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The middle portion centers on the Irrawaddy River, with a large delta area at its mouth and the area above the delta featuring floodplains.
Most of the population and agricultural lands are found along the Irrawaddy, which is navigable for about one-thousand miles.
However, the Mon remained independent until 1539 and the Arakanese until 1784, while most of the upland territory occupied by the Shan was outside their control or only loosely under Burmese domination.
The capital was moved to Ava during the reign of King Tha-lun (1629–1648).
The promotion of nationalist sentiments through the media, public events, and the display of related images is especially marked on holidays.
Among architectural sites with national symbolism, two of the most important are the archaeological site of the old capital of Pagan and Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon. The earliest civilizations associated with what is now Burma were the Mon (also called Taliang) in the south and the Pyu in central Burma which flourished during the first half of the first millennium.
Efforts to create a broadly shared sense of national identity have been only partly successful because of the regime's lack of legitimacy and tendency to rely on coercion and threats to secure the allegiance of non-Burmese groups.
The Burmese live primarily in the central lowlands, while the other ethnic groups live mainly in the highlands.
Closely related Southern Burmish languages include Arakanese, Intha, and Taungyo (or Tavoyan). It is spoken as a second language by most educated members of other ethnic groups, but some of those groups have little contact with the national language.
Many educated urban residents speak English as a second language, but English is not widely spoken among the population as a whole.
Burmese migrants were sent to the east to serve as a barrier against the Shan.
Efforts at expansion beyond the lowland area met with little success.
In the late 1200s, Pagan declined and the Burmese lost control over much of the territory.