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Ho Chi Minh

A committed Marxist and Vietnamese nationalist, Ho Chi Minh was never willing to compromise on dreams for a united, Communist Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh (Vietnamese "Hồ Chí Minh", Chinese 胡志明) (originally named Nguyễn Sinh Cung, 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.

He 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) and France from 1915 - 1923. His father was a Confucian scholar, and Ho himself received a strong Confucian upbringing. In France, in 1918, Ho Chi Minh tried to win independence from French colonial rule and was ignored. In 1919, he petitioned the powers at the Versailles peace talks for equal rights in Indochina. He soon helped form the Communist Party and spent much time in Moscow. He later moved to Hong Kong, where he founded the Indochinese Communist Party.

After adopting the name Ho Chi Minh, or "He Who Enlightens," he returned to Vietnam in 1941 and declared the nation's independence from France. He led the Viet Minh independence movement in 1941, directed 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. 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 invasion during the 1960s. Ho led a nearly continuous war against the French and, later, the American backers of South Vietnam until his death in 1969.

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 was renowned for his simple lifestyle, moderation and integrity. To this day he is often affectionately called "Uncle Ho" by his supporters.

See also: History of Vietnam