Yangon is the second most recent capital of Burma; in 2006 the administrative capital was moved from Yangon to Naypyidaw. However, with a population of over four million, Yangon continues to be the Burma’s largest city and its most important commercial center. The population is quite diverse, with Bamar (ethnic Burmese), Indians/South Asians, Chinese and others living there, and the city is home to more than 20 universities and colleges.
Yangon, also known as Rangoon (“end of strife”) was founded as the small fishing village of Dagon in the early 11th century; centered around the spectacular Shwedagon Pagoda. The city was seized by the British in the Second Anglo–Burmese War of 1852 and set about transforming it into the commercial and political hub of British Burma. Though many colonial-era buildings were demolished to make way for modern development, there are still a number of colonial-era buildings, and there is now a Yangon City Heritage List whose purpose is to preserve the city’s historic places. Downtown Yangon is known for its fin-de-siècle architecture but there is also a modern skyline. Many of the beautiful parks left over from the colonial days are still there and have remained popular with locals and visitors alike.
After World War I, Yangon became the center of the Burmese independence movement, and three nationwide strikes against the British Empire all began there. Yangon became the capital of the Union of Burma in January of 1948 when the country gained its independence from British rule.