Ho Chi Minh

Hồ Chí Minh
Ho Chi Minh
Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam
In office
1945 – 1955
President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam
In office
1955 – 1969
Born May 19, 1890
Nghệ An Province, Vietnam
Died September 2, 1969
Hanoi, Vietnam
Political party Vietnam Workers' Party

Hồ Chí Minh listen (Chu nho: 胡志明, May 19, 1890 – September 2, 1969) was a Vietnamese revolutionary and statesman, who later became Prime Minister (1946–1955) and President (1955–1969) of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

He was originally named Nguyễn Sinh Cung (阮生恭). He was also known as Nguyễn Tất Thành (阮必成: 'Nguyễn will accomplish'), Nguyễn Ái Quốc (阮愛國: 'Nguyễn the patriot'), Lý Thụy (李瑞) and Hồ Quang (among others), and is popularly called Bác Hồ ('Uncle Hồ') in Vietnam. The name Hồ Chí Minh means "he who enlightens." He is most famous for being the founder of the Viet Minh independence movement in 1941 and establishing communist control in part of Vietnam in the 1950s.

Ho Chi Minh spoke English, several dialects of Chinese, French, German and Russian besides his native Vietnamese.[1] Ho Chi Minh City was named after him.





Early life

Nguyễn Sinh Cung was born in Hoàng Trù Village (maternal hometown) and lived there from 1890 to 1895. He grew up in Kim Liên Village (paternal hometown), Nam Đàn District, Nghệ An Province, Vietnam. Following Confucian traditions, he received the name Nguyễn Tất Thành at age 10. He had three siblings, his sister Bạch Liên (or Nguyễn Thị Thanh) who worked as a clerk in the French Army, his brother Nguyễn Sinh Khiêm (or Nguyễn Tất Đạt), a geomancer and traditional herbalist and another brother (Nguyễn Sinh Nhuận) who died in his infancy.

His father, Nguyễn Sinh Sắc, was a Confucian scholar, and a teacher. He himself received a strong Confucian upbringing. He also received a modern secondary education at a French-style lycée in Huế, the alma mater of his later disciples, Phạm Văn Ðồng and Võ Nguyên Giáp. Hồ Chí Minh applied for a course at the French "Colonial Administrative School" immediately after he arrived in Marseille, France. However, his application was rejected.

In 1911, Hồ Chí Minh went to the South to Gia Dinh Ho Chi Minh City Saigon and joined a ship en route to Marseille as a cabin-boy. Hồ Chí Minh worked hard as a cleaner, waiter, cook's helper, and film developer. Regardless, he was very excited with what he learned from a totally different world each day. He often went to the public library, read newspapers and paid close attention to the current affairs and political issues. He also appreciated the French everyday life, and enjoyed Maurice Chevalier songs, which he knew by heart.


In the USA

It is believed that he even travelled to the United States, first arriving in New York in 1912 during a stop-over while working as an on-board cook on a ship. Ho claimed he later worked for a wealthy family in Brooklyn between 1917 and 1918, and during this time he may have heard Marcus Garvey speak in Harlem. It is believed that while in the United States Ho made contact with Korean nationalists, an experience that served to develop his political outlook.[2]


In England

Ho lived in Crouch End in Hornsey, north London, at various points between 1913 and 1919 where it is claimed he trained as a pastry chef under the legendary French master, Escoffier, at the Carlton Hotel in the Haymarket, Westminster, although there is no contemporary evidence to support this.[2] There is a commemorative Blue Plaque on the building, which is now New Zealand House. The city's fancy restaurants were beyond his means, but he indulged in one luxury — American cigarettes, preferably Camel or Lucky Strike brands.


Political education

Hồ Chí Minh embraced communism while living in France from ca. 1919-1923. Ho claimed to have arrived in Paris in 1917; however, the French police documented his arrival in the French capital from London in June 1919.[2] Following World War I, as Nguyễn Ái Quốc (Nguyen the Patriot), on behalf of the "Group of Vietnamese Patriots" he petitioned the great powers at the Versailles peace talks for equal rights in French Indochina but was ignored. He asked sitting U.S. President Woodrow Wilson for help to remove the French by any means possible in Vietnam, for a new nationalist movement and new government, but his request was ignored. Ho Chi Minh soon helped to form the French Communist Party and spent much of his time in Moscow. It was at this time that Nguyễn Ái Quốc became "Hồ Chí Minh", a Vietnamese name combining a common surname (Hồ) with a given name meaning 'enlightened will' (Chí meaning 'will', and Minh meaning 'light'). In other words he became "the one (he) who enlightens".


In China and the Soviet Union

In 1923 Ho moved to Guangzhou, China, where he married a Chinese communist cadre.[3] From 1925-26 he organised 'Youth Education Classes' and occasionally gave lectures at the Whampoa Military Academy on the revolutionary movement in Indochina. He stayed in Hong Kong as a representative of the Communist International. In June 1931, he was arrested there by British police and remained in prison until his release in 1933. He then made his way back to the Soviet Union, where he reportedly spent several years recovering from tuberculosis. In 1938, he returned to China and served as an adviser with Chinese Communist armed forces.


Independence movement

He returned to Vietnam in 1941 to lead the Việt Minh independence movement, conducting successful military actions against the French occupation forces and later against the French bid to reoccupy the country (1946-1954). At one point he was captured by the Japanese but escaped[citation needed], however he suffered under their torture[citation needed]. He was jailed for many months by Chiang Kai-shek's local authorities. After his release in 1943 he returned to Vietnam. In 1945 he was nursed back to health from malaria and dysentry by American doctors parachuted in by the OSS. After the August Revolution (1945) organized by the Việt Minh, he became Chairman of Provisional Government (Premier of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam), when he forced Emperor Bảo Đại to abdicate, but this government was not recognized by a single country. He petitioned American President Harry Truman to support Vietnamese independence, but was rebuffed due to French pressure on the U.S. and the fact that he was a Communist and thus considered aligned with Moscow.

In 1945, in an undeclared civil war the Viet Minh killed members of rival groups, such as the nationalists that were not part of the Viet Minh, including the leader of the Constitutional Party, the head of the Party for Independence, and Ngo Dinh Diem's brother, Ngo Dinh Khoi [4] . Purges and killings of Trotskyists, the rival anti-Stalinist communists, have also been documented [5]. During 1946, when Ho was out of the country, his subordinates imprisoned 25,000 non-communist nationalists and forced 6,000 others to flee [6]. Hundreds of political opponents were also killed in July. [7] All parties apart from the Viet Minh were banned and local governments purged [8] which ensured that there was little opposition to Hồ's regime later on.


Birth of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam

After having demanded the Emperor Bảo Đại's resignation, Ho Chi Minh on September 2, 1945 read the Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Việt Nam. In the midst of a spiral of violence between rival Vietnamese factions, the Britsh emissary, general Gracey, declared martial law leading to a confrontation between French and Vietnamese. On September 24, the Vietminh leaders declared a general strike[9].

During September a force of Chinese Nationalists -- som 200,000 strong -- arrived in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh made a deal with their general, Lu Han, in which the Communist party would be dissolved in return for permission to hold elections which would yield a coalition government.

When Chiang Kai-Shek instead traded Chinese influence in Vietnam for French concessions in Shanghai Ho Chi Minh signed an agreement with France which recognized Vietnam as an autonomous state in the Indochinese Federation and the French Union on March 6, 1946. But soon after, the agreement broke down. The purpose of the agreement on the Vietnamese side was to get the Chinese army to withdraw from northern Vietnam. Soon after the Chinese left, fighting broke out with the French. Hồ Chí Minh was almost captured by a group of French soldiers led by Jean-Etienne Valluy at Việt Bắc, but he was able to escape.

In January 1950 the Soviet Union recognized Ho's government and in February Ho went to Moscow to meet with Stalin and Mao. Ho was told by Stalin that China would be responsible for backing his Viet Minh [10]. Mao's emissary to Moscow stated in August that China planned to train 60-70,000 Viet Minh in the near future. [11] China's crucial support to Ho enabled him to carry on the fight against the French.

Journalist Bernard Fall tells a story: After fighting the French for several years, Ho began negotiating a truce. The French negotiators arrived at the appointed place, to find that it was a mud hut with a thatched roof. Inside was a long table with several chairs. They were surprised to discover in one corner of the room a silver ice bucket containing ice and a bottle of good Champagne, which indicated that Ho had hopes for the negotiations, not to mention good logistics: the nearest refrigerator was miles away. After the French presented their position, the talks reached a stalemate. The French had requested/demanded that the Vietnamese return to French custody a number of Japanese military officers who had been helping the Vietnamese armed forces, to stand trial trial for war crimes committed during World War II. Ho replied that the Japanese officers were allies and friends: he could not betray their trust. Then he walked out, to seven more years of war. (From Last Reflections on a War, Fall's last book, published posthumously.)

In 1954, the important Battle of Điện Biên Phủ was fought between the French and Viet Minh, which persuaded France to give up its empire in Indochina.


Becoming president

Hồ Chí Minh became president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) in 1955. North Vietnam operated as a single-party Communist-led state.

The Geneva accords, signed by all participants (but not signed by the US), of 1954-55 indicated that transitional North and South Vietnams would be reunited in 1956 when a national election would produce a single leader of Viet Nam. Polling by the US government, however, indicated that Ho Chi Minh would be overwhelmingly elected, with no other national leader coming close. With this in mind the Eisenhower administration, with John Foster Dulles as secretary of state, prevented the election and instead installed Ngo Diem Dinh as leader of South Vietnam. Diem, a catholic, had been living in a monestery in Chicago. This step effectively delayed the unification of the country and the eventual military triumph of the communists until April, 1975, some 21 years after the battle of Dien Bien Phu, and nearly 6 years after Ho Chi Minh's death.

From 1953 to 1956, the government of Hồ Chí Minh conducted the Land Reform Campaign due to pressure from China to mimic the Land Reform of Mao Zedong. In the first stage, tens of thousands of landowners were publicly denounced, with their land distributed to poor peasants. Of the identified 44,444 landlords, 3939 were tried and 1175 were executed. In the second phase a further 18,738 were "revealed" as "concealed landlords" (these "revelations" led to further 3,312 trials and 162 executions)[1]. Other sources place the death toll significantly higher, between 3,000 and 500,000. [2] Edwin Moise, a leftist historian on land reform, commented "There were valid reasons for the exaggeration of classism.... But this extreme view of the class nature of rural affairs sometimes went beyond the real interests of the revolution and it often went beyond the bounds of objective truth" and also implied that punishment for non-existent crimes was proportionately larger than in Mao's Chinese Land Reform. [12] President Hồ Chí Minh would later weep as he publicly apologized for the campaign.

Another controversial incident occurred on November 2, 1956 when villagers in Hồ's home province of Nghệ An revolted and were subsequently put down by the military. According to one estimate, 6,000 people were deported or executed. [13]

During the early years of Ho's government, 900,000 to 1 million Vietnamese, mostly Catholic, left for South Vietnam while 130,000, mostly Viet Minh personnel, went from South to North. [14] [15] This was partly due to claims by church officials that the Virgin Mary had moved South out of distaste for life under communism. Although this migration was allowed under the Geneva Agreement for 300 days, Canadian observers claimed that some were forced by North Vietnamese authorities to remain against their will. [16]

In 1959 Ho's government began to back the Hanoi-controlled National Liberation Front in South Vietnam (via the Ho Chi Minh Trail), which escalated the fighting that had begun in 1957. [17]. In late 1964 North Vietnamese combat troops were sent southwest into neutral Laos. [18]

During the mid to late 1960s, Ho permitted China to send 320,000 troops to North Vietnam, who helped build railways, roads, and airports, thereby freeing a similar number of North Vietnamese forces to go to the south. [19]


On becoming a cult hero

Hồ Chí Minh is the center of what his detractors see as a large personality cult in North Vietnam, though his supporters argue that this was charismatic authority. The former capital of South Vietnam, Saigon, was renamed Ho Chi Minh City on 1 May, 1975.

Authors such as Stanley Karnow and Jean Laconture have praised him as a modest leader. More recently, Bui Tin has disclosed some mysteries about Ho Chi Minh such as his using the pen name Tran Dan Tien to write a book to idolize himself [20]

For the West, he remains much of a complicated character: to his supporters Hồ Chí Minh is viewed positively as a committed nationalist who fought for a united Vietnamese state. To his detractors and some critics in the West he was an opportunistic communist who seized power, created an authoritarian government, plunged Vietnam into a war that ruined the country and established economic policies that left Vietnam poor. They claim that he mandated the invasion of South Vietnam that resulted in the deaths of over a million of its citizens. Many more, as many as two million, fled South Vietnam after the unification of the country.


Demise and legacy

Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, Hanoi
Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, Hanoi
Ho Chi Minh statue
Ho Chi Minh statue

Hồ Chí Minh died on the morning of September 2, 1969, at his home in Hanoi at age 79 from heart failure. Many across the country tearfully mourned his death. Santiago Álvarez's 1969 documentary film 'Seventy-Nine Spring Times Of Ho Chi Minh' (much of which was based on found footage) documents some of this, with powerful scenes depicting crying school children and weeping mourners, for example. His death day was initially reported to be September 3[21]. The death day was actually September 2, but was changed since it coincided with the National Day as celebrated in Vietnam. Recently the government changed his official death day to September 2[22][23]. His embalmed body was put on display in a granite mausoleum modeled after Lenin's Tomb in Moscow. This was consistent with other Communist leaders who have been similarly displayed before and since, including Mao Zedong, Kim Il-Sung, and for a time, Josef Stalin, but the "honor" violated Hồ's last wishes. He wished to be cremated and his ashes buried in urns on three Vietnamese hilltops, each in one of the three main regions of Vietnam (North, Central and South). He wrote, "Not only is cremation good from the point of view of hygiene, but it also saves farmland."

In Vietnam today, he is elevated by the Communist government to an almost cult-like status even though the government has abandoned most of his economic policies. He is still referred to as "Uncle Hồ" in Vietnam. Hồ Chí Minh appears on the Vietnamese currency, and his image is featured prominently in many of Vietnam's public spaces. UNESCO had planned to officially recognize him as a "great man of culture" on his 100th birthday[24], but the Vietnamese exile community blocked this from happening[25].





  1. The Prison Diary of Hồ Chí Minh (Introduction by Harrison E. Salisbury)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Sophie Quinn-Judge, Ho Chi Minh: The Missing Years pp. 20-21, 25
  3. Doc Ngang Dong Nam A, no. 11, 2001
  4. Joseph Buttinnger, Vietnam: A Dragon Embattled, vol. 1. (New York: Praeger, 1967)
  5. See: The Black Book of Communism
  6. Cecil B. Currey, Victory At Any Cost (Washington: Brassey's, 1997), p. 126
  7. Spencer Tucker, Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: a political, social, and military history (vol. 2), 1998
  8. John Colvin, Giap: the Volcano under the Snow (New York: Soho Press, 1996), p.51
  9. Stanley Karnow, Vietnam a History
  10. Luo Guibo, pp. 233-6
  11. Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "Chronology," p. 45.
  12. Edwin E. Moise, Land Reform in China and North Vietnam: Consolidating the Revolution at the Village Level (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983) pp. 5, 221, 274.
  13. Bernard Fall, The Two Vietnams (New York: Praeger, 1963) pp. 155-57
  14. Pentagon Papers: http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pentagon/pent11.htm
  15. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, State of the World's Refugees, Chapter 4, "Flight from Indochina".
  16. Thakur, p. 204
  17. Lind, 1999
  18. Davidson, Vietnam at War: the history, 1946–1975, 1988
  19. Chen Jian, "China's Involvement in the Vietnam Conflict, 1964-69," China Quarterly, No. 142 (June 1995), pp. 366–69.
  20. Bui Tin, "Mat That" (The True Face), Turpin Press, Paris 1994
  21. http://www.cpv.org.vn/leader_e.asp?topic=14&subtopic=99&leader_topic=39
  22. http://www.cpv.org.vn/leader.asp?topic=3&subtopic=91
  23. http://www.vietnam.gov.vn/portal/page?_pageid=33,173168&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL
  24. UNESCO, Records of the General Conference, 20 October to 20 November 1987
  25. English {{{eng}}}
    Quốc ngữ {{{qn}}}
    Hán tự {{{ht}}}
    Bùi Tín,"UNESCO Không Hề Tổ Chức Sinh Nhật Hồ Chí Minh" (UNESCO never celebrated Ho Chi Minh's birthday), August 15, 2005. Vietnam News Network.

Further reading


External links

Retrieved from "http://localhost../../../art/a/k/e.html"

This text comes from Wikipedia the free encyclopedia. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. For a complete list of contributors for a given article, visit the corresponding entry on the English Wikipedia and click on "History" . For more details about the license of an image, visit the corresponding entry on the English Wikipedia and click on the picture.