Hồ Chí Minh (/ˈhoʊ ˈtʃiː ˈmɪn/; Vietnamese: [hò tɕǐ mīɲ] ( listen), Saigon: [hò tɕǐ mɨ̄n] ( listen); 19 May 1890 – 2 September 1969; Chữ nôm: 胡志明), born Nguyễn Sinh Cung, also known as Nguyễn Tất Thành and Nguyễn Ái Quốc, was a Vietnamese Communist revolutionary leader who was prime minister (1945–55) and president (1945–69) of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). He was a key figure in the foundation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945, as well as the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and the Việt Cộng (NLF or VC) during the Vietnam War.
He led the Việt Minh independence movement from 1941 onward, establishing the Communist-ruled Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945 and defeating the French Union in 1954 at the battle of Điện Biên Phủ. He officially stepped down from power in 1965 due to health problems, but remained a highly visible figurehead and inspiration for those Vietnamese fighting for his cause—a united, communist Vietnam—until his death. After the war, Saigon, the former capital of the Republic of Vietnam, was renamed Hồ Chí Minh City.
Ho Chi Minh was born Nguyễn Sinh Cung (as appeared in a letter from the director of Collège Quốc học, dated August 7, 1908), in 1890 in the village of Hoàng Trù (the name of the local temple near Làng Sen), his mother's village. From 1895, he grew up in his father Nguyễn Sinh Sắc (Nguyễn Sinh Huy)'s village of Làng Sen, Kim Liên, Nam Đàn, Nghệ An Province. He had three siblings: his sister Bạch Liên (or Nguyễn Thị Thanh), a clerk in the French Army; his brother Nguyễn Sinh Khiêm (or Nguyễn Tất Đạt), a geomancer and traditional herbalist; and another brother (Nguyễn Sinh Nhuận) who died in his infancy. As a young child, Cung studied with his father before more formal classes with a scholar named Vuong Thuc Do. Cung quickly mastered Chinese writing, a prerequisite for any serious study of Confucianism, while honing his colloquial Vietnamese writing.:21 In addition to his studious endeavors, he was fond of adventure, and loved to fly kites and go fishing.:21 Following Confucian tradition, at the age of 10, his father gave him a new name: Nguyễn Tất Thành ("Nguyễn the Accomplished").
Thành's father was a Confucian scholar and teacher, and later an imperial magistrate in the small remote district of Binh Khe (Qui Nhơn). He was demoted for abuse of power after an influential local figure died several days after having received 102 strokes of the cane as punishment for an infraction.:21Thành's father was eligible to serve in the imperial bureaucracy but refused because it meant serving the French. This exposed Thành to rebellion at a young age and seemed to be the norm for the province where Thành came of age. The province was known for its resistance to foreign rule. In deference to his father, Thành received a French education, attended lycée in Huế, the alma mater of his later disciples, Phạm Văn Đồng and Võ Nguyên Giáp and his later enemy, Ngô Đình Diệm.
Previously, it was believed that Thành was involved in an anti-slavery (anti-corvée) demonstration of poor peasants in Huế in May 1908, which endangered his student status at Collège Quốc học. However, a document from the Centre des archives d'Outre-mer in France shows that he was admitted to Collège Quốc học on August 8, 1908, which was several months after the anti-corvée demonstration (April 9–13, 1908). The exaggeration of revolutionary credentials was common among Vietnamese communist leaders, as shown in Tôn Đức Thắng's falsified participation in the 1919 Black Sea revolt. Later in life, Hồ would claim the 1908 revolt had been the moment when his revolutionary outlook emerged, but his application to the French Colonial Administrative School in 1911 undermines this version of events. He chose to leave school in order to find a chance to go abroad. Because his father had been dismissed, he no longer had any hope for a governmental scholarship and went southward, taking a position at Dục Thanh school in Phan Thiết for about six months, then traveled to Saigon.
Thành worked as a kitchen helper on a French steamer, the Amirale de Latouche-Tréville, while using the alias "Văn Ba". The steamer departed on 5 June 1911 and arrived in Marseille, France on July 5, 1911. The ship then left for Le Havre and Dunkirk, returning to Marseille in mid-September. There he applied for the French Colonial Administrative School but his application was rejected. Instead, he decided to begin traveling the world by working on ships and visited many countries from 1911 to 1917.
In 1912, while working as the cook's helper on a ship, Thành traveled to the United States. From 1912–13, he may have lived in New York City (Harlem) and Boston, where he claimed to have worked as a baker at the Parker House Hotel. The only evidence that Thành was in the United States is a letter to French colonial administrators dated December 15, 1912 and postmarked New York City (but he gave as his address Poste Restante in Le Havre and stated that he was a sailor) :20 and a postcard to Phan Chu Trinh in Paris where he mentioned working at the Parker House Hotel. Inquiries to the Parker House management revealed no records of his ever having worked there.:51 Among a series of menial jobs, he claimed to have worked for a wealthy family in Brooklyn between 1917–18, and for General Motors as a line manager.:46 It is believed that while in the United States, he made contact with Korean nationalists, an experience that developed his political outlook, but Sophie Quinn-Judge admits that this is "in the realm of conjecture".:20
At various points between 1913 and 1919, Thành claimed to have lived in West Ealing, and later in Crouch End, Hornsey. He reportedly worked as either a chef or dish washer [reports vary] at the Drayton Court Hotel in West Ealing. It is claimed that he trained as a pastry chef under Auguste Escoffier at the Carlton Hotel in the Haymarket, Westminster, but there is no evidence to support this.:25  However, the wall of New Zealand House, home of the New Zealand High Commission, which now stands on the site of the Carlton Hotel, displays a blue plaque, stating that Hồ Chí Minh worked there in 1913. Thành was also employed as a pastry boy on the Newhaven–Dieppe ferry route in 1913.
From 1919–23, while living in France, Thành began to show an interest in politics, being influenced by his friend and Socialist Party of France comrade Marcel Cachin. Thành claimed to have arrived in Paris from London in 1917, but the French police only had documents recording his arrival in June 1919. He joined a group of Vietnamese nationalists in Paris whose leaders were Phan Chu Trinh, Phan Văn Trường, and Nguyễn Thế Truyền. They had been publishing newspaper articles advocating for Vietnamese independence under the pseudonym Nguyễn Ái Quốc ("Nguyễn the Patriot") prior to the arrival of Nguyễn Tất Thành in Paris in 1919. Following World War I, the group petitioned for recognition of the civil rights of the Vietnamese people in French Indochina to the Western powers at the Versailles peace talks, but was ignored. Citing the principle of self-determination outlined prior to the peace accords, they requested the allied powers to end French colonial rule of Vietnam and ensure the formation of an independent government. Prior to the conference, the group sent their letter to allied leaders, including Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. They were unable to obtain consideration at Versailles, but the episode would later help establish Nguyễn Ái Quốc as a symbol of the anti-colonial movement at home in Vietnam. Since Nguyễn Tất Thành was the public face behind the publication of the document (although it was written by Phan Văn Trường), he soon became known as Nguyễn Ái Quốc and first used the name in September during an interview with a Chinese newspaper correspondent. Many authors have speculated that 1919 was a lost "Wilsonian moment" when the future Hồ Chí Minh could have adopted a pro-American and less radical position if only President Wilson had received him. However, the available evidence shows that at the time of the Versailles Conference he was committed to a Socialist program. While the conference was ongoing, Nguyễn Ái Quốc was already delivering speeches on the prospects of Bolshevism in Asia and was attempting to persuade French Socialists to join Vladimir Lenin's Third Communist International.
In December 1920, Quốc officially became a representative to the Congress of Tours of the Socialist Party of France, voted for the Third International and was a founding member of the Parti Communiste Français (FCP). Taking a position in the Colonial Committee of the PCF, he tried to draw his comrades' attention towards people in French colonies including Indochina, but his efforts were often unsuccessful. During this period he began to write journal articles and short stories as well as running his Vietnamese nationalist group. In May 1922, Quốc wrote an article for a French magazine criticizing the use of English words by French sportswriters.:21 The article implored Prime Minister Raymond Poincaré to outlaw such Franglais as le manager, le round and le knock-out. While living in Paris, he reportedly had a relationship with a dressmaker named Marie Brière.
In 1923, Quốc left Paris for Moscow carrying a passport with the name Chen Vang, a Chinese merchant,:86 where he was employed by the Comintern, studied at the Communist University of the Toilers of the East,:92 and participated in the Fifth Comintern Congress in June 1924, before arriving in Canton (present-day Guangzhou), China, in November 1924 using the name Ly Thuy.
In 1925–26, Quốc organized "Youth Education Classes" and occasionally gave socialist lectures to Vietnamese revolutionary young people living in Canton at the Whampoa Military Academy. These young people would become the seeds of a new revolutionary, pro-communist movement in Vietnam several years later. According to Duiker, he lived with and married a Chinese woman, Zeng Xueming (Tăng Tuyết Minh), on 18 October 1926. When his comrades objected to the match, he told them: "I will get married despite your disapproval because I need a woman to teach me the language and keep house." She was 21 and he was 36.They married in the same place where Zhou Enlai had married earlier, and then lived in the residence of a Comintern agent, Mikhail Borodin.
Hoàng Văn Chí argued that in June 1925, Hồ betrayed Phan Bội Châu, the famous leader of a rival revolutionary faction and his father's old friend, to French Secret Service agents in Shanghai for 100,000 piastres. A source states that Hồ later claimed he did it because he expected Châu's trial to stir up anti-French sentiment, and because he needed the money to establish a communist organization. In Ho Chi Minh: A Life, William Duiker considered but rejected this hypothesis.:126–128 Other sources claim that Nguyễn Thượng Hiền was responsible for Chau's capture. Chau, sentenced to lifetime house arrest, never denounced Quốc.
Chiang Kai-shek's 1927 anti-communist coup triggered a new era of exile for Quốc. He left Canton again in April 1927 and returned to Moscow, spending some of the summer of 1927 recuperating from tuberculosis in the Crimea, before returning to Paris once more in November. He then returned to Asia by way of Brussels, Berlin, Switzerland, and Italy, where he sailed to Bangkok, Thailand, arriving in July 1928. "Although we have been separated for almost a year, our feelings for each other do not have to be said in order to be felt", he reassured Minh in an intercepted letter. In this period, he served as a senior agent undertaking Comintern activities in Southeast Asia.
Quốc remained in Thailand, staying in the Thai village of Nachok, :44 and xiii until late 1929 when he moved on to India, then Shanghai. In early 1930, in Hong Kong, he chaired a meeting with representatives from two Vietnamese communist parties in order to merge them into a unified organization, Communist Party of Vietnam. In June 1931, he was arrested in Hong Kong. To reduce French pressure for extradition, it was (falsely) announced in 1932 that Quốc had died.: 57–58 The British quietly released him in January 1933. He moved to the Soviet Union and in Moscow studied and taught at the Lenin Institute. During those years he was also recovering from tuberculosis. It is said that in this period he lost his positions in the Comintern because of a concern that he had betrayed the organization. His influence among his Vietnamese comrades faded significantly.
In 1938, Quốc was allowed to return to China and served as an advisor to the Chinese Communist armed forces, which later forced China's government into exile on Taiwan.Around 1940, Quốc began regularly using the name "Hồ Chí Minh", a Vietnamese name combining a common Vietnamese surname (Hồ, 胡) with a given name meaning "He Who has been enlightened" (from Sino-Vietnamese 志 明: Chí meaning 'will' (or spirit) and Minh meaning "bright").:248–49
In 1941, Ho returned to Vietnam to lead the Viet Minh independence movement. The Japanese occupation of Indochina that year, the first step toward invasion of the rest of Southeast Asia, created an opportunity for patriotic Vietnamese. The "men in black" were a 10,000 member guerrilla force that operated with the Viet Minh. He oversaw many successful military actions against the Vichy French and Japanese occupation of Vietnam during World War II, supported closely but clandestinely by the United States Office of Strategic Services, and later against the French bid to reoccupy the country (1946–54). He was jailed in China by Chiang Kai-shek's local authorities before being rescued by Chinese Communists.:198 Following his release in 1943, he returned to Vietnam.
In April 1945, Ho met with the OSS agent Archimedes Patti and offered to provide intelligence to the allies provided that he could have "a line of communication with the allies." The OSS agreed to this and later sent a military team of OSS members to train Ho's men and Ho himself was treated for malaria and dysentery by an OSS doctor.
Following the August Revolution (1945) organized by the Viet Minh, Ho became Chairman of the Provisional Government (Premier of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam) and issued a Proclamation of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Although he convinced Emperor Bảo Đại to abdicate, his government was not recognized by any country. He repeatedly petitioned American President Harry S. Truman for support for Vietnamese independence, citing the Atlantic Charter, but Truman never responded.
Several sources relate how, during a power struggle in 1945, the Viet Minh killed members of rival groups, such as the leader of the Constitutional Party, Bui Quang Chieu, the head of the Party for Independence, and Ngo Dinh Diem's brother, Ngo Dinh Khoi. Purges and killings of Trotskyists were also documented in The Black Book of Communism. Ho, when asked by a reporter about the murder of Ta Thu Thau, a leading Trotskyist and personal friend, answered matter-of-factly, "Anyone who does not follow the line determined by me will be smashed."
In 1946, future Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and Ho became acquainted when they stayed at the same hotel in Paris. Ho offered Ben-Gurion a Jewish home-in-exile in Vietnam. Ben-Gurion declined, telling Ho: "I am certain we shall be able to establish a Jewish Government in Palestine."
In 1946, when Ho traveled outside of the country, his subordinates imprisoned 2,500 non-communist nationalists and forced 6,000 others to flee. Hundreds of political opponents were jailed or exiled in July 1946, notably members of the National Party of Vietnam and the Dai Viet National Party, after a failed attempt to raise a coup against the Vietminh government. All rival political parties were hereafter banned and local governments were purged to minimize opposition later on. However, it was noted that the Democratic Republic of Vietnam's first Congress had over two-third of its members come from non-Viet Minh political factions, some without election. NPV party leader Nguyễn Hải Thần was named Vice President. They also held four out of ten ministerial positions.
On 2 September 1945, following Emperor Bảo Đại's abdication, Ho read the Declaration of Independence of Vietnam, under the name of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. In Saigon, with violence between rival Vietnamese factions and French forces increasing, the British commander, General Sir Douglas Gracey, declared martial law. On 24 September, the Viet Minh leaders responded with a call for a general strike.
In September 1945, a force of 200,000 Republic of China Army troops arrived in Hanoi to accept the surrender of the Japanese occupiers in northern Indochina. Ho made a compromise with their general, Lu Han, to dissolve the Communist Party and to hold an election which would yield a coalition government. When Chiang forced the French to give the French concessions in Shanghai back to China in exchange for withdrawing from northern Indochina, Ho had no choice but to sign an agreement with France on 6 March 1946, in which Vietnam would be recognized as an autonomous state in the Indochinese Federation and the French Union. The agreement soon broke down. The purpose of the agreement, for both the French and Vietminh, was for Chiang's army to leave North Vietnam. Fighting broke out in the North soon after the Chinese left.
Historian Professor Liam Kelley of the University of Hawaii at Manoa on his Le Minh Khai's SEAsian History Blog challenged the authenticity of the alleged quote where Hồ Chí Minh said he would rather sniff French shit than eat Chinese shit, noting that Stanley Karnow provided no source for the extended quote attributed to Ho in his 1983 Vietnam: A History, and that the original quote was most likely forged by the Frenchman Paul Mus in his 1952 book Viêt-Nam: Sociologie d’une Guerre, Mus was a supporter of French colonialism in Vietnam and Ho knew that there was no danger of Chinese troops staying in Vietnam, and in fact the Vietnamese at the time were busy spreading anti-French propaganda as evidence of French atrocities in Vietnam emerged, while Ho showed no qualms about accepting Chinese aid after 1949.
The Viet Minh then collaborated with French colonial forces to massacre supporters of the Vietnamese nationalist movements in 1945-6. The Communists eventually suppressed all non-Communist parties but failed to secure a peace deal with France. In the final days of 1946, after a year of diplomatic failure and many concessions in agreements such as the Dalat and Fontainebleau conferences, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam government found that war was inevitable. The bombardment of Haiphong by French forces at Hanoi only strengthened the belief that France had no intention of allowing an autonomous, independent state in Vietnam. On 19 December 1946, Ho, representing his government, declared war against the French Union, marking the beginning of the Indochina War. The Vietnam National Army, by then mostly armed with machetes and muskets immediately attacked, waging assault against French positions, smoking them out with straw bundled with chili pepper, destroying armored vehicles with "lunge mines" (a hollow-charge warhead on the end of a pole, detonated by thrusting the charge against the side of a tank; typically a suicide weapon) and Molotov cocktails, holding off attackers by using roadblocks, landmines and gravel. After two months of fighting, the exhausted Viet Minh forces withdrew after systematically destroying any valuable infrastructure. Ho was reported to be captured by a group of French soldiers led by Jean-Étienne Valluy at Việt Bắc in Operation Lea. The person in question turned out to be a Viet Minh advisor, who was later killed trying to escape. According to journalist Bernard Fall, after fighting the French for several years, Ho decided to negotiate a truce. The French negotiators arrived at the meeting site: a mud hut with a thatched roof. Inside they found a long table with chairs and were surprised to discover in one corner of the room a silver ice bucket containing ice and a bottle of good Champagne which should have indicated that Ho expected the negotiations to succeed. One demand by the French was the return to French custody of a number of Japanese military officers (who had been helping the Vietnamese armed forces by training them in the use of weapons of Japanese origin), in order for them to stand trial for war crimes committed during World War II. Ho replied that the Japanese officers were allies and friends whom he could not betray. Then he walked out, to seven more years of war.
In February 1950, after the successful removal of the French border's blockade, Ho met with Stalin and Mao Zedong in Moscow after the Soviet Union recognized his government. They all agreed that China would be responsible for backing the Viet Minh. Mao's emissary to Moscow stated in August that China planned to train 60,000–70,000 Viet Minh in the near future. The road to the outside world was open for Viet Minh forces to receive additional supplies which would allow them to escalate the fight against the French regime throughout Indochina. In 1954, after the crushing defeat of French Union forces at Battle of Dien Bien Phu, France was forced to give up its fight against the Viet Minh. The Viet Minh assassinated between 100,000 and 150,000 civilians during the war.
The 1954 Geneva Accords concluded between France and the Viet Minh, allowing the latter's forces to regroup in the North whilst anti-communist groups settled in the South. Ho's Democratic Republic of Vietnam relocated to Hanoi and became the government of North Vietnam, a communist-led one-party state.
Following the Geneva Accords, there was to be a 300-day period in which people could freely move between the two regions of Vietnam, later known as South Vietnam and North Vietnam. More than 1 million North Vietnamese people fled to the South. A much smaller number moved North. It is estimated that as many as two million more would have left had they not been stopped by the Viet Minh.
All the parties at Geneva called for reunification elections, but could not agree on the details. Recently appointed Viet Minh acting foreign minister Pham Van Dong proposed elections under the supervision of "local commissions". The US, with the support of Britain and the Associated States of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, suggested UN supervision. This plan was rejected by Soviet representative Vyacheslav Molotov, who argued for a commission composed of an equal number of communist and non-communist members, which could determine "important" issues only by unanimous agreement. The negotiators were unable to agree on a date for the elections for reunification. The DRV argued that the elections should be held within 6 months of the ceasefire, while the Western allies sought to have no deadline. Molotov proposed June 1955, then later softened this to any time in 1955 and finally July 1956.:610 The Diem government supported reunification elections, but only with effective international supervision, arguing that genuinely free elections were impossible in the totalitarian North. By the afternoon of July 20 the remaining outstanding issues were resolved as the parties agreed that the partition line should be at the 17th parallel and that the elections for reunification should be in July 1956, two years after the ceasefire.:604 The "Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in Vietnam" was signed only by French and Viet Minh military commands, completely bypassing the State of Vietnam. Based on a proposal by Chinese delegation head Zhou Enlai, an International Control Commission (ICC) chaired by India, with Canada and Poland as members, was placed in charge of supervising the ceasefire.:603 Because issues were to be decided unanimously, Poland's presence in the ICC provided the communists effective veto power over supervision of the treaty. The unsigned "Final Declaration of the Geneva Conference" called for reunification elections, which the majority of delegates expected to be supervised by the ICC. The Viet Minh never accepted ICC authority over such elections, stating that the ICC's "competence was to be limited to the supervision and control of the implementation of the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities by both parties." Of the nine nations represented, only the United States and the State of Vietnam refused to accept the declaration. U.S. undersecretary of state Walter Bedell Smith delivered a "unilateral declaration" of the US position, reiterating: "We shall seek to achieve unity through free elections supervised by the United Nations to insure that they are conducted fairly."
Between 1953 and 1956, the North Vietnamese government instituted various agrarian reforms, including "rent reduction" and "land reform", which resulted in significant political oppression. During the land reform, testimony from North Vietnamese witnesses suggested a ratio of one execution for every 160 village residents, which extrapolated nationwide would indicate nearly 100,000 executions. Because the campaign was concentrated mainly in the Red River Delta area, a lower estimate of 50,000 executions became widely accepted by scholars at the time. However, declassified documents from the Vietnamese and Hungarian archives indicate that the number of executions was much lower than reported at the time, although likely greater than 13,500.
At the end of 1959, Lê Duẩn was appointed by Ho to be the acting party leader, after becoming aware that the nationwide election would never happen and Diem's intention to purge out all opposing forces (mostly ex-Viet Minh). Ho began requesting the Politburo to send aid to the Viet Cong's uprising in South Vietnam. This was considered by Western analyzers as a loss of power by Ho, who is said to have preferred the more moderate Giap for the position. North Vietnam invaded Laos in 1959 aided by the Pathet Lao, and used 30,000 men to build invasion and supply routes through Laos known as the Ho Chi Minh trail, which allowed the North to send troops and aid to the Vietcong through Laos and Cambodia, thus escalating the war and tipping the balance, turning it to their favor. Duan was officially named party leader in 1960, leaving Ho a public figure rather than actually governing the country. Ho maintained much influence in the government, Tố Hữu, Lê Duẩn, Trường Chinh, and Phạm Văn Đồng would often share dinner with him, and later all of them remained key figures of Vietnam throughout and after the war. In 1963, Ho purportedly corresponded with South Vietnamese President Diem in the hopes of achieving a negotiated peace.:174
In late 1964, PAVN combat troops were sent southwest into officially neutral Laos and Cambodia. According to Chen Jian, during the mid-to-late 1960s, Le Duan permitted 320,000 Chinese volunteers into North Vietnam to help build infrastructure for the country, thereby freeing a similar number of PAVN personnel to go south. However, there are no sources from Vietnam, US or the USSR confirming the number of Chinese troops stationed in Northern Vietnam. By early 1965, U.S. combat troops began arriving in South Vietnam, first to protect the airbases around Chu Lai and Da Nang, later to take on most of the fight, as "More and more American troops were put in to replace Saigon troops who could not, or would not, get involved in the fighting".
As fighting escalated, widespread aerial and artillery bombardment all over North Vietnam by the U.S. Air Force and Navy begin with Operation Rolling Thunder. In July 1967, Ho and most of the Politburo of Workers Party of Vietnam met in a high-profile conference where they all concluded the war had fallen into a stalemate, since the United States Army presence forced the People's Army of Vietnam to expend the majority of their resources maintaining the Ho Chi Minh trail instead of reinforcing their comrade's ranks in the South. With Ho's permission, the Viet Cong planned to execute the Tet Offensive to begin on 31 January 1968, gambling on taking the South by force and defeating the U.S. military. The offensive came at great cost and with heavy casualties on NLF's political branches and armed forces. It appeared to Ho and to the rest of his government that the scope of the action had shocked the world, which had up until then been assured that the Communists were "on the ropes". The overly positive spin that the U.S. military had been attempting to achieve for years came crashing down. The bombing of Northern Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh trail was halted, and U.S and Vietnamese negotiators began to discuss how to end the war. From then on, Ho and his government's strategy, based on the idea of "avoiding conventional warfare and facing the might of the U.S. Army, which would wear them down eventually, while merely prolonging the conflict would lead to eventual acceptance of Hanoi's terms" materialized.
Other than a politician, Ho was also a writer, journalist, poet and polyglot. His father was a scholar and teacher, who received a high degree in the Nguyễn dynasty Imperial examination; Ho was taught to master Classical Chinese at a young age. Before the August Revolution, he often wrote poetry in Chữ Hán (the Vietnamese name for the Chinese writing system). One of those is Poems from the Prison Diary made when he was imprisoned by the police of the Republic of China. This poetry chronicle is Vietnam National Treasure No. 10, and was translated to many languages. It is used in Vietnamese high schools. After Vietnam gained independence from France, the new government promoted Chữ Quốc Ngữ (Vietnamese writing system in Latin characters) exclusivity to eliminate illiteracy. Ho started to create more poems in the modern Vietnamese language for dissemination to a wider range of readers. After he became President until the appearance of serious health problems, a short poem of his was regularly published in the newspaper Nhân Dân Tết (Lunar new year) edition to encourage his people in working, studying or fighting Americans in the new year.
Because of staying nearly 30 years in exile, Ho could speak fluently, as well as read and write professionally, in French, English, Russian, Cantonese and Mandarin in addition to his mother tongue Vietnamese. In the 1920s, he was bureau chief / editor of many newspapers which he established to criticize French Colonial Government of Indochina and serving communism propaganda purposes. Examples are Le Paria (The Pariah) first published in Paris 1922 or Thanh Nien (Youth) first published on 21 June 1925 (21 June was named by The Socialist Republic of Vietnam Government as Vietnam Revolutionary Journalism Day). In many state official visits to Soviet Union and China, he often talked directly to their communist leaders without interpreters especially about top secret information. While being interviewed by Western journalists, he used French. His Vietnamese had a strong accent from his birthplace in the central province of Nghệ An, but could be widely understood through the country.[note 1]
As president, Ho held formal receptions for foreign heads of state and ambassadors at the Presidential Palace, but he personally did not live there. He ordered the building of a stilt house at the back of the palace, which is today known as the Presidential Palace Historical Site. His hobbies (according to his secretary Vũ Kỳ) included reading, gardening, feeding fish (many of which are still living) and visiting schools and children's homes.
Ho remained in Hanoi during his final years, demanding the unconditional withdrawal of all non-Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam. By 1969, with negotiations still dragging on, Ho's health began to deteriorate from multiple health problems, including diabetes which prevented him from participating in further active politics. However, he insisted that his forces in the south continue fighting until all of Vietnam was reunited under his regime regardless of the length of time that it might take, believing that time was on his side.
With the outcome of the Vietnam War still in question, Hồ Chí Minh died at 09:47 on the morning of 2 September 1969 from heart failure at his home in Hanoi, aged 79. His embalmed body is currently on display in a mausoleum in Ba Đình Square in Hanoi despite his will stating that he wanted to be cremated.:565 News of his death was withheld from the North Vietnamese public for nearly 48 hours because he had died on the anniversary of the founding of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. He was not initially replaced as president, but a "collective leadership" composed of several ministers and military leaders took over, known as the Politburo.
During North Vietnam's final campaign, a famous song written by composer Huy Thuc was often sung by People's Army of Vietnam soldiers, "Bác vẫn cùng chúng cháu hành quân" ("You are still marching with us, Uncle Ho"). Six years after his death, at the Fall of Saigon, several PAVN tanks in Saigon displayed a poster with the words "Bác vẫn cùng chúng cháu hành quân".
The former capital of South Vietnam, Saigon, was officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City on 2 July 1976 by the new VCP-controlled National Assembly of Vietnam. However, the name provokes strong anti-communist feeling in a substantial number of Vietnamese. Many Vietnamese, especially those living abroad, continue to refer to the city as Sài Gòn, in rejection of the new communist-imposed name and in honor of the former capital of anti-communist Republic of Vietnam.
Ho's embalmed body is on display in Hanoi in a granite mausoleum modeled after Lenin's Tomb in Moscow. Streams of people queue each day, sometimes for hours, to pass his body in silence. This is reminiscent of other Communist leaders like Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, Kim il-sung, and Kim Jong-il.
The Ho Chi Minh Museum in Hanoi is dedicated to his life and work.
Chilean musician Víctor Jara referenced Hồ Chí Minh in his song "El derecho de vivir en paz" ("The Right to Live in Peace").
In Vietnam today, Ho's image appears on the front of all Vietnamese currency notes. His portrait and bust are featured prominently in most of Vietnam's public buildings, in classrooms (both public and private schools) and in some families' altars. There is at least one temple dedicated to him, built in Vĩnh Long shortly after his death, in 1970, in Viet Cong-controlled areas.
The communist regime has also continually maintained a personality cult around Ho since the 1950s in the North, and later extended it to the South, which it sees as a crucial part in their propaganda campaign about Ho and the Party's past. Ho is frequently glorified in schools to schoolchildren. Opinions, publications and broadcasts that are critical of Ho or that identify his flaws are banned in Vietnam. Both Vietnamese and foreign activists, writers, reporters and commentators who criticize anything about Ho in the slightest are arrested and imprisoned or fined for "opposing the people's revolution". Ho is even glorified to a religious status as an "immortal saint" by the Vietnamese Communist Party, and some people worship the President, according to a BBC report.
Publications about Ho's non-celibacy are banned in Vietnam, because the Party maintains that Ho had no romantic relationship with anyone in his lifetime in order to portray a puritanical image of Ho to the Vietnamese public, and advance the image of Ho as "the father of the [communist] revolution" and of a "celibate married only to the cause of revolution". William Duiker's Ho Chi Minh: A Life (2000) presents much information on Ho's relationships.:605, fn 58 The government requested substantial cuts in the official Vietnamese translation of Duiker's book, which was refused. In 2002, the Vietnamese government suppressed a review of Duiker's book in the Far Eastern Economic Review. In 1987, UNESCO officially recommended to member states that they "join in the commemoration of the centenary of the birth of President Ho Chi Minh by organizing various events as a tribute to his memory", considering "the important and many-sided contribution of President Ho Chi Minh in the fields of culture, education and the arts" who "devoted his whole life to the national liberation of the Vietnamese people, contributing to the common struggle of peoples for peace, national independence, democracy and social progress." There's also a personality cult surrounding Nguyễn Sinh Sắc, Ho's father.