Ho Chi Minh

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Ho Chi Minh
Hồ Chí Minh holding a baby in 1946
President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam
In office
02 September 1945 – 02 September 1969
Preceded by Bảo Đại (as Emperor of Vietnam)
Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam
In office
02 September 1945 – 20 September 1955
Preceded by None (Position created)
Succeeded by Phạm Văn Đồng
General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam
In office
01 November 1956 – September 1960
Preceded by Trường Chinh
Succeeded by Lê Duẩn
Personal details
Born Nguyễn Sinh Cung

Hồ Chí Minh, born Nguyễn Sinh Cung, (May 19, 1890 - September 2, 1969) was the leader (Prime Minister from 1945-1955, and President from 1945-1969) of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (later the Socialist Republic of Vietnam).

Hồ Chí Minh is often called "the Vietnamese George Washington" by Communist Vietnamese, because he spent much of his life trying to get the French, who controlled Vietnam, to leave. There is a city named Ho Chi Minh City that honors him.

Biography[change | edit source]

Early life[change | edit source]

'Hồ Chí Minh', meaning 'Hồ (a common Vietnamese last name) with the will of light', was not his real name. He took this name around the time of the August Revolution in 1945. His name was Nguyễn Sinh Cung when he was born. At age ten, he changed his name to Nguyễn Tất Thành, according to Confucian tradition. He would later use many 'pseudonyms' (false names). Other than 'Hồ Chí Minh', his most famous name was probably Nguyễn Ái Quốc meaning 'Nguyễn (by far the most common Vietnamese last name) who loves his country'. Communist Vietnamese people commonly refer to him as Bác Hồ (Uncle Hồ).

Nguyễn studied in Paris from 1919-23. In those four years, he started following communism, and began to believe that Vietnam- then a French colony-should be independent. During this time he wrote a letter, which was ignored, to United States President Woodrow Wilson, asking for U.S. military aid to help overthrow the French colonial rulers. He joined the French Communist Party, and started visiting Moscow regularly, as a member of the Asian branch of the Comintern.

Creating an independent Vietnam (War with French)[change | edit source]

Hồ led a revolution against the French rulers of Vietnam from 1945-1954. After overthrowing the French, a Communist regime, supported by the Soviet Union and China, was set up in the northern half of the country, with himself leading the country as both President and Prime Minister. A non-Communist government, supported by the United States, was set up in the southern half of the country, because the United States did not want all Vietnam to be Communist. This was because the United States was then fighting the Cold War.

1946 appeal from Hồ Chi Minh to U.S. President Harry Truman, asking Truman for aid in fighting French.

Vietnam War (with the United States)[change | edit source]

When South Vietnam and America did not keep their promise to hold an election and unite the two halves into one country, Hồ led Vietnam into a military and political struggle to bring the rice fields of the South under his Communist rule. Two decades of war followed, killing millions of Vietnamese. The United States supported South Vietnam with military aid, while the Soviet Union (led by Nikita Krushchev and then Leonid Brezhnev) and People's Republic of China (led by Mao Zedong) continued to support North Vietnam's war effort.

In the end, North Vietnam won the war several years after Hồ Chí Minh died.

Death and legacy[change | edit source]

Suffering from diabetes and heart problems, Hồ Chí Minh died on the morning of September 2, 1969, of a heart attack.

In his will he said he wished to be cremated and have his ashes be buried in hills in the north, center, and south of Vietnam. After he died however, his followers embalmed his body and put it in a tomb, the mausoleum, where he is still worshipped today.

In 1976, in the style of the Soviet Union, the victorious Communist North renamed the capital of the non-Communist South, Saigon, to Ho Chi Minh City, in honour of their leader.