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Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh was a committed Nationalist and Vietnamese Communist, who fought for a united Vietnamese state.
Ho Chi Minh was a committed Nationalist and Vietnamese Communist, who fought for a united Vietnamese state.

Ho Chi Minh (Vietnamese "Hồ Chí Minh", Chinese 胡志明) (originally named Nguyen Ai Quoc, and known as "Bác Hồ" (Uncle Ho) in Vietnam) (May 19, 1890 - September 3, 1969) was a Vietnamese revolutionary, statesman, Prime Minister (1954) and President (1954 - 1969) of North Vietnam.



Ho received the name Nguyễn Tất Thành at age 10. Ho embraced Communism while living abroad in England (where he trained as a pastry chef under Escoffier) as well as France from 1915 - 1923. His father, Nguyễn Sinh Sắc, was a Confucian scholar, and Ho himself received a strong Confucian upbringing. He also received a modern secondary education at a French-style Lycee in Hue, the same alma mater of his later disciples, Pham Van Dong and Vo Nguyen Giap. Ho traveled to Paris in 1917. In 1919, he petitioned the great powers at the Versailles peace talks for equal rights in Indochina but was ignored. He soon helped form the French Communist Party and spent much time in Moscow. He later moved to Hong Kong, where he founded the Vietnamese Communist Party.

After adopting the name Ho Chi Minh, or "He Who Enlightens," he returned to Vietnam in 1941 to lead the Viet Minh independence movement , conducting successful military actions against the Japanese occupation forces and later against the French bid to reoccupy the country (1946-1954), and became President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) in 1954 (he had declared himself President on March 2, 1946 but this was not recognised internationally). 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 that compromise did not prevent the war that begun that December between Ho's forces and the French who tried to re-establish their colonial rule in the country. Ho was a moderate within the Communist Party, and steadily lost influence to militant radicals. He was a leading force in trying to re-unite North Vietnam with South Vietnam through infiltration and insurrection during the 1960s. Ho led the war against the French (1946-1954) and, later, the United States until his death.

During his presidency, Ho was the center of a large personality cult, which increased in force after his death. In 1975 the city Saigon (Sàig̣n) was renamed Ho Chi Minh City, after him.

Ho died on September 2, 1969 at age 79. His embalmed body was put on display in a granite mausoleum modeled on 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 Ho'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."


  • "Nothing is more precious than Independence and Liberty."
  • "You can kill ten of my men for every one I kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose and I will win."
  • "It is better to sacrifice everything than to live in slavery"
  • "If the tiger does not stop fighting the elephant, the elephant will die of exhaustion" (referring to Vietnam War)

Further reading

  • Bernard B. Fall, ed., 1967. Ho Chi Minh on Revolution and War, Selected Writings 1920-1966. New American Library.
  • Francis Fitzgerald. 1972. Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and Americans in Vietnam. Little, Brown and Company.
  • William J. Duiker. 2000. Ho Chi Minh: A Life. Theia.
  • N. Khac Huyen. 1971. Vision Accomplished? The Enigma of Ho Chi Minh. The Macmillan Company.

External Links

  • Facts About Ho Chi Minh by his former Colonel Bui Tin
  • Ho Chi Minh Biography From Spartacus Educational

Last updated: 02-02-2005 08:46:25
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55