A New Collective Monograph of Russian and Vietnamese Scholars on Ho Chi Minh and his Political Legacy

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This publication reviews the collective monograph of Russian and Vietnamese scholars, dedicated to the 130th anniversary of Ho Chi Minh. The book consisting of five parts discusses the issues connected with practical activities and ideology of the first President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. The authors - 12 Russians and 37 Vietnamese - have analyzed the causes that led to Vietnam’s liberation of French colonizers’ power and the role of Ho Chi Minh as the chief ideologist and a practical manager. Also, they have shown Ho Chi Minh’s role in the foundation of the Communist Party of Vietnam, in the building of new culture, ethics and humanism in Vietnam. The final part describes Ho Chi Minh’s role in formation of Vietnamese independent foreign policy.

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In May 2020 the 130th anniversary of Ho Chi Minh, the first President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, was celebrated. Ho Chi Minh left his mark not only on Vietnam’s recent history, but also in the world politics. The English edition of the collective work by scolars of the Russian Federation and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was timed for this significant date. The book discusses various aspects of Ho Chi Minh’s practical activities, his theoretical and political legacy. The work is fulfilled within the project of research collaboration between Moscow State University and Vietnam National University. The chief coordinators were the Institute of Asian and African Countries at Lomonosov Moscow State University and the Faculty of Social and Humanitarian Sciences of Vietnam National University. The book has been written by 12 scholars from the Russian side and by 37 researchers from the Vietnamese side. Besides researchers of Moscow and Vietnam Universities, scholars of nine leading Vietnamese and four Russian scientific and educational institutions contributed to the book. The authors were not only historians, but also economists, political scientists and philologists, whose participation permitted to broaden the scope of discussed problems in “Ho Chi Minh” context. The texts reflect rather broad spectrum of methodological approaches and various degrees of scientific newness. Usually, this is typical of every anniversary edition made by many researchers. The editors were Ye.V. Kobelev (the Institute of Far Eastern Studies RAS) and Pham Quoc Thanh (Vietnam National University). In the Introduction, having been written by representatives of Vietnamese authors, it is noted that Ho Chi Minh was one of the most influential public figures of the 20th century. In his lifetime he became a real legend and left his mark in history not only as the liberator of his people, but also as the original thinker. The ideology, developed on the base of his world view is not only the important property of the Communist Party ruling in Vietnam, but also a significant contribution to human culture. The authors of the Introduction support this thesis with the citation from the Politburo of the CC of the CPV Resolution adopted in 1995, where it was emphasized that for Vietnam not only Marxism-Leninism, but also Ho Chi Minh’s ideology is “a revolutionary and scientific doctrine, spiritual weapon of the working class, working people and the nation as a whole” (p.11). In our opinion, this circumstance is of additional actuality to the study of various aspects of Ho Chi Minh’s political legacy, especially of the interpretations, which are priorities for today’s Vietnamese political science taking the important place on the formation of the official doctrine of the Communist Party of Vietnam. It is important for the Russian society and political leadership to understand the connection of history and current Vietnamese policy in order to develop the attitude to those ambiguous processes, which happened and are still going on in this key country of Southeast Asia. Moreover, for the recent two decades the RF leadership consistently strives to build mutually advantageous pragmatic relationships with the SRV, and it is a rather complicated task to implement this intention without taking into account the opinions of these two countries’ competent experts. We believe, it is also necessary to have a Russian edition of this work, which must be of the great interest for those readers in the RF, whose knowledge of English is far from perfect. The first part of the book deals with the causes which led to Vietnam’s liberation from French colonizers and to Ho Chi Minh’s role as the chief ideologist and practitioner. There are various appreciations on this issue in historiography, but usually the authors hold for traditional approaches, essentially formed in the works by Soviet and Vietnamese social scientists in the period of “the socialist community”. In our opinion, there prevails historical policy in this part, but not the approaches, typical of historiography. The exclusion is the first chapter (p.15-25), written by V.N. Kolotov (St. Petersburg), who regularly speaks of the justification of the concept of “Ho Chi Minh’s ideology” in his Russian publications. The other chapters have been written by Vietnamese specialists, reflecting their current views to the issue of the importance of Ho Chi Minh’s teaching in Vietnam, touching on the issue of his ideas spreading abroad, interpreting Ho Chi Minh’s conception of “the human liberation” and its value for Vietnam’s renovation. Separately, they interpret Ho Chi Minh's role in his adherents’ victories in the August Revolution of 1945 and in the Resistance War (the First Indochina War) against French colonizers. This part of the book is finished with the chapter characterizing Ho Chi Minh’s views on the essence of “the democratic state”. Of course, the statements expressed here, permit the English reader to precise current condition of social science knowledge in Vietnam, which is being formed on the base of theoretical legacy of the “Father-Founder” of modern Vietnamese state, who up to now proves undisputable authority for the population of the country. The title of the second part of the edition, written by Vietnamese authors only, is “Ho Chi Minh and the Communist Party of Vietnam”. From the positions of current domestic political reality the authors deal with the issues of Ho Chi Minh’s role in the process of construction of the Communist Party of Vietnam, his ideas on education and training of the youth and their practical application by the ruling Party at the current stage, on the role of democracy in the ruling Communist Party, on his application and development of Marxist-Leninist ideas of control, surveillance and Party discipline, as well as on Ho Chi Minh’s political evolution from a patriot to the communist - founder of the CPV. Much of what has been expressed by Vietnamese colleagues in this part contradicts historiographical conceptions outside Vietnam. However, the possibility itself to determine some typical tendencies in the current Vietnamese social science deserves attention. The third part of the work deals with the construction of “the new type of political system” in Vietnam. Here Vietnamese authors and O.V. Novakova, Russian historian-Vietnamist (p.150-162) analyze Ho Chi Minh’s ideas on the state of law and their application in the practice of construction of this type of a state, his role as the founder and builder of polity on the territory of the DRV, define the main content and meaning of Ho Chi Minh’s conception on “the great national unity”, show his role in the formation and development of the United National Front, as well as analyze some Ho Chi Minh’s approaches to religion and its role in the Vietnamese society. The fourth part of the book is dedicated to Ho Chi Minh’s role in the process of formation of a new culture, ethics, humanism and economics in Vietnam. In it Russian authors have considered the issues regarding Ho Chi Minh’s role as the “constructor of the new era’s culture” (V.P. Larin), as well as his importance as the culture figure of international scope (I.V. Britov). Vietnamese authors’ articles on humanitarian values in the text of Ho Chi Minh’s Testament, on educational ideas in his philosophy and the chapter on Ho Chi Minh’s role in Vietnamese women’s emancipation in the 20th century written by Russian researcher M.A. Syunnenberg (p.251-262), will certainly be of interest to the English reader. The last two chapters of this part discuss Ho Chi Minh’s mode of life and his ideas on the development of market economy in Vietnam in conditions of socialist reality. Also, the factual material of this part can certainly be of interest for the students both of intellectual history and the history of political doctrines of the 20th century. The final part of the reviewed work is entitled “Ho Chi Minh and the World”. It is concerned with the issues of Ho Chi Minh’s international revolutionary activity, his ideas of “revolutionary internationalism”, as well as his work in Comintern in the 1920-1930-ies. The chapter on the role of Ho Chi Minh’s ideas while developing foreign policy of independent Vietnam (p.320-332), written by G.M. Lokshin, is very interesting and informative. Two final chapters refer to Ho Chi Minh’s stay in Vladivostok in the 1920-1930-ies and to his visits to China (in 1924-1941) with the aim “to find the way to national rescue, liberation, and development” (p.340-354). In Conclusions the authors have made an attempt to summarize the material, exposed in the main part and have drawn the conclusion that currently both in Vietnam and Russia Ho Chi Minh is considered to be the initiator of friendship between the two peoples. It is specially emphasized that he bequeathed to strengthen and develop their friendship. In the authors’ opinion, it is due to this circumstance that now Russia and Vietnam successfully develop the relationships of strategical partnership (p.359). In our opinion, along with the merits the collection has some shortcomings in its content. We believe, they are due not to the authors’ wish to ignore some “difficult” and ambiguous issues in connection with Ho Chi Minh’s life and activities, but to their wish not to create any additional causes for mutual reproaches, giving additional arguments to their geopolitical potential opponents in the current, rather complicated realities of international affairs. Ho Chi Minh was the son of his time, with every ambiguous action, typical of that historical period. He passed the hard way in the making a revolutionary, striving first of all to obtain happiness and prosperity (naturally in his subjective interpretation) for his people. At the same time, national interests of Vietnam always were his priority, and he showed flexibility in the relationships both with the Soviet Union and China. It is noteworthy, that some authors of the book (G.M. Lokshin, A.A. Sokolov, Ye.V. Kobelev etc.) used to refer to such problems. Current documentary base, first of all, in the stocks of Russian archives, permits to complete such a task, though they are available partly. Of course, these and many other themes, now well-provided with documentary sources (Ho Chi Minh and Stalin’s repressions in the years of “great terror”; the period of 1938-1945, when Uncle Ho had no contacts with the representatives of Comintern and AUCPB (VKPB); Ho Chi Minh and “Stalin’s model of socialism”; Ho Chi Minh and the resolutions of the 20th Congress of the CPSU; Ho Chi Minh and “cultural revolution” in PRC etc.), could contribute to additional interest to such editions.

About the authors

I. N Selivanov

Kursk State University

Email: ivan13117@yandex.ru
D.Sc. (History), Professor, Head of the Department of the World History


Copyright (c) 2021 Selivanov I.N.

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