wing forces, organizing the murder of Aung San (July 19, 1947). The relationship of forces which took shape in Burma resulted in the national bourgeoisie obtaining the leading role in the independent state. The government formed by U Nu included representatives both of the national and petite bourgeoisie and of the feudal lords of the outlying areas. In terms of party membership, this was a government of the AFPFL and the Socialist Party (founded in 1939; known as the Burma Revolutionary Party until 1945).

Burma after its achievement of political independenceBURMA FROM 1948 TO 1962. Independent Burma began its existence encumbered by the weight of the colonial past: the weak and one-sided development of the economy (even before the ravages of World War II the per capita income of the population was 20 times lower than that of Great Britain), dependence on foreign capital, vestiges of feudalism, considerable internation discord, a lack of national cadres, and so on. The devastation of the period of Japanese occupation made itself felt acutely (the gross national product in 1947 and 1948 respectively was only 61 percent and 72 percent of the prewar level).

Divergences in views (primarily on Burma’s prospects for development) and the 1946 split among the national liberation forces led to the start of domestic armed conflict in March 1948. The Communist Party went underground and began an armed struggle against the national government. The uprising was joined by units of the Burmese Army and the People’s Volunteer Organization (PVO), which Aung San had created in 1946 from former fighting men of the patriotic army of Burma. At the end of 1948 and early in 1949, a portion of the Karen national minority, incited by imperialist circles, came out against the government. In 1950, adding to the other difficulties, Kuomintang intervention began in the northeast of Burma. During 1949 the government exercised power only in Rangoon and a few cities. During the early 1950’s, the uncoordinated forces of the rebels in Burma were driven back by government troops. The process of development was complex and contradictory in independent Burma as a result of the strained political and economic situation in the country and the pressure of imperialistic and domestic reactionary forces.

Burma was accepted into the United Nations on Apr. 19, 1948. It established diplomatic relations with other states (with the USSR on Feb. 18, 1948) and gradually worked out a foreign policy course of peace and positive neutrality. The Burmese government developed its relations with the capitalist countries and, from the mid-1950’s, with the socialist countries as well (a Soviet-Burmese trade agreement was concluded in 1955; mutual visits by Soviet leaders to Burma and Burmese leaders to the USSR were conducted; an agreement on the construction of a number of public building projects in Burma was signed by the Soviet Union and Burma in 1957). Burma was an organizer and active participant in the Bandung Conference of 1955.

In 1952, Burma began to implement the so-called Pyidawtha Plan (“country of prosperity”)—an eight-year rehabilitation and development program which envisioned an increase of approximately 80 percent in the gross national product (through an increasing role for the state sector, the stimulation of national enterprise, the use of foreign capital and assistance [essentially that of the Western capitalist powers], and the implementation of certain social reforms, including agrarian reform based on the 1953 law on the nationalization of the land). According to UN data, the average annual growth rate in Burma over the period 1951–60 was 5.4 percent (one of the highest showings among the developing countries). The first elections were held in Burma in 1951–52; the second set of elections were held in 1956 and gave victory—as before—to the AFPFL and the Socialist Party.

On the whole, the period between the early 1950’s and 1958 was marked by a comparative economic and political stabilization in the country. It proved precarious, however. The basic economic tasks of the Pyidawtha Plan were not accomplished: the agrarian reform was only partially implemented, with no obstacles being placed in the way of further dispossession of the peasants’ land; and armed domestic conflicts, including national conflicts, continued. At the same time, bureaucratism and corruption flourished more and more in the ruling camp, demoralizing it and provoking the discontent of the popular masses. All this led to a national political crisis, which developed primarily as a crisis in the upper strata.

There was a split in the ruling AFPFL in May-June 1958. The more moderate U Nu-U Tin faction formed the “Clean” AFPFL (from 1960, the Union Party); the U Ba Swe-U Kyaw Nyein faction of the right-wing leaders of the Socialist Party took the shape of the “stable” AFPFL (henceforward the AFPFL). A fierce struggle for power began between them. Under these conditions, U Nu’s government was forced to hand over power in October 1958 to the Burmese Army, which formed a transitional government headed by commander in chief General Ne Win. After the third set of parliamentary elections, in which the supporters of U Nu were victorious, Union Party government was established in April 1960. This, however, did not stabilize the situation. Amid growing internal struggle in the ruling Union Party and the increase in separatist tendencies in the outlying national districts that threatened the Union of Burma with disintegration, there was a coup d’etat on Mar. 2, 1962.

BURMA SINCE 1962. As a result of the events of Mar. 2, 1962, a Revolutionary Council made up of patriotic and revolution-minded officers and led by Ne Win rose to power. On Apr. 30,1962, the Revolutionary Council issued the political declaration Burmese Way to Socialism, which rejected the capitalist path of development. The stage of serious anti-imperialist, antifeudal, and anticapitalist transformations in Burma’s history began. As early as 1962 the Revolutionary Council adopted measures limiting the activity of centers of imperialist propaganda in Burma. Between 1963 and 1966 there was complete nationalization of the oil industry, banks, foreign trade, energy, and communications; the bulk of manufacturing and mining industry, construction, and domestic trade was nationalized. During the second half of the 1960’s, the share of the state sector in the gross product exceeded 50 percent (excluding agriculture, 60–63 percent), in manufacturing industry about 60 percent, and in trade 70–80 percent. A steeply scaled income tax was introduced in 1963. All this led to the exclusion of Western monopolistic capital (primarily English) from Burma, the undermining of the positions of the Indian and Chinese bourgeoisie in Burma, and strong restrictions on the Burmese national bourgeoisie. Between 1962 and 1965 important laws against landlords and usury were adopted; they protected the peasants’ rights to land and property and to the renting of land. Among these measures was the law abolishing land rents (1965). Reforms were carried out in higher education (as of 1964), free medical service introduced, and other such measures taken.

Striving to ensure normal domestic political conditions in order to carry out its program, the Revolutionary Council initiated peace negotiations with all the insurgent organizations of Burma in 1963. The negotiations were essentially unsuccessful (an agreement was reached only with a portion of the Karen rebels). On Mar. 28, 1964, the Revolutionary Council adopted a law on the protection of national unity. By this law, all political parties and organizations (and also trade unions) except for the Burma Socialist Program Party (BSPS), which had been founded by the Revolutionary Council in 1962, were dissolved. In 1966–67, under the leadership of the Revolutionary Council and the Burma Socialist Program Party, attempts were made to form popular workers’ councils (including office employees) and popular peasants’ councils—new mass organizations of working people.

In the area of foreign policy, the Revolutionary Council government confirmed the course of peace and positive neutrality (the council’s declaration of Mar. 2, 1962). The government continued, on an equal basis, to develop its relations with capitalist countries and to establish various ties with socialist countries. Burmese-Chinese relations, which had developed successfully earlier, deteriorated in the second half of the 1960’s. In 1967, Chinese chauvinists provoked Chinese immigrants to engage in anti-Burmese actions in Rangoon and other cities.

Striving to achieve national consolidation, in December 1968 the Revolutionary Council established the Consultative Organ for questions of domestic unity of the Union of Burma. It included political figures of various orientations (including U Nu). However, this organ (which was in operation until May 1969) did not succeed in working out general recommendations because of the deep differences in the views of its members and the antigovernment positions of the right-wing majority. The figures of the right-wing opposition who fled from Burma (U Nu and others) established a political center abroad (in Thailand)—the so-called Parliamentary Democracy Party, which began subversive activity against the regime of the Revolutionary Council and strove to unite with the right-wing insurgent forces in Burma. At the end of 1969, the right-wing opposition provoked a number of antigovernment student actions in Rangoon and other cities.

At the fourth seminar of the Burma Socialist Program Party, held in November 1969, one of the tasks set forth was the development of a new constitution for Burma; the question of developing cooperation in the country on a broad scale was posed. On May 28, 1970, the Revolutionary Council adopted a law on cooperative societies providing for the establishment of a network of various kinds of cooperatives in the cities and villages of Burma. In all, the creation of over 24,000 cooperatives (over 10 million members) was planned, 10,000 of which (5 million people) were to be consumer cooperatives, 13,000 (5 million people) cooperatives of agricultural producers (initially these were to be supply and sale cooperatives), 1,000 producers’ (15,000 people) and over 300 credit (80,000 people) cooperatives.


Mozheiko, I. 5000 khramov na beregu Iravadi. Moscow, 1967.
Kozlova, M.G. Birma nakanune angliiskogo zavoevaniia. Moscow, 1962.
Vasil’ev, V. F. Ocherki istorii Birmy 1885–1947. Moscow, 1962. (Bibliography.)
Vasil’ev, V. F. Birma na novykh rubezhakh. Moscow, 1965.
Kaufman, A. S. Rabochii klass i natsional’ no-osvoboditel’noe dvizhenie ν Birme. Moscow, 1961.
Gavrilov, Iu. N. Bor’ba za nezavisimost’ i progressivnye pre-obrazovaniia ν Birme. Moscow, 1970.
Aung San. Birma brosaet vyzov. Moscow, 1965. (Translated from Burmese and English.)
Ne Win. Birma na novom puti. Moscow, 1965.
Maung Htin Aung. A History of Burma. New York-London, 1967.
Cady, I. F. A History of Modern Burma. New York, 1958.
Maung Maung. Burma’s Constitution, 2nd ed. The Hague, 1961.
Maung Maung. Burma and General Ne Win. Bombay, 1969.
M. G. KOZLOVA (to 1885) and V. F. VASIL’EV (since 1885)

Political parties The Burma Socialist Program Party (BSPS) was founded in July 1962. By its statute (1962), it is the party of working people and is to be the “true leader of the revolution.” Exploiting elements are not admitted to the party. It has 1,125 members, 300,000 candidates, and over 730,000 sympathizers (1970). The fourth seminar of the BSPS (1969) posed the task of changing this party from a party of functionaries into a mass party of working people based on the principles of democratic centralism. The National United Liberation Front (NULF) is a bloc of underground parties and organizations. It was founded in 1959 and united the Communist Party of Burma, founded in 1939 (underground since 1948), and several national minority organizations. In the late 1960’s there were internal splits in the NULF. The Parliamentary Democracy Party was founded in 1969 by U Nu, the leader of the right-wing opposition, after his emigration.

Social organizations. Social organizations in Burma include the Workers Councils, the Peasants Councils, the All Burma Buddhist Monks Association, the Burmese Association of War Veterans (founded in 1949), and the Burmese Association for Friendship and Cultural Ties With the U SSR (founded in 1952).


General state of the economy Burma is an agrarian country. Agriculture is the means of livelihood for more than four-fifths of the population. Rice production is the primary and traditional branch of agriculture. The development of factory and plant industry is limited. Craft production retains much importance in industrial output. The country’s requirements for industrial equipment are met primarily by imports. In turn, Burma depends on the sale of rice, nonfer-rous metals, and hard lumber (especially teak) on the world market.

Since the proclamation of its independence (1948), Burma has passed through several stages of socioeconomic transformation aimed at overcoming colonial backwardness—feudal and semifeudal vestiges, dependence on foreign capital, and the orientation of its economy toward the production of agricultural goods and raw materials. The state invests in the key branches of the economy. The state sector holds dominant positions in industry, foreign trade, the financial and credit system, and communications; the private and small-scale commodity sector is dominant in agriculture. Agriculture’s share in the total value of the aggregate social product (16.1 billion kyats in 1967–68) is about 20 percent (including fishing); industry’s share is about 40 percent (including forestry, power, and construction).

Agriculture Agriculture is the basis of the country’s economy. By the time independence was proclaimed, over one-half of the workable area of Lower Burma (the southern part of Burma—the Irrawaddy delta and the Sittang delta)—the country’s main agricultural region—was in the hands of landlords and usurers. About three-fourths of all the peasant farms in Lower Burma and more than two-thirds of those in Upper Burma (the central part of Burma, including the lowland basin and the mountain massifs surrounding it) did not exceed 2 hectares (ha) in size. The poorest peasants made up an absolute number of such proprietors. As a result of the agrarian transformations carried out by the Revolutionary Council, about one-third of the workable land was transferred to the use of landless and land-short peasants. The government gave the peasants the opportunity to use agricultural machinery by means of a system of machine-renting stations. It furthered the expansion of supply and sale cooperatives and the organization of production cooperatives. The assimilation of 2 million ha in the basins of the Irrawaddy, Mu, and Sittang rivers is planned in order to expand land area. With the technical and economic assistance of the USSR, the Chemawltau irrigation system has been put into service (1967) in one of Burma’s most arid regions. In 1969 there were 88 machine and tractor stations with a total of more than 6,800 tractors; 3,500 of these were working in agriculture. In 1968–69, 138,000 tons of chemical fertilizers (mostly imported) were used.

Farming is the main branch of agriculture. In 1968–69 the area of cultivated land was 8.7 million ha, of which 800,000 ha was under frequent sowing and 800,000 ha was irrigated land (the corresponding figures for 1947–48 were 6.0 million ha, 400,000 ha, and 500,000 ha). The share of rice in the pattern of plantings is about 60 percent; 5 percent of the planted area is occupied by millet, wheat, and corn; 15 percent by oil-producing plants (peanuts, sesame); 8 percent by leguminous plants; 3 percent by orchard crops (citrus fruits, bananas, pineapples, mangos), truck gardens, and rubber-plant, tea, sugarcane, and tobacco plantations; and about 2 percent of the sown area by cotton. Various agricultural crops are gathered two to three times a year. Over 80 percent of the total planting of rice is concentrated in Lower Burma, particularly the delta of the Irrawaddy. In the drier part of Burma, in Upper Burma, millet, corn, legumes, sesame, peanuts, and cotton are raised. In the Shan national state, wheat, sweet potatoes, citrus fruits, and tea are cultivated.

Rubber-yielding plants are widespread on the Taninthayi coast and in the region of the Irrawaddy delta. For the area and yield of the main agricultural crops see Table 2.

Only about one-fourth of the value of agricultural produce (including fishing) comes from livestock raising. In 1968–69 there were 7.2 million cattle (compared to 4.5 million in 1947–48), 1.5 million buffalo (0.7 million in 1947–48), and 1.7 million swine (0.4 million in 1947–48); there were over 10 million fowl. About one-half of the cattle and buffalo are used as working animals (in agriculture and lumbering, along with elephants).

FISHING. Fish are caught in interior bodies of water (Cy-prinidae family, Siluridae family, hilsa, and others) and in the sea (hilsa, bonito, mackerel, and others). The annual catch is about 300,000 to 400,000 tons, of which over one-half is sea fish. The main fishing centers are Rangoon, Mergui, Tavoy, Sittwe (Akyab), and Moulmein.

Industry Data on the distribution of the aggregate social product (in 1965–66 prices) show the relationship of the main branch groups of industry: in 1967–68, forestry totaled 402 million kyats (compared to 314 million kyats for 1961–62); mining extractive industry, 148 million kyats (102 million kyats in 1961–62); electric power, 87 million kyats (68 million kyats in 1961–62); and manufacturing industry, 4,730 million kyats (3,676 million kyats in 1961–62). During 1967–68 over 900,000 people were employed in industry, about 770,000 of them in manufacturing industry. The state sector accounts for 142,400 of those employed in industry. In 1968–69 there were 1,300 industrial enterprises in the state sector and 16,100 private enterprises, including 27 enterprises which functioned under state supervision.

Forestry holds an independent place in the country’s economy. About 1 percent of the economically active population is employed in forestry and associated branches. The economic exploitation of forests is conducted on one-fourth of the forested area of the country, primarily in the upper reaches of the Irrawaddy River, in the Yakhaing (Arakan) range, in the Pegu mountains, and in the western and southern parts of the Shan Upland. Burma is one of the important producers and suppliers of hard lumber, mainly teak, for the world market. About 1.4 million cu m of round timber, of which about 0.3 million cu m is teak, is logged annually; other varieties that are logged include pyinkado, padauk, and bamboo. Sawmilling and woodworking are concentrated either in seaport centers and the mouths of rivers—Rangoon, Moulmein, Sittwe (Akyab)—or on the banks of rivers along the floating route for timber—Myitkyina, Bhamo, Katha, and Mandalay (the Irrawaddy River) and Pyinmana, Toun-goo, Nyaunglebin, and Pegu (the Sittang River). The only paper and pulp factory (using bamboo) is in Saw.

Mining industry is represented primarily by the extraction

Table 2. Area and yield of main agricultural crops
 Area (hectares)Area (hectares)
1 Yearly average
2 According to the Report of the Revolutionary Council to the People on Budget Appropriations of the Revolutionary Government for 1969–70 (in Burmese), 1969
Source: Production Yearbook 1967 (Food and Agriculture Organization)
Peanuts (in shells)277,000449,000604,000154,000278,000392,000
Cotton (fiber, seed)118,000173,000155,6001,937,0001,531,00032,000 (seed)
Rubber plants9,9008,000

of oil and certain nonferrous metals. The old deposits of oil located in central Burma along the middle course of the Irrawaddy (Chauk, Yenangyaung, Lanywa, and others) have gradually lost their importance. In 1967–68 over one-half of the output of oil came from the recently discovered deposits at Myanaung and Pyé, on the lower course of the Irrawaddy. It was there, too, that the third Shwepyita deposit was set up for operation. The oil-refining industry is represented by two plants (total capacity 600,000 tons), in Syriam (near Rangoon), where the oil is delivered in tanker barges by river, and in Chauk. Small amounts of natural gas (near Thayet-myo), coal (Kalewa, Lashio, Namtu), and bituminous shale are extracted. The largest zinc-lead industrial region is Bawdwin-Namtu (the national Shan state); most of the output of lead, zinc, and silver and also of copper and nickel comes from the Bawdwin mines. Lead and silver are smelted at the Namtu complex; zinc concentrates are also produced here. Zinc ore is also mined in the Lough Keng region and lead ore in the Bawzaing region. The Malay Peninsula (Taninthayi outskirts) is the main region for the tin and tungsten industry: on the peninsula the Heinda, Kanbauk, Hermyingyi, and other mines are situated to the north of Tavoy, and the Yamon, Tagu, Yadanabon, and Kharaturi mines are located to its south. Tavoy is the center for smelting the metal. The extraction of tin-tungsten ores in the Mawchi region is being expanded with the technical assistance of the USSR. Industrial deposits of copper, iron, nickel, chromium, arsenic, manganic, titanium, thorium, and uranium ores, have been prospected, as well as deposits of gold, barite, and graphite. Burmese jade (the Tawmo region), rubies, and sapphires (the Mogok region and elsewhere) have long been famous.

The total capacity of electric power plants was 253,000 kilowatts (kwt) in 1968–69, including 96,500 kwt in hydroelectric power plants; the most important plants are the Lawpita hydroelectric power plant on the Balu Chaung River (84,000 kwt) and two thermal plants in Rangoon (40,000 and 20,000 kwt).

The food branch accounted for 62.5 percent of the total value of the products of manufacturing industry in 1967–68; this includes the rice-processing industry, which accounted for about 40 percent. The rice-polishing industry is made up of a network of small, intermediate, and large enterprises (the main centers are Rangoon, Bassein, Pegu, Hinthada (Henzada), and Moulmein). Other branches of the food industry include oil-milling (oil from peanuts, sesame, cotton seed, coconuts, and rice bran), the sugar industry (primarily in Zeyawaddy, Pyinmana, Namti, and Bilin), the production of fish products (fish paste, dried fish), tobacco (cigars, cigarettes), tea processing, and milling. The textile industry is the second most important branch of manufacturing. It includes state factories (Rangoon, Insein, Meiktila) and a network of private enterprises. Production is primarily of cotton fabrics (most cotton thread is imported), burlap, and nylon fabrics.

Prominent enterprises include a steel rolling mill (about 20,000 tons of steel and 17,000 tons of rolled steel a year); shipyards; shops for the assembly of trucks and cars, buses, and electrical equipment; a tractor assembly plant; cement plants; a pharmaceutical factory; and a soap factory. Plants to produce mineral fertilizers (in Sale and Kyunkyaun), caustic soda, cement (Myanaung), textiles (Rangoon, Sagaing), and a sawmilling plant (Rangoon) are among those under construction (1970). See Table 3.

Table 3. Production of major industrial products
  1938 (tons)1948 (tons)1960 (tons)1968–691 (tons)
1 On the basis of the Report of the Revolutionary Council to the People on Budget Appropriations of the Revolutionary Government for 1969–70 (in Burmese), 1969
2 Million kwts
3 Millions
4 1949
Source: Statistical Yearbook UN, 1949–50, 1968
Electric power119432441.9
 In hydroelectric plants321.0
Tin (content of metal)5,0261,165965290.0
Tungsten (WO3 content)4,074947108.0
Lead (metal content in concentrates)89,00018,00 09,500
Zinc (metal content in concentrates)55,7001,70010,3009,000

Handicraft production (umbrellas, cigars, clothing, shoes, soap, dishes) and various other trades (Amarapura and Shwedaung are centers) have a large role in industry.

Transportation There are 4,070 km of railroads (1969) in Burma. The main line runs from Rangoon to Myitkyina. There are over 8,000 km of navigable routes; the main transportation artery is the Irrawaddy River. There are navigable canals between Rangoon and Twante and between Pegu and Sittang. About 11,000 km of the 25,600 km of automobile roads have hard surfaces. There are about 52,600 motor vehicles in the country. The main ports are Rangoon (over 85 percent of the country’s foreign trade turnover), Bassein, Moulmein, and Sittwe. Mingaladon, the airport of the capital, is a major junction for international airlines.

External economic relations Since independence, the management of foreign trade has passed almost entirely to the government, which accords this branch an important place in the economic development of Burma. The expansion of Burma’s foreign trade relations—particularly the establishment of relations with the USSR and other socialist countries (0.6 percent of the total commodity circulation of Burma in 1954, 6.2 percent in 1967–68)—has helped alleviate Burma’s economic dependence on the capitalist countries. On the whole, the agrarian and raw material nature of Burma’s export has not fundamentally changed; however, there has been a certain modification in the relationship between the traditional export articles. Thus, if the share of rice and rice products in exports was 46.2 percent in 1937–41, their share in 1967—68 was 45.6 percent; the respective shares of teak were 5.9 percent and 30 percent, of oil cakes 0.7 percent and 4.8 percent, of legumes 1.6 percent and 8.8 percent, of nonferrous metals (ore and concentrates) 11.2 percent and 3.8 percent, of cotton 1.6 percent and 0.8 percent, and of rubber 1.3 percent and 1.8 percent. The share of oil and oil products has decreased sharply (because of the growing need for oil within the country)—from 20.8 percent to 0.1 percent. While finished products have retained their large share among imports, the assortment has changed: imports of the means of production (machines, machine tools, equipment, and means of transportation) have increased, the proportion of raw goods and semifinished goods has grown, and imports of foodstuffs have decreased. The main trading partners of Burma are Japan and Great Britain. The primary monetary unit is the kyat. By the exchange rate of the State Bank of the USSR, 100 kyats are equal to 18.9 rubles (October 1970).

Regions of economic geography Lower Burma (the Pegu and Irrawaddy districts; one-third of the country’s population) includes the vast lowland of the Irrawaddy and Sittang rivers. It is the country’s main rice-producing and exporting region. It has rice-polishing, oil-refining, and sawmilling industry; a textile industry; and enterprises of a young and growing metallurgical industry, as well as metalworking and machine-building. There is handicraft production of lacquered and wicker articles and also wood and silver carving. The region’s main center is Rangoon. The Tenasserim (Taninthayi) coast is a mountainous region. Farming is done primarily on the plains: over 50 percent of the cultivated land is under rice, and rubber plants, coconut palms, citrus fruits, bananas, and pineapples are also grown. There is fishing and mining industry (tungsten, tin). The main cities are Moulmein and Tavoy. The Arakan coast (the territory of the Yakhaing, or Arakan, district) is an agricultural region with considerable fishing. The main city is Sittwe. Central Burma (the Mandalay and Magwe districts, the southern part of Sagaing) is primarily a plain. Technical crops (sesame, peanuts, cotton) are grown in this region, and there is oil drilling. Its main center is Mandalay. The territory of the national Shan state is mountainous; mining is prominent (the Bawdwin-Namtu lead-zinc complex). The Kawthule and Kayah national states are mountainous. Logging (the basin of the Salween River), tin-tungsten mining (the Mawcha region), and electric power production (the Lawpita hydroelectric power plant on the Balu Chaung River) are prominent. The northern mountainous region (the territory of the Kachin national state) is a high-altitude, thinly settled region.


Azovskii, I. P. Gosudarstvennyi sektor ν ekonomike Birmy (1948–1962). Moscow, 1965.
Makarova, S. M. Birma: razvitie kapitalizma ν promyshlennosti. Moscow, 1968.
Vasil’ev, I. V., and M. P. Mironov. Birma: ekonomika i vneshniaia torgovlia. Moscow, 1964.
Klimko, G. N. Agrarnye problemy nezavisimoi Birmy. Moscow, 1964.
Shnaider, S. S. Birma: ekonomiko-geograficheskii ocherk. Moscow, 1951.
Birmanskii soiuz (collection of articles). Moscow, 1958.
Plany—programmy ekonomicheskogo razvitiia stran Azii. Moscow, 1966.
Andrus, J. R. Burmese Economic Life. London, [1948].
Furnivall, J. S. An Introduction to the Political Economy of Burma. Rangoon, 1957.
Tinker, H. The Union of Burma. London, 1958.

The armed forces of Burma consist of a land army, air force, and navy. In 1969 the forces numbered about 142,000, of which about 128,000 were in the army and about 7,000 each in the air force and the navy. The chairman of the Revolutionary Council is the commander in chief. The armed forces are made up of soldiers signed up for six-year periods. The military administration of Burma comprises five military districts: Northwest, East, Southeast, Southwest, and Central. The army is divided into divisions and brigades, which include infantry and armored battalions, artillery divisions, and subunits of special forces and material-technical supply. In 1969 the air force had over 100 planes (mostly piston-engined). The navy has about 70 combat ships (mostly river boats and patrol and torpedo boats). Rangoon is the main naval base.

Medicine and public health In 1968 the birthrate per 1,000 inhabitants was 40.4, the general mortality rate 12.9. Infant mortality was 66.5 per 1,000 live births. The average life span is 44 years. Infectious and parasitic diseases are foremost in the pattern of disease and death. Cases of as-cariasis, ancylostomiasis, and trachoma are observed everywhere. Among noninfectious diseases, protein deficiency and vitamins B1, B2 and C deficiencies, especially among children one to four years of age, are recorded.

Intestinal infections (dysentery, amebiasis, typhoid fever) and geohelminthosis are found on the plains (primarily during the rainy season). There are natural breeding grounds of plague. In the mountains, the population is afflicted by malaria; the percentage of diseases of geohelminthoses is high; there are breeding grounds of taeniasis, brucellosis, and tsutsugamushi disease, and leprosy is prevalent.

The public health service carries out extensive measures to improve sanitary conditions. The major tasks are the struggle against leprosy (morbidity of which has decreased) and tuberculosis (27,000 previously untreated patients appear annually in hospitals). A program to eliminate malaria is being carried out. Vaccination of the population has in effect eliminated smallpox and cholera (27 cases in 1969 as against 3,695 in 1946).

A system of state hospitals and institutions has been established in Burma; medical aid is free. All private hospitals have been nationalized. Private practice is not encouraged. There has been state social insurance in Burma since 1956. The essential sources for the insurance fund are the contributions of workers (about 25 percent), entrepreneurs (50 percent), and the state (about 25 percent).

In 1969 there were 346 hospitals with 19,700 beds (0.7 beds per 1,000 inhabitants), as opposed to 269 hospitals with 11,000 beds (0.5 beds per 1,000) in 1961–62. With the aid of the USSR, a hospital (200 beds) and polyclinic have been built in Taunggyi. In 1969 there were 2,200 doctors in state service in Burma (that is, 1 doctor per 12,500 inhabitants, compared to 576 doctors in state service in 1961—62, or 1 doctor per 36,000 inhabitants); 328 private doctors, and 4,900 midwives and nurses. Doctors are trained in three medical institutes, which graduate 140 doctors annually, and in the medical college, which graduates dentists.


Veterinary services Burma is unfavorable in terms of the many communicable (transmitted through carriers) and helminthic diseases of agricultural animals. This is a consequence of the presence of the large number of carriers of pathogenic organisms and the favorable climatic conditions for their development. Theileriasis and babesiasis are recorded in all livestock-raising regions; there is trypanosomiasis of cattle in pastures at elevations up to 700–800 m. Foot-and-mouth disease is perpetually recorded in Burma. Newcastle disease is prevalent among domestic fowl. Pasteurellosis of buffalo is recorded in many regions. Among helminthic diseases, fascioliasis, cysticercosis, taeniasis, and nematodiasis are predominant. Skin diseases of cattle (mange) and demodecosic mange of dogs are frequently encountered. Coccidiosis of rabbits is universal. There are 56 veterinarians in Burma (1968). A veterinary system is being organized. There is an Institute of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science (since 1963).


Prior to the intrusion of the English colonialists, Burma was a country with a comparatively high level of literacy. This was due to the system of monastery education, which had existed from ancient times. Every boy who had reached the age of 14 was to spend several years in a Buddhist monastery. Religious texts and letters were read in the monasteries, and arithmetic was studied; students were provided with some information on history, geography, astronomy, and medicine. Three types of secular schools arose in the colonial period: national schools, in which instruction was in Burmese; national-English schools, in which instruction was essentially in English but local languages were also used; and English schools, in which instruction was in English. Private schools predominated. For most Burmese, only elementary national schools were accessible; graduation from these schools did not qualify one to enter secondary schools, in which instruction was primarily in English. During the 1947–48 school year, there were 443,000 students in all general-education schools. After the formation of the Union of Burma, the decision was made to introduce gradually a system of universal and free elementary education. With the accession to power of the Revolutionary Council (1962), a new system of public education was introduced: its purpose was to prepare youth to participate in the construction of the new Burma. Attention was focused on the training of national technical cadres and the ideological training of students. Instruction was in Burmese; in the national areas of the periphery, it was in the local languages. A campaign to liquidate illiteracy was carried out starting in 1965, since it was still at a high level among the population (particularly in rural localities); a system of evening schools was established.

The administration of public education is centralized. Private schools have been nationalized. Instruction in monastery schools is based on state programs. Children six years of age and older enter the four-year primary schools. For the most part, instruction is segregated; the number of schools with joint instruction for boys and girls is gradually increasing. One-person schools (one teacher for all grades) predominate in rural localities. The three-year intermediate school prepares students for the three-year secondary school and for practical activity. There is a technical and agricultural orientation in secondary schools. During the 1968–69 school year, there were over 3 million students in primary schools, over 537,000 in intermediate schools, and over 107,000 in secondary schools. Vocational training is based on the elementary and intermediate schools; it is carried out in vocational schools with programs of study ranging from six months to two years. Secondary specialized education is provided by two-and three-year vocational-technical and agricultural schools, which accept students after vocational or secondary school. The teachers for primary and intermediate schools are trained in pedagogical colleges which operate on the base of the complete secondary school. The training period for primary school teachers is one year; for intermediate school teachers, two years. The pedagogical institute trains secondary school teachers. During the 1968–69 school year, there were 3,600 students in pedagogical colleges. Prior to 1961 the country had two higher educational institutions—the universities in Rangoon (founded in 1920) and Mandalay (founded in 1958). The reorganization of the system of higher education was begun in 1964: independent institutes were established on the base of several departments of the universities. Rangoon has two medical institutes, a pedagogical institute, a technological institute (built in 1961 with the aid of the USSR), an institute of economics, and others. There are medical, technical, and agricultural institutes in Mandalay, a technical institute in Insein, and an agricultural institute in Pyinmana. There were over 33,000 students in higher educational institutes during the 1968–69 school year.

The largest libraries are at Rangoon and Mandalay universities (80,000 and 45,000 volumes respectively). Rangoon has a museum and a picture gallery (both founded in 1952).


Mozheiko, I. V. “Prosveshchenie ν kolonial’noi Birme.” In Iz istorii stran Iugo-Vost. Azii. Moscow, 1968. Pages 181–207.

Before the English conquest, science and education in Burma were basically in the hands of Buddhist monks. They disseminated scientific knowledge borrowed from India and China and stored the experience of folk medicine and other traditional areas of knowledge. The first historical works—primarily chronicles—appeared in the precolonial period. Yazawingyaw (The Celebrated Chronicle), the earliest chronicle that has reached us, was compiled in 1502. Makha Yazawingyaw (Great Chronicle), which served as a standard for later historical literature of this genre, appeared in 1733. There was a golden age of chronicles in the middle of the 18th century, when the Konbaung dynasty came to power. By order of the ruler Bagyidaw, a commission to compile chronicles on the basis of existing annals and epigraphic information was established in the first quarter of the 19th century. Burmese scholars elicited and dated many historical facts, resulting in the appearance of the famous Hmannan Yazawindawgyi (The Glass Palace Chronicle) in 1832. In 1867 the Dutiya Ma-ha Yazawingyaw (Second Great Chronicle) was compiled.

The birth of modern Burmese historical science dates to the early 20th century. By this time, a base for the working out of the country’s history by scientific methods had been established. A sufficient quantity of archaeological material (the first Burmese archaeologist was Taw Sein Kho, the superintendent of the Archaeological Service of Burma, founded in 1906) and epigraphic and linguistic data (the works of the European scholars C. O. Blagden and C. Duroiselle) had been accumulated. Side by side with the semiofficial English historiography of the colonialist stripe (which was initiated in the late 19th century by A. Phayre), a new, progressive orientation in Burmese studies appeared. The two major English Burmanists, J. S. Furnivall and G. H. Luce, were at the forefront of this tendency.

In 1910 the Burma Research Society was founded (its organ is the Journal of the Burma Research Society, in English and Burmese). Burmese scholars—the students and followers of Furnivall and Luce—grouped themselves around this society. They studied the history, literature, and religion of Burma and contiguous countries. They presented a critique of the colonial regime, which was inflicting great damage on the Burmese people and their culture. In 1920 the first university was opened (in Rangoon); initially, it had only humanities departments, which graduated officials for the English colonial administration. In 1946 an archaeological science center was formed.

After the proclamation of Burma’s independence (1948), Burmese national historical science scored notable successes. The field of historical research was expanded, and a number of new scientific institutions, such as the Burma Historical Commission (1949), were established. The International Institute of Advanced Buddhistic Studies is located in Burma. The country also has an institute for the scientific study of law, the Burma Council of World Affairs, and others. A large number of textbooks on the history of the country written by Burmese historians—Zawgyi (U Thein Han), U Bha Sim, U Ban Than, U Thin Soe, U Gyo Te, and others—have been published since the early 1950’s (previously, high school and university students studied the history of their country from the book written by Harvey, an exponent of English semiofficial historiography). Works by Burmese historians appeared on ancient Burma (U Than Tun), on the relations between Great Britain and Burma in the 19th century (Maung Maung, Maung Tin Aung), and on the Burmese people’s struggle against colonial enslavement. During the 1960’s, the country’s history since 1948 (Maung Tin Aung) and the army’s role in the achievement of independence (Aun Than) have become subjects of study for Burmese historians.

The tasks of rehabilitating the national economy dictated the necessity of strengthening the preparation of national economics specialists and of expanding economics research. The Arts and Science University in Rangoon (three departments: economics, statistics, commerce and administration) had a notable role in the development of economic science. An institute of economics headed by the economist Professor U Aye Hlaing was established in 1964 on the basis of university departments. He has written a number of articles on the agrarian problems and agricultural credit of contemporary Burma and has also conducted research on the economic development of Burma between 1870 and 1940. The institute not only faced the task of expanding the training of economists with higher educations but also had to become a major center for economic research. The Ministry of National Planning organized work on the compilation of national plans and the forecasting of the country’s economic development. By accumulating its experience, independent Burma renounced the practice of continually using foreign economic consultants by the early 1960’s: it began to determine its strategy of economic development using the abilities of its own specialists.

Statistics developed notably, particularly after the formation of the Central Department of Economics and Statistics of the Ministry of National Planning in the early 1950’s. The Burmese economist Dr. U Thet Tun, who published a number of works on problems of economic planning and the development of the state sector in independent Burma, assumed the leadership of the department. A census of the population and industrial institutions in cities and a selective agricultural census were carried out in 1953–54 under the department’s direction. The materials in these censuses became the subject of research by Burmese and foreign scholars. The Ministry of Agriculture carried out studies of the state of agriculture during the mid-1950’s. Questions of the credit and monetary system and the economic situation in the country were analyzed in the Central Bank of the Union of Burma. After the Revolutionary Council came to power (1962), the science of economics in Burma began to be used in connection with the new requirements of economic and social development. A popularization of the political economy of socialism was disseminated. The scientific treatment of the problems of noncapitalist Burmese economic development became a primary task: notable contributions were made by the economists U Ba Nyein, U Chan Ei (who publishes under the pseudonym Maun Su Zan), and others. Problems of the contemporary Burmese economy are also studied in the Central Committee of the Burma Socialist Program Party and the Central School of Political Science, the latter a creation of the Revolutionary Council.

In the area of natural and technical science, the necessity of satisfying the needs of the country’s growing economy as rapidly as possible—with limited material resources and a limited number of national scientific specialists—led to the concentration of efforts on the development of applied and technical sciences. The Applied Research Institute, with its numerous divisions (physics and engineering; applied chemistry; metallurgy research; cellulose research; food; pharmaceutical products; ceramics; standards and specifications; atomic energy; and technical information), was established in 1955. In 1956 the Agricultural Research Institute was established, with divisions of agricultural technology, soil chemistry and physics, radioisotopes, mycology, and botany. In 1963 the Medical Research Institute was formed in Rangoon, with divisions of hematology, physiology, nutrition, and experimental medicine. The Commission for the Coordination of Scientific Research, with ten branch divisions, was established under the auspices of the Burmese government in 1965. It worked out a five-year plan for the development of scientific research in the country. Scientific work in Burma is conducted in higher educational institutions, as well as in the scientific research institutes.


U Tet Htoot. “The Nature of the Burmese Chronicles.” In Historical Writing on the Peoples of Asia, vol. 2. London, 1963. Pages 50–62.
UNESCO. World Directory of National Science Policy-making Bodies, vol. 2. Paris, 1968.
The World of Learning, 1968–1969. London, 1969.

In 1969 there were eight daily newspapers with a circulation of 200,000 copies publishing in Burmese and English. All but one were government papers. Pyi Thu Nazin (English edition, Working People’s Daily) is the main daily organ of the Revolutionary Council. It has been published in Burmese since 1962 and in English since 1963. Also published are the Guardian (in English), Botataung (Vanguard, in Burmese), Kye Hmon (Mirror, in Burmese), Hantha-waddy (in Burmese), Yma Ah’lai (New Light of Burma, in Burmese), and the private newspaper Yango (Rangoon Daily, in Burmese).

Since 1962 the journal of the Department of Information—Shedu (in Burmese), Forward (in English)—has been published once in two weeks. The journals of the Burma Socialist Program Party (in Burmese) are Pati eya, a monthly; Naingandaga eya, a monthly; Tadinzin, published once every two weeks; and Lanzin, a weekly. The monthly journal the Guardian (in English) is well known.

Radio broadcasting is by the state Burma Broadcasting Service in Rangoon (Myanma athan).


There are numerous manuscripts on palm leaves and inscriptions in verse and prose on stone dating to the beginning of the Common Era and testifying to an ancient literary tradition. The origin and formation of a literature date to the ninth through 13th centuries. In the 11th century, as the country was unified into the Pagan feudal-type empire, Hinayana Buddhism became the state religion of Burma and Pali its religious, business, and literary language (along with the Pyu, Mon, and Burmese languages). Burmese classical poetry flourished during the 14th through 16th centuries. The life of the contemporary society and the beauty of the native natural setting were reflected in the religious poems of Shin Mahatilavunta, Shin Rahthathara, Uttamagyaw, and Shin On Nyo. Nawade I, Natshinnaung, and Taunbila Sayado (16th and 17th centuries) perfected poetic forms, among them the yadu, mawgun, pyo, and egyin, New literary genres arose. The writers of the second half of the 18th century and the 19th century produced poetry, prose, and drama. Continuing the traditions of classical poetry (Leve-twethondara, U To), they turned to worldly subjects (Padethayaza) and wrote long works in prose (Kala). The translation of eight jetalas from Pali by U Obat is considered a model of 18th-century prose. Many translations from Pali, Sanskrit, and Hindi into Burmese were made in the 18th century. Literary works constructed on the model of the Sanskrit rama appeared. National drama achieved popularity from the late 18th century. Following Padethayaza, the poet and military leader Myawadi Wungyi U Sa wrote works based on the eposes of Thailand (which were in turn based on Indian eposes) and on popular legends, such as the drama about Prince Inaun. The subjects of most of the works of the classic dramatists (Kyin U, Pon Nya) were connected to the jatakas.

Translations and adaptations of the works of foreign authors appeared in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The novel—a new genre for Burmese literature—began to develop from the beginning of the 20th century. Among the major novelists were James Hla Gyaw, U Kyi, and U Lat. The birth of the modern Burmese novel is linked to the name of Pi Mo Nin (Evening Sun). Social themes are represented more fully in the novels of Mah Sweik (Our Mother). The literature of the first half of the 20th century reflected the striving of the Burmese people for freedom and their yearning for liberation from the fetters of the colonial yoke. Various literary movements and organizations arose, among them khitsan and naga ni. The outstanding writer Takin Kawdaw Hmain was one of the initiators of the patriotic movement. U Maun Gyi, Mya Myo Lwin, U Ba Kyhok, Thein Pe Myint, Zawgyi (U Thein Han), Minthuwun, Zeyya, U Yan Aung, and others laid bare various sides of the life of Burmese society. Propaganda for the ideas of Buddhism was given a prominent place in the works of most writers and social figures. After the formation of independent Burma (1948), prose writers and poets developed earlier literary forms in accordance with national traditions and created new ones. This was particularly evident in poetry (Dagon Taya, Daung Nwe Sweik, Nay Thway Ni, Tin Moe). Prose writers of different generations—Yangon Ba Sweik, Ma Ma Le, Tekkatho Phone Naing, Khin Hnin Yu, Bhamo Tin Aung, Aung Lin, and others—drew on the experience of world literature and on the best traditions of Burmese prose, perfecting literary forms and raising vital social and moral-ethical problems. There is a struggle of ideas going on in the literary life of Burma which reflects the complexity of the country’s domestic and foreign political life. Patriotism, the struggle for peace in the country, and the struggle for the creation of a new society have become the leading themes in literature. Since World War II, works by Russian and Soviet writers have been translated (Kok Kok Gyi, Mya Than).


Popov, G. P. Birmanskaia literatura. Moscow, 1967.
U Peik Maun Tin. Myianma sabeik thamain. Rangoon, 1955.


The earliest artistic monuments on Burmese territory (representations of animals and magical symbols in caves near Taunggyi) date from early in the Neolithic period. At the beginning of the Common Era, states and cities arose, including Peikthano-myo, near the present-day city of Taungdwingyi; Tarekithara, or Sri Ksetra, near Pyé; and Halingyi, near Shwebo. Many remains have been preserved: ruins of brick walls and of Buddhist religious buildings (small temples and stupas, called zedi); figures of Buddha made of stone (in temples) and of silver and gold (small sculptures from reliquaries); and ceramic votive tablets. The technique unique to East Asia of laying pointed arches and vaults arose at this time. From the 11th to the 13th century in the capital of the early feudal state of Pagan, numerous Buddhist temples and stupas of various types and dimensions, from miniatures to gigantic buildings, were built (the temples of Anandi, Gadawpalin, and Thatbyinnyu). The major types of temples were the centric (with four entrances and statues of the four Buddhas) and the axial (with one main entrance and one statue). These temples are characterized by a stepped roof crowned by a small tower of complicated design (“kun-taun”) and by an abundance of ornamental carvings on the light plaster of the portals, cornices, and pilasters. The stupa is basically bell-shaped. Sculpture is represented by strictly frontal figures of Buddha (of stone, wood, and other materials) and by stone and ceramic bas-reliefs on themes from the jatakas and from the life of Buddha. Huge statues up to 20 m in height are covered entirely with gilt or are brightly painted. The original iconography of Buddhist murals, flat and graphic in manner, is painted in tempera on plaster and preserved on the walls of many temples. During the period of feudal disintegration (14th to 18th century), capital cities that were square in plan (Pegu, Taungoo, Ava) with a regular layout and surrounded by walls and moats were built; temple complexes with huge stupas in the center and gigantic statues of Buddha under the open sky were created. In the centralized state of Konbaung (middle of 18th to the 19th century) city-building progressed; and gigantic wooden palace complexes in Mandalay (second half of 19th century) and monasteries complex in composition and abounding in filigree carving, murals, and gilding were built. The art of bronze casting and coinage flourished (statues of Buddha, bells). In the watercolor illustrations of paper books (replacing books written on palm leaves), mundane themes (scenes from court life, landscapes) began to appear side by side with scenes from the jatakas. Decorative and applied art was rich; carving in wood, ivory, and mother-of-pearl; weaving; distinctive lacquers with multicolored engraved drawings; and original coinage in silver. Predominant subjects included scenes from the life of the people and from Buddhist legends, plant designs, and representations of animals. During the colonial period (1886–1947) national art was suppressed. The planning of cities (Rangoon and others) and the types and forms of buildings repeated English models. At the same time, at the end of the 19th century realistic painting appeared (the portrait-painter U Kyon), and in the 1920’s U Ba Nyan and U Ba Zaw began to paint landscapes, portraits, and genre paintings in oils. In the 1930’s Burmese architects appeared (U Tin).

With the proclamation of independence (1948) the construction of contemporary-style public and industrial buildings developed, following the plans of Burmese and foreign architects, including Soviet architects (the Technological Institute in Rangoon). The building of standard designs of schools, hospitals, and two- to four-story apartment houses has expanded (architects U Maun Maun Gyi and others); microdistricts are coming into being (Kanbe and Thamain in Rangoon). In addition, memorial and traditional religious edifices are being erected. The traditional type of the popular wooden house, often on piles, with a veranda and overhanging gable roof, is also widespread. Headed by U BaGyi, the realistic tendency in painting—both easel and monumental painting (mosaic compositions and murals for public buildings)—plays a leading role. Contemporary progressive artists (the painters U San Win, U Khin Maung, and U Aun Kin; the sculptors U Lwin and U Han Tin) organized in 1964 the Society of Painters and Sculptors, which advocates the ideal of realism and of devotion to the present and to the lives of working people. Watercolor landscapes and book graphics (U Maun Gyo, U Aun Saw) are developing. In the realistic art of the 1960’s, the striving for expressive laconi-cism and ornamentation is apparent. The traditions of artistic crafts have been preserved.


Ozhegova, N. “Lakovaia miniatiura Birmy.” Iskusstvo, 1966, no. 12.
Mozheiko, I. 5000 khramov na beregu Iravadi. (A study of the Pagan state.) Moscow, 1967.
Ozhegov, S. S. Arkhitektura Birmy. Moscow, 1970.
“Perspective of Burma.” Atlantic Monthly (supplement). New York, 1958.

Burmese music is closely related to dance and theater. Its sources date back to ancient religious rituals which were accompanied by dances and music. Long before the consolidation of Buddhism in Burma, the heathen cult of the nats (spirits) was widespread. This cult was connected with a ritual ceremony which included dances and recitation accompanied by musical instruments. Burmese music achieved a high level of development during the period of the Pagan state (11th to 13th century). Portrayals of dance scenes are preserved in the wall drawings of temples. Inscriptions indicate that musicians and dancers were indispensable participants in various celebrations and ceremonies. Music and dance already existed during this period as independent art forms. In 1538 the popular type of Burmese orchestra appeared—the saing. It was made up of popular instruments, among them the putt-waing, or putt-saing (a circular drum—21 drums were hung on a hoop; they were arranged in order of pitch), kye-waing (a circular gong; 18 gongs were arranged in a circle and played upon with wooden drumsticks), hne (a bamboo oboe), linkwin and kekwin (large and small cymbals), a large family of various drums, bells, rattles, and pattala (xylophone; there are three types of pattala: wa, tan, chei). In 1837 the instruments that made up the orchestra were reconstructed and their sound was considerably improved. The saung (harp) with 13,14, or 16 strings made from twisted silk is one of the oldest national instruments. Famous masters of the saung in the 19th century were U Maun Gyi and his student U Maun Lat.

Music occupied an important place in Burmese theatrical productions, which contained musical and song-dance interludes. In the old palace theater, the orchestra was located behind the actors and played a musical introduction before each scene (during the acting, the orchestra rarely performed). The music in these performances was strictly regulated: it is exactly defined which part of the orchestra (consisting of from three to ten musicians) should accompany the recitative or a specific dance; the sequence of the musical accompaniment of the scenes is also predetermined.

In the middle of the 18th century, under the influence of Siamese culture, a new school was formed. This school absorbed the traditions of Burmese musical art and was enriched by the achievements of Siamese culture. In the 18th and 19th centuries great contributions to Burmese musical culture were made by the poet-composer Myawadi Wungyi U Sa, by Padethayaza, and by the poetess-composers Hlain-teik Khaun Tin and Ma Ma Le. There are several types of classical songs including the kyo, patpyo, bwe, yodaya, and bawle.

Contemporary popular music consists of ritual, festive, and peasant songs which are sung accompanied by the ponshi (a long drum). Classical songs have been performed in the 20th century by Daw Aun Kyi, Do Saw Mya, Ei Kyi, Daw Deiti Nyun, and others.

Processional musical art is advancing in present-day Burma. State schools for music and drama have been created in Rangoon and Mandalay for the study of classical Burmese and European forms. The Burma State Orchestra, directed by the conductor and composer U Han Pa, has been organized; this orchestra toured the USSR (1956) along with other masters of Burmese art.


Kontserty masterov iskusstv Birmy (collection). Moscow, 1956.

The sources of Burmese theater lie ir. religious and popular festivals. Mention of the first theatrical performances dates back to the 11th century. In the 15th century the mystery theater—nibhatkhin, performed by itinerant actors—developed. The art of China and India exerted an influence on Burmese theater. By the 18th century the court theater, with its performances in Pali and Sanskrit, was formed. At the emperor’s court, the nandwinza—palace drama—was performed. The work of Myawadi Wungyi U Sa, the poetess Kin Son, and the poet and translator U To (beginning of the 19th century) contributed to the development of the palace drama. Plays and separate scenes on themes from the Indian epic Ramayana were widespread. These performances were distinguished by their splendor and solemnity and by their sophisticated technique of mimic art. Music, singing, and dance occupy an important place in the performances of nibhatkhin and nandwinza. In the end of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century, a national theater was formed, which developed on the basis of national theatrical performances and the works of court playwrights. The dramas of U Kyin U (Mahaw-thada, Parpaheiri), U Pon Nya (Waythandaya), and others appeared. At the end of the 18th century a new dramatic genre arose—the pyazat (the best forms are preserved in contemporary Burmese theater), in which dance and music play little part. During the period of English rule, the theater was in decline. During the 1880’s and 1890’s the theater of improvisation became widespread in Burma. At the end of the 19th century, the first permanent theater was built in Rangoon. The actors-dancers U Po Sein, Aungbala, and Sein Kadon performed in this theater.

After the declaration of Burmese independence (1948) a new stage in the development of the Burmese theater began. Mobile theater troupes were created in all large cities; in the villages, popular amateur theaters were formed. One of the main characteristics of Burmese theater is the combination of elements of drama, music, and dance in one performance. Dance performances occupy an important place in Burmese theater. Burmese folk dance is distinguished by a distinct rhythm, with the dancer frequently accompanying himself on a musical instrument.

Burma has a puppet theater and private theater schools.


Maung Htin Aung. Burmese Drama. Oxford, 1956.
Sein, K., and J. A. Withey. The Great Po Sein. Bloomington-London [1966].

In 1914, U Awn Maun (“the father of Burmese cinematography”) founded the first film company in Burma, the Burma Film Company (Rangoon). In 1920 he made his first feature film Love and Alcohol, with the actors Nyi Bu, Ma Ya, and others. At the beginning of the 1930’s the sound films Money Can’t Be Bought, The Prince From Assam, and others were made. However, silent films dominated in film production until the beginning of the 1950’s. During World War II and the Japanese occupation, most film studios were destroyed, and film production ceased. It was only renewed in 1946. After the declaration of independence (1948) many films reflected the struggle of the people against the colonizers and called for national unity and solidarity. In 1955 the Council for Film Problems was created. A film studio for the making of documentary films was opened within the Department for Cinematography of the Ministry of Information. In 1952 the so-called Academic Prize was established with the aim of raising the artistic level of films. This prize is awarded annually for the best films. Over 400 movie theaters are in operation (1969) some of which have been nationalized (1968). Approximately 60 feature films are released annually.

Film personalities include U Tin Maung, U Thu Kha, U Kyi Kin, U Hla Myo, Myai Leik, Wa Win Swe, Myin Myin Kin, Gyi Gyi Teik, Nyun Win, Win U, Gyo Swe, and U Nyana.


Forward, 1968, vol. 6, no. 24.


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