The Founding Father and The First President of Vietnam


Ho Chi Minh, born Nguyen Sinh Cung on May 19, 1890, was the first President of Vietnam. His life and presidency were marked by significant achievements, historical events, and personal struggles.

Background and Ethnicity:

  • Ho Chi Minh was born in Nam Dan district, Nghe An province, in central Vietnam.
  • He belonged to the Kinh ethnic group, the majority ethnic group in Vietnam.
  • His father, Nguyen Sinh Huy, was a scholar and a mandarin in the Nguyen dynasty’s imperial court.
  • His mother, Hoang Thi Loan, was a peasant woman.

History and Political Career:

  • Ho Chi Minh left Vietnam in 1911 to travel the world, gaining exposure to various political ideologies and working as a seaman, a cook, and a journalist.
  • In 1920, he joined the French Communist Party and became an active member of the international communist movement.
  • In 1930, Ho Chi Minh founded the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), with the goal of achieving independence from French colonial rule.
  • He led the CPV through resistance against the French, forming the Viet Minh coalition during World War II.
  • After the defeat of the French in 1954, Ho Chi Minh became the President of North Vietnam, while the country was divided along the 17th parallel.

Achievements and Legacy:

  • Ho Chi Minh’s leadership led to the unification of Vietnam in 1975, after the end of the Vietnam War.
  • He implemented land reforms and social welfare programs, improving the lives of millions of Vietnamese.
  • Ho Chi Minh’s foreign policy focused on non-alignment and maintaining friendly relations with both the Eastern and Western blocs.
  • He was a skilled orator and writer, using his charisma to rally support for his cause.
  • Ho Chi Minh’s legacy is that of a revolutionary leader, a nationalist, and a symbol of Vietnamese independence and unity.

Popular Culture:

  • Ho Chi Minh’s image and quotes are widely used in Vietnamese propaganda and art.
  • He is fondly remembered as “Uncle Ho” by the Vietnamese people.
  • His Mausoleum in Hanoi is a popular tourist attraction and a symbol of Vietnamese patriotism.
  • Ho Chi Minh’s life and struggles have been depicted in numerous films, documentaries, and books.
The Vietnam War (also known by other names) was a conflict in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was a major conflict of the Cold War. While the war was officially fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam, the north was supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist states, while the south was supported by the United States and other anti-communist allies, making the war a proxy war between the United States and the Soviet Union. It lasted almost 20 years, with direct U.S. military involvement ending in 1973. The conflict also spilled over into neighboring states, exacerbating the Laotian Civil War and the Cambodian Civil War, which ended with all three countries officially becoming communist states by 1976.
After the fall of French Indochina with the 1954 Geneva Conference on 21 July, the country gained independence from France but was divided into two parts: the Viet Minh took control of North Vietnam, while the U.S. assumed financial and military support for South Vietnam. The Viet Cong (VC), a South Vietnamese common front under the direction of the north, initiated a guerrilla war in the south. The People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), also known as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), engaged in more conventional warfare with U.S. and Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) forces. North Vietnam invaded Laos in 1958, establishing the Ho Chi Minh Trail to supply and reinforce the VC.: 16  By 1963, the north had sent 40,000 soldiers to fight in the south.: 16  U.S. involvement increased under President John F. Kennedy, from just under a thousand military advisors in 1959 to 23,000 by 1964.: 131 Following the Gulf of Tonkin incident in August 1964, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution that gave President Lyndon B. Johnson broad authority to increase U.S. military presence in Vietnam, without a formal declaration of war. Johnson ordered the deployment of combat units for the first time, and dramatically increased the number of American troops to 184,000. U.S. and South Vietnamese forces relied on air superiority and overwhelming firepower to conduct search and destroy operations, involving ground forces, artillery, and airstrikes. The U.S. also conducted a large-scale strategic bombing campaign against North Vietnam,: 371–374  and continued significantly building up its forces, despite little progress being made. In 1968, North Vietnamese forces launched the Tet Offensive; though it was a tactical defeat for them, it was strategic victory, as it caused U.S. domestic support for the war to fade.: 481  By the end of the year, the VC held little territory and were sidelined by the PAVN.  In 1969, North Vietnam declared the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam. Operations crossed national borders, and the U.S. bombed North Vietnamese supply routes in Laos and Cambodia. The 1970 deposing of the Cambodian monarch, Norodom Sihanouk, resulted in a PAVN invasion of the country (at the request of the Khmer Rouge), and then a U.S.-ARVN counter-invasion, escalating the Cambodian Civil War. After the election of Richard Nixon in 1969, a policy of "Vietnamization" began, which saw the conflict fought by an expanded ARVN, while U.S. forces withdrew in the face of increasing domestic opposition. U.S. ground forces had largely withdrawn by early 1972, and their operations were limited to air support, artillery support, advisors, and materiel shipments. The Paris Peace Accords of January 1973 saw all U.S. forces withdrawn;: 457  accords were broken almost immediately, and fighting continued for two more years. Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge on 17 April 1975, while the 1975 spring offensive saw the Fall of Saigon to the PAVN on 30 April, marking the end of the war. North and South Vietnam were reunified on 2 July the following year.
The war exacted an enormous human cost: estimates of the number of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed range from 966,000 to 3 million. Some 275,000–310,000 Cambodians, 20,000–62,000 Laotians, and 58,220 U.S. service members also died in the conflict. The end of the Vietnam War would precipitate the Vietnamese boat people and the larger Indochina refugee crisis, which saw millions of refugees leave Indochina, an estimated 250,000 of whom perished at sea. Once in power, the Khmer Rouge carried out the Cambodian genocide, while conflict between them and the unified Vietnam would eventually escalate into the Cambodian–Vietnamese War, which toppled the Khmer Rouge government in 1979 and ended the genocide. In response, China invaded Vietnam, with subsequent border conflicts lasting until 1991. Within the United States, the war gave rise to what was referred to as Vietnam syndrome, a public aversion to American overseas military involvements, which, together with the Watergate scandal contributed to the crisis of confidence that affected America throughout the 1970s.The U.S. Air Force destroyed more than 20% of the jungles of South Vietnam and 20–50% of the mangrove forests by spraying over 20 million gallons of toxic herbicides (defoliants) including Agent Orange. The war is one of the most commonly used examples of ecocide.

Emblem of Vietnam

To enrich your insights into presidential figures worldwide, also explore some prominent first presidents from other countries, such as Venezuela, Vanuatu and Uzbekistan. Delving into the leadership journeys of these figures can offer valuable perspectives on their historical significance and pivotal roles in shaping global politics.

The president of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Vietnamese: Chủ tịch nước Cộng hòa xã hội chủ nghĩa Việt Nam, lit. 'Chairman of the state of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam') is the head of state of Vietnam, elected by the Vietnam National Assembly from delegates of the National Assembly. Since Vietnam is a single-party state, the president is generally considered to hold the second highest position in the political system, formally after the general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam. In addition, the president appoints the head of government, the prime minister. As head of state, the President represents Vietnam both domestically and internationally, and maintains the regular and coordinated operation and stability of the national government and safeguards the independence and territorial integrity of the country.
The president must be a delegate of the National Assembly and is traditionally a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. The Central Committee of the Communist Party nominates candidates to the Standing Committee of the National Assembly, the Standing Committee of the National Assembly then confirms and nominates those candidates for official election by all delegates of the National Assembly.
The president appoints the vice president, prime minister, ministers, and other officials with the consent of the National Assembly. The president is furthermore the supreme commander-in-chief of the Vietnam People's Armed Forces, chairman of the Council for Defense and Security. Moreover, member of Political Bureau, standing member of the Central Military Commission and the Central Police Party Committee. Since September 2011, the president is also the head of the Central Steering Committee for Judicial Reform. The tenure of the president is five years, and a president can only serve three terms. If the president becomes unable to discharge duties of office, the vice president assumes the office of acting president until the president resumes duty, or until the election of a new president.
The powers and prestige of the office of president have varied over the years. For instance, while the inaugural president, Hồ Chí Minh, was also the chairman of the Communist Party, making him (in that capacity) the first ranking member of the Politburo, the highest decision-making body in Vietnam, his successor, Tôn Đức Thắng, served as a symbolic figure along with General Secretary Lê Duẩn. Since Trường Chinh's ascension to the presidency, the president has been ranked 1st (he was sometimes also chairman of the party) or 2nd in the order of precedence of the Communist Party's Politburo except President Nguyễn Minh Triết ranked fourth and President Võ Chí Công ranked third. Three persons served concurrently as head of both the party and state: Hồ Chí Minh (1951–1969), Trường Chinh (1986) and Nguyễn Phú Trọng (2018–2021).
Võ Văn Thưởng is the current president of Vietnam after being appointed by the National Assembly on 2 March 2023. He is the youngest person to hold this position since the republic's founding in 1945.

The official residence and symbol of the Vietnam President

10 Iconic Presidents Who Shaped Vietnam’s History

The President's Office in Vietnam
The President’s Office in Vietnam

Here is a list of 10 of the most popular presidents in Vietnam:

  • Ho Chi Minh
  • Tran Dai Quang
  • Le Duc Anh
  • Truong Tan Sang
  • Nguyen Minh Triet
  • Le Quang Vinh
  • Le Dai Hanh
  • Phan Trong Tue
  • Tran Duc Luong
  • Tran Van Huong

Ho Chi Minh is one of the most revered and popular presidents in Vietnam. He led the communist revolution and became the first president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945. His leadership and dedication to the country’s independence and liberation made him an iconic figure and a symbol of Vietnamese nationalism.

Tran Dai Quang served as the President of Vietnam from 2016 until his death in 2018. He previously held various high-ranking positions in the Vietnamese government, including Minister of Public Security. Quang was known for his tough stance on crime and corruption.

Le Duc Anh was the President of Vietnam from 1992 to 1997. He played a significant role in the Vietnam War as a military general and later became a key figure in post-war politics. Anh was respected for his leadership during a critical time of transition in Vietnam.

Truong Tan Sang served as the President of Vietnam from 2011 to 2016. He prioritized economic reforms and strengthening international relations during his tenure. Sang was known for his pragmatic approach and efforts to improve Vietnam’s global standing.

Nguyen Minh Triet was the President of Vietnam from 2006 to 2011. He focused on economic development and fostering cooperation with other countries. Triet played a crucial role in enhancing Vietnam’s international trade and investment relations.

Le Quang Vinh was the President of Vietnam from 2001 to 2006. His term was marked by efforts to combat corruption and promote transparency in the government. Vinh also worked towards strengthening Vietnam’s position in regional and global affairs.

Le Dai Hanh was an influential figure in Vietnam’s history and served as the Emperor in the early 10th century. He is often regarded as one of the most successful emperors in Vietnamese history due to his military victories and administrative reforms.

Phan Trong Tue served as the President of North Vietnam from 1971 to 1976. He was a key figure during the Vietnam War and played a significant role in the North Vietnamese government. His leadership skills and dedication to the cause made him popular among the Vietnamese people.

Tran Duc Luong served as the President of Vietnam from 1997 to 2006. He was known for his efforts to improve the living standards of the Vietnamese people and promote social welfare. Luong also focused on strengthening diplomatic ties with other nations.

Tran Van Huong served as the President of South Vietnam for a brief period in 1964 before the country underwent political turmoil. He was known for his efforts to reconcile and unite the divided nation during a challenging period in Vietnam’s history.

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