Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh

The father of modern Vietnam spent most of his early adult life travelling before returning home to lead the independence movement


Ho chi minh_L
Illustration: Stephen Case


Quick Facts

Profession: Politician, independence leader

Famous for: establishing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in North Vietnam

Born: May 19,1890, Haong Tru Village in northern-central Vietnam

Died: September 2, 1969, Hanoi

Nickname: Uncle Ho

Married to: Tang Tuyet Minh (Zeng Xuemin)


"You will kill 10 of our men and we will kill one of yours, and in the end it will be you who tire of it"

The Early Years

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Ho Chi Minh was born Nguyen Sinh Cung in the days when much of Vietnam was under French rule. His father was a teacher. Ho had an older sister and an older brother. His mother died when he was 10 giving birth to another boy who died in infancy.

Ho was opposed to Vietnam's French colonial masters from a very young age. He was probably influenced by his father, who introduced him to revolutionary leaders when he was a boy.

As a young man, Ho went to the National Academy in Hue, central Vietnam. But he was forced to leave his studies after taking part in protests against the French. This was the start a long period of traveling abroad.

Ho's travels began in 1909, when he went to Saigon in the south of Vietnam. At first, he worked as a teacher. But in 1911 he signed up with a French shipping company as a cook. He sailed around the world for two years, and worked hard at learning foreign languages. Ho would eventually learn to speak English, French, Russian, Chinese and Thai.

Life abroad

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In 1914, Ho lived in New York and Boston. But thefollowing year, he moved to London. He worked odd jobs, often in kitchens. At one point he was a pastry chef at a famous London hotel.

By 1917, Ho was in Paris. T here he became increasingly interested in Communism. He was a founding member of the French Communist Party. Ho's involvement with the Communist movement took him to Moscow, in the former Soviet Union, in 1923. He studied there for two years and was then sent to China. His job in China was to help set up a Communist movement. He married Zeng Xuemin, a Chinese woman in Guangzhou. But when Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist government turned against the Communist movement in 1927, Ho was once again wandering the world. He travelled to Moscow and then to Paris, before returning to Asia. Ho spent a year and a half in Thailand. By 1930, he was back in China. But in 1931, he was arrested in Hong Kong. When the British government released him two years later, he returned to Europe.

The Communist revolution in China brought him back. He worked as an adviser for the Chinese Communist Party, which was fighting Chiang's Nationalist forces. In 1941, he was ready to return to his homeland and take over the independence movement.

Struggle for independence

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Ho was 50 years old when he crossed the from China back into Vietnam. He had been away from home for 31 years. By 1945, he had the founding of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. The stage was set for war with France, which wanted its colony back.

The Viet Minh troops of North Vietnam fought the French for nine years, before the French gave up on taking back North Vietnam. The country was in half. The French controlled the South and Ho Chi Minh and his government controlled the North.

In 1954, Ho became president of the . His government would be at war - first with the French, then with the US from 1965 - until his death in 1969. Ho did not live to see the of Saigon in 1975, but he is remembered in the city's modern name - Ho Chi Minh City.

True or false?

To test your memory, try answering without referring to the text. If you can't remember the details, read the piece again.

1 Ho Chi Minh was born in Hanoi.
2 Ho Chi Minh became involved in Communism in France.
3 Ho Chi Minh returned to Vietnam after 31 years away.
4 Ho Chi Minh was prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.



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