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Text Box: Hồ Chí Minh 

Text Box: Hồ Chí Minh listen (help·info) (Chinese: 胡志明; May 19, 1890 – September 2, 1969)[1]) was a Vietnamese revolutionary and statesman, who later became Prime Minister (1946-1955) and President (1955-1969) of North Vietnam.

He was originally named Nguyễn Sinh Cung. He was also known as Nguyễn Tất Thành (阮必成: 'Nguyễn will accomplish'), Nguyễn Ái Quốc (阮愛國: 'Nguyễn the patriot'), Lư 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 was fluent in English, several dialects of Chinese, French, German and Russian besides his native Vietnamese.[2] Ho Chi Minh City was named after him in his honor. [edit]

Biography [edit]

Early life

Nguyễn Sinh Cung was born in Hoàng Trù Village (maternal homeland) and lived there in the earliest period of his life (1890-1895) and grew up in Kim Liên Village (paternal homeland), 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 Đồng and Vơ Nguyên Giáp. Hồ Chí Minh applied for a course at the French "Colonial Administrative School" immediately after he arrived in Marseille. However, his application was rejected. [edit]

Ho Chi Minh in America

It is believed that he even travelled to the United States, Boston first, then New York City, where he worked as a dishwasher in Chinatown. In the United States, he was astonished by the civil liberties enjoyed by immigrants, the type of liberties he was denied in his home country under the colonial rule. [edit]

Ho Chi Minh in France

In 1911, Hồ Chí Minh went to the South to Gia Dinh (Saigon) and joined a ship en route to Marseille, France as a cabin-boy. Hồ Chí Minh’s first time abroad was not easy, he 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 mundane life, and enjoyed Maurice Chevalier songs, which he knew by heart. [edit]

Ho Chi Minh in England

He lived in England in 1913-1917 where he trained as a pastry chef under the legendary French master, Escoffier, at the Carlton Hotel in the Haymarket, Westminster. There is a commemorative Blue Plaque on the building, which is now the 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. [edit]

Political education

Hồ Chí Minh embraced communism while living abroad in France from 1917-1923. 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 take out the French by any means possible in Vietnam, for a new nationalist movement and new government, but this idea was ignored. Ho Chi Minh soon helped to form the French Communist Party and spent all his time in Moscow. [edit]

Ho Chi Minh 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 1937.[citation needed] 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. [edit]

Independence movement

He returned to Vietnam in 1941 to lead the Việt Minh independence movement, conducting successful military actions against the Japanese occupation forces and later against the French bid to reoccupy the country (1946-1954). He adopted the name Hồ Chí Minh, a Sino-Vietnamese name with a common surname (Hồ ) and a given name meaning 'enlightened will' (Chí meaning 'will', and Minh meaning 'light') in August 1942 while sojourning in China. He was jailed for many months by Chiang Kai-shek's local authorities. After his release in 1943 he returned to Vietnam. After the August Revolution (1945) organized by 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 internationally. He petitioned American President Harry Truman to accept Vietnamese independence, but was rebuffed.

In 1945, His subordinates executed a number of 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, without him being aware, 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. [edit]

Birth of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam

It was on September 2, 1945 that he read the Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Việt Nam. Before this speech, both the new Vietnamese anthem (Tiên Quân Ca) written by Văn Cao and the American anthem (the Star-Spangled Banner) were played. Before the speech, he had tried unsuccessfully to acquire a copy of the American Declaration of Independence from the OSS. Unable to get one, he quoted it from memory as, "All people are created equal. They are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. Among these are the right to live, the right to be happy, and the right to be free".
During this period, the History Channel reports that a team of American paramedics rescued him from a certain death.
He 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 [9] . Mao's emissary to Moscow stated in August that China planned to train 60-70,000 Viet Minh in the near future. [10] China's crucial support to Ho enabled him to carry on the fight against the French.

In 1954, the important Battle of Điện Biên Phủ was fought between the French and Viet Minh, which convinced France of giving up its empire in Indochina. [edit]

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.

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. During this campaign, many deemed counter-revolutionary landlords were publicly humiliated and/or killed. Estimates vary between 800 imprisoned or killed [11] and 200,000[12] executed. 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-existant crimes was proportionately larger than in Mao's Chinese Land Reform. [13] President Hồ Chí Minh would later weep as he publicly apologized for the campaign.
Another controversial incident occured 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. [14]

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. [15][16] 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. [17]

In 1959 Ho's government began to back the Hanoi-controlled National Liberation Front in South Vietnam (via the Truong Son Trail), which escalated the fighting which had begun in 1957. [18] In late 1964 North Vietnamese combat troops were sent southwest into neutral Laos. [19]
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. [20] [edit]

On becoming 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. Former capital of South Vietnam, Saigon, was renamed Ho Chi Minh City on 1 May 1975.

For the West, he remains much of a dual 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 wrecked the country and established economic policies that left Vietnam poor and backward. They claimed 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 Vietnam. Many criticize the Việt Cộng, who were subordinate to him, for terrorism in the south, even though his direct knowledge of these exactions is still not clearly known by his biographers.

In 1975, the Students' Union of Wadham College, Oxford renamed a college quadrangle from the "JCR Quad" to the "Ho Chi Minh Quad", reflecting student sympathies following the end of the Vietnam War. [edit]

Death and legacy

Hồ Chí Minh died on the late evening of September 2, 1969, at his home in Hanoi at age 79 from multiple health problems. 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 world hero on his 100th birthday, but the Vietnamese exile community blocked this from happening.[citation needed]


    * "Nothing is more precious than independence and liberty."
    * "I only follow one party: the Vietnamese party."
    * "You can kill ten of our men for every one we kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose and we will win." (referring to France and America in their wars in Vietnam)
    * "It is better to sacrifice everything than to live in slavery!"
    * “The Vietnamese people deeply love independence, freedom and peace. But in the face of United States aggression they have risen up, united as one man."
    * "We have to win independence at any cost, even if the Truong Son mountains burn."
    * "In (Lenin's Theses on the National and Colonial Questions) there were political terms that were difficult to understand. But by reading them again and again finally I was able to grasp the essential part. What emotion, enthusiasm, enlightenment and confidence they communicated to me! I wept for joy. Sitting by myself in my room, I would shout as if I were addressing large crowds: "Dear martyr compatriots! This is what we need, this is our path to liberation!" Since then (the 1920s) I had entire confidence in Lenin, in the Third International!"
    * "When the prison doors are opened, the real dragon will fly out."
    * "It was patriotism, not communism, that inspired me."
    * "Remember, the storm is a good opportunity for the pine and the cypress to show their strength and their stability."

Credit: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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