Russian professor surprised at President Ho Chi Minh’s book on discussion about Sun Tzu’s Art of War

The Su That National Political Publishing House has recently debuted the book “Discussion about Sun Tzu’s Art of War” by President Ho Chi Minh in the Vietnamese and Russian languages. The translation into the Russian language of the book was conducted by Prof. Vladimir N. Kolotov, Director of the Ho Chi Minh Institute, the Saint Petersburg State University. The book consists of two works that were deeply researched, translated and compiled by President Ho Chi Minh during the early period of the resistance war against the French colonialist. These are valuable documents used not only for military purposes, but also in many other fields such as diplomacy, economy, politics and culture.

Professor Vladimir Nikolaevich Kolotov, Director of the Ho Chi Minh Institute of Saint-Petersburg National University. Photo: provided by the character.

Professor Vladimir Nikolaevich Kolotov, Director of the Ho Chi Minh Institute of Saint-Petersburg National University, was interested in the issue in 2014 on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Dien Bien Phu victory. At that time, he began to carefully study the strategies of General Vo Nguyen Giap and French General Henri Navarre. Studying sources and research has further strengthened his theory that the Vietnamese Command used these tactics in planning this battle. After that, he became more interested in sources about Vietnam's military history and read two translations of President Ho Chi Minh about The Art of War by Sun Tzu.

In 1945 and 1946, President Ho Chi Minh faced many different tasks. In which, the first task is to seize power, followed by the task to defend achievements of the revolution, freedom and independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. To carry out these important tasks, it was necessary to have professionally trained personnel who could not only carry out orders, but could also think independently of strategy and tactics. The best document for this is Sun Tzu's classic theory on the art of the war. This great book is still valid today.

In the period of restoring national independence in the immediate war conditions against a stronger and better armed enemy, without mastering the strategy, victory could not be achieved. Therefore, as a visionary national leader, President Ho Chi Minh himself translated, modernized and gave his opinion on this fundamental book. At that time, the book was read and used in many countries. In China, for example, Mao Zedong once recounted that he first read the book in 1935 and highly appreciated it. It was also studied at military academies in Japan. In the Soviet Union, the first translation was carried out at the Academy of the General Staff of the Armed Forces in 1943, when the Great Patriotic War was raging. Therefore, President Ho Chi Minh's decision was correct, timely and overall consistent with the development trend of military science at that time.

After that, he wrote a number of scientific articles analyzing the translation of Sun Tzu’s Art of War modernized by President Ho Chi Minh, as well as its significance for the victory over the French colonialists. At first, he posted and analyzed various excerpts from Uncle Ho's translations, and then began thinking about fully translating his works from Vietnamese to Russian.

According to Professor Kolotov, the reason and inspiration for him to translate this book into Russian is that President Ho Chi Minh was known as an outstanding politician, the founder of the Communist Party of Vietnam and the person who gave birth to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. However, few foreigners know about his important contributions to the development of Vietnam’s military science.

Moreover, the work of President Ho Chi Minh have never been translated into foreign languages. So, his Russian translation is the first one.

He believes that publishing this book in Russian will help readers better understand the true stature of such an outstanding figure in Vietnamese history as Ho Chi Minh, who made a very important and decisive contribution to the development of Vietnam’s military science.

Talking about the significance of the book towards the Vietnamese people’s two resistance wars earlier and the current building and modernization of the army in Vietnam, Russia and many countries in the world, the Russian professor said that President Ho Chi Minh's works are not only a translation, but also modernization of Sun Tzu's classic treatises with very creative comments. The main content throughout this book is how to use old tactics to win in modern warfare. In other words, President Ho Chi Minh's works contain a specific practical orientation.

In my opinion, profound study of strategic history has helped build the new invincible Vietnamese army, the army that successfully defended the freedom and independence of the Fatherland in the Indochina War. More than a generation of Vietnamese military strategists has studied this book and many other books on military strategy. Thanks to that, they have developed their own strategic thinking.

President Ho Chi Minh did not only translate the art of war, showing how to use it in the fight against the French colonialists, but also added a lot of experience from the history of wars that broke out after Sun Tzu’s passing away.

The cover of the book “Discussion about Sun Tzu’s Art of War” in the bilingual Vietnamese – Russian languages. (Photo:

During the translation process, Professor Kolotov is very impressed with the fact that President Ho Chi Minh completely believed in the victory over the French colonialists even before the First Indochina War had not yet begun.

The First Indochina War began on December 19, 1946, when the French colonialists issued an ultimatum to the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and launched an attack in North Vietnam. The last chapter was modernized by President Ho Chi Minh and published in the National Salvation newspaper on December 13, 1946.

The Professor said that the proper translation was published in full before the war officially began. When translating and commenting on the Art of War by Sun Tzu for the second time, President Ho Chi Minh absorbed the strategic methods of the ancient Chinese mastermind, as well as learned how to predict the outcome of battles in the war based on knowledge and creative application of the Art of War. Thanks to that, from the very beginning of preparing for the war, President Ho Chi Minh had no doubts about the victory of Vietnam. Through the book chapters, he conveyed his belief of victory to the soldiers and officers of the People’s Army of Vietnam.

When being asked, through this book, what Professor Kolotov wants to convey to Russian and Vietnamese readers, as well as international friends. He said that the most important thing for a historian is to study the sources of documents and explain them properly. Thus, for the first time, Russian people, who are interested in history, have the opportunity to learn about the content of President Ho Chi Minh's two works on military theory translated into Russian.

He also expressed his thanks to the Su That (Truth) National Political Publishing House for publishing the Vietnamese-Russian bilingual book, so that people interested in the history of the two countries once again have access to important documents on military theory, thereby writing the glorious history of the Vietnam People's Army.

The Professor hopes that readers who have studied this translation carefully will understand the tactics of war like Sun Tzu and President Ho Chi Minh, learn the ability to predict, more respect peace, and learn the basic principles of war, which is victory without war./.


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