Ho Chi Minh
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) as well as 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 Vietnamese 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 read a copy of the United States Declaration of Independence, replacing the word England with France, hoping for US support in his efforts; he got none. 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.
Ho died on September 2, 1969 at age 79. His embalmed body was put on display in a granite mausoleum modeled on Lenin's tomb in Moscow. This was consistent with other Communist leaders who have been similarly displayed before and since, including Mao Zedong, Kim Il-Sung, and for a time, Josef Stalin, but the "honor" violated Ho's final wishes. He wished to be cremated and his ashes buried in urns on three Vietnamese hilltops. He wrote, "Not only is cremation good from the point of view of hygiene, but it also saves farmland."
See also: History of Vietnam