Childhood & Early Life
Ho Chi Minh was born as Nguyen Sinh Cung to Nguyen Sinh Sac. His father, Sinh Sac was a Confucian scholar and teacher who went on to become an imperial magistrate of a small district, Binh Khe but was dismissed from the same. Young Nyugen had three siblings - a sister and two brothers out of which one died in infancy.
Initially taught by his father, Nguyen’s first formal teacher was Vuong Thuc Do. Soon, Nyugen mastered the art of Chinese writing along with Vietnamese writing.
According to the Confucian tradition, his father gave him a new name, Nguyen Tat Thanh (accomplished), when he was ten years old.
During his early years, Nyugen enrolled himself at the lycee in Hue to attain French education. While in Hue, Nguyen supported anti-tax demonstration of poor peasants which threatened his studies.
Leaving school, Nyugen hoped to move abroad. His first stop was at the Duc Thanh School in Phan Thiet for about six months, after which he travelled to Sai Gon.
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Nyugen took up the job of a kitchen helper on the French steamer, Amirale de Latouche-Tr�ville. Upon reaching France in December 1911, he tried his luck to get admission at the French Colonial Administrative School but in vain. Disheartened, he decided to continue his travel and sustained his work in ships until 1917, visiting many countries during the period.
From 1912 to 1913, Nyugen put up in New York and Boston. Taking up odd jobs for a living, it was in the US that Nyugen first met with Korean nationalists who shaped much of his political outlook.
In between 1913 and 1919, Nyugen stayed in various cities across the United Kingdom, taking up menial jobs as a waiter, baker, pastry chef and so on.
It was during his stay in France from 1919 until 1923 that Nyugen took to politics seriously. His friend Marcel Cachin, comrade of the Socialist Party helped him in the process.
Joining the Vietnamese nationalist group Nguyen Ai Quoc, Nyugen fought for the civil rights of the Vietnamese people. They even took the matter to the Versailles Peace Talks, but without much success. The failure ignited in Nyugen the spirit to fight and in no time, he became one of the leading lights of the anti-colonial movement in Vietnam.
Nyugen developed his writing skills and began writing articles and short stories. He led the Vietnamese nationalist group and became the founding member of the Parti Communiste Fran�ais (FCP).
Nyugen left for Moscow in 1923 to get himself enrolled at the Communist University of the Toilers of the East. Meanwhile, to support himself, he took up a job at the Comintern. Following year, Nyugen took part in the Fifth Comintern Congress, post which he moved to Canton, China.
In 1925-26, Nyugen was deeply involved with organizing Youth Education Classes and lecturing young Vietnamese revolutionaries living in Canton at the Whampoa Military Academy.
In April 1927, Nyugen started his journey towards Southeast Asia, stopping over at various cities including Moscow, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Switzerland, and Italy, finally arriving at Bangkok, Thailand in July 1928.
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He also travelled to India and later Shanghai in 1929. In 1930, Nyugen organised a meeting of the representatives of the two Vietnamese communist parties in Hong Kong, in order to merge them into a unified organization, Communist Party of Vietnam.
For this, Nyugen was arrested in Hong Kong in 1931.The unrest caused from the action and French pressures forced the British to announce his false death in 1932. Following this, Nyugen was cautiously released in 1933.
He first moved to Milan, where he took up a job in a restaurant, after which he retreated to the Soviet Union. It was during this period that Nyugen lost his position in the Comintern and with this, his position amongst the Vietnamese comrades.
Upon gaining entry in China, Nyugen began serving as an advisor with the Chinese Communist armed forces. It was in 1940 that Nyugen changed his name to Ho Ch� Minh, meaning He Who Enlightens in Vietnamese.
Minh started a Viet Minh independence movement in 1941. With more than 10000 members, he achieved many successful military actions against the Vichy French and Japanese occupation of Vietnam during World War II.
In 1945, Minh made a deal with Archimedes Patti, an OSS agent. According to it, he agreed to provide intelligence to the allies in return for having a line of communication. As a result of this deal, members of the independence movement were trained by military officials of OSS.
In 1945, Minh was elected as the Chairman of the Provisional Government after the August Revolution. Utilizing the new powerful position, he issued a Proclamation of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
In 1946, when Ho Chi Minh was travelling outside Vietnam, his partymen imprisoned about 2500 non-communist nationalists, while several thousands were forced to flee. Thereafter, numerous leaders and people from rival political parties were put in jail or exiled, after a failed coup against the Vietminh government.
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With Vietminh taking the centre stage, the existence of rival political parties was banned and so was the local government. This led to the formation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
Democratic Republic of Vietnam
With the stepping down of Emperor Bao Dai on September 2, 1945, Minh read the Declaration of Independence of Vietnam. However, violence from rival parties and the French forces led to declaration of martial law from the British commander General Sir Douglas Gracey, which Viet Minh supporters replied to with a general strike.
Following the mass entry of 200, 000 Republic of China Army troops, Minh finally gave in to the demand for dissolution of the Communist Party and the demand for an election that would lead to coalition government.
The Chinese, however, soon walked back to China, as Minh signed an agreement with the French which allowed Vietnam to be recognized as an autonomous state in the Indochinese Federation and the French Union.
Collaborating with the French colonial forces, Vietminh suppressed all non-Communist parties but failed to secure a peace deal with France.
By bombarding Haiphong, the French forces made it very clear that they had no intention of giving Vietnam the status of an autonomous state. On 19 December 1946, Ho, declared war against the French, marking the beginning of the Indochina War.
The war that extended for several years and the Vietminh systematically destroyed all meaningful infrastructure. Finally, the two rivals agreed to negotiate but the terms laid out were unacceptable to both, which led to seven more years of war.
Meanwhile, the Soviet Union and China recognized Minh’s government. China even agreed to train Viet Minh leaders and provide them with supplies needed to win the war. With the help from China, Viet Minh was finally able to crush the French forces and emerge victorious.
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Presidency & Thereafter
Following the Geneva Accords, Ho Chi Minh’s Democratic Republic of Vietnam moved to Hanoi, where it formed the government of North Vietnam, thus successfully forming a communist-led single party state. Meanwhile, the anti-communist & pro-democracy forces regrouped in the South.
The division of Vietnam into North and South led to mass movement. Though the United States proposed a plan for the unification of the country and a single election for the whole of Vietnam, the proposal was duly rejected by the North Vietnamese.
Situation in North Vietnam worsened as people had to let go of their right to speak against the government. Any person who was found doing such was either imprisoned or executed.
Minh led government then introduced the ‘rent reduction’ and ‘land reform’ programs, which aimed at exterminating the class enemies of the government. The victims of the programs were either shot, or beheaded or plainly beaten to death. As many as 500,000 North Vietnamese reportedly lost their life under Minh’s government.
In 1959, Minh appointed Le Duan to serve as the acting party leader. The same year, North Vietnam invaded Laos. Though Minh no longer controlled power, he, nevertheless, remained a key figure in Vietnam all through.
Minh played an important role in negotiating the peace deal in 1963 with the South Vietnamese President, Diem. However, the move was of not much help. In 1964, North Vietnam faced greater danger from South Vietnam as the US sent in more and more troops to support South Vietnam in the war.
It was only in 1968 that the U.S and Vietnamese negotiators began to discuss the ways to end the war. However, the negotiations extended till 1969 as agreeing to a mutually beneficial deal became impossible. Meanwhile, Minh demanded his forces to continue the war in South until Vietnam was reunited.
Personal Life & Legacy
Ho Chi Minh tied the nuptial knot with a Chinese woman, Tang Tuyet Minh, on October 18, 1926. Though the unison was objected by most of his comrades, Minh nevertheless went forward with it. The couple stayed together until April 1927, after which Minh moved from China. Though both of them attempted to renew contact, they were never reunited.
Minh suffered from multiple health problems including diabetes, which prevented him from taking active part in politics.
He breathed his last on September 2, 1969 due to heart failure at his home in Hanoi. Though he wished to be cremated after his death, his body has been preserved and is on display in a mausoleum in Ba Dinh Square, Hanoi
Post his death, Minh was not replaced as the President. Instead, a collective leadership, known as the Politburo, comprising of several political and military leaders took over.
To pay tribute to Ho Chi Minh, Saigon, the former capital of South Vietnam, was renamed as Ho Chi Minh City on May 1, 1975. A museum by the name Ho Chi Minh Museum is present in Hanoi and depicts the life and works of this great revolutionary.
While his image dons the front of all Vietnam currency notes, his portrait and bust feature in most of the prominent public buildings of Vietnam. Additionally, a temple dedicated to him exists in Vinh Long since 1970.
The Vietnamese Communist Party has glorified the works of Ho Chi Minh to the extent that they pose him as an ‘immoral saint’.