The delegation, led by State President Tran Dai Quang, also a member of the Politburo, was welcomed with a solemn ceremony, full of flowers and flags of both countries. Faces radiant with smiles and big hugs between guests and hosts were the first impressions at the official visit of the Vietnamese State President to Russia at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Unforgettable memories

That solemn atmosphere, engulfed with intimate friendship, reminded me of days in 1983 and 1984 when other students of the Academy of Social Science under the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and I proudly stood right at this airport together with throngs of Vietnamese and Russian people to welcome the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Le Duan in his visit to the then Soviet Union. This was followed by the visit by comrade Truong Chinh, member of the Politburo and Chairman of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam at the invitation of the leaders of the Soviet Union’s Party and State a year later.

President Tran Dai Quang sees Cruiser Aurora during his official visit to Russia.

The history of the Parties and States of Vietnam and the Soviet Union is a relentless flow, initiated by Nguyen Ai Quoc-Ho Chi Minh - who set his first steps on the home of Lenin and the October Revolution on June 23, 1923. President Tran Dai Quang’s visit to Russia becomes more meaningful as it took place on the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution and the 94th anniversary of the day when Nguyen Ai Quoc left Paris for Russia with the hope of meeting the talented leader of the proletariat of Russia and the world, Vladimir Ilich Lenin, who wrote the Draft Theses on National and Colonial Questions.

Lenin’s Mausoleum still exists there to welcome thousands of people from every corner of the world who come to contemplate and pay respects every day to the Russian talented leader. Red Square and the Kremlin towers are still there to witness many historic events of the Soviet Union and Russia, including the impressive parade of tens of thousands of Red Guards on the occasion of the 24th celebration of the October Revolution. After that celebration, soldiers and officers of the Soviet Union advanced directly to fronts, fighting valiantly to push back the Nazi offensive to occupy Moscow.

At the wreath-offering ceremony to pay tribute to President Ho Chi Minh at his monument in the center of Moscow, Lenin’s Mausoleum, and at the Kremlin Wall memorial on June 29, 2017, President Tran Dai Quang and members of the Vietnamese delegation were touched when they recalled the great contributions made by Lenin, Uncle Ho, the Red Guards, and the Soviet people to save mankind from the Nazi disaster, facilitating and urging the oppressed nations worldwide, including Vietnam, to rise up and overthrow the colonial and imperialist regimes and regain the right to live and master their lives.

Quietly stepping on each stone on the Red Square, we were moved and proud learning that among those who joined the parade and then advanced to the front in November 1941, were more than 10 Vietnamese people, who were studying in Moscow, and voluntarily joined the Red Guards, including Vuong Thuc Thoai, Nguyen Sinh Than, Hoang Phan Tu, Vuong Thuc Chinh… Their names were written in the history of the Soviet Army and were posthumously granted the title “Hero of the Soviet Union.” Thus, the Vietnam-Soviet Union friendship bridge, and that of the Vietnam-Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, was built by the talent, sweats, and flesh and bone of the two nations, Vietnam and Russia.

Before joining President Tran Dai Quang’s entourage to Russia, I patiently wrote down some memorable notes in our Party’s archives about the relations between Vietnam and the Soviet Union: On January 30th 1950, the Soviet Union decided to establish diplomatic relations with Vietnam; In February 1950, President Ho Chi Minh visited the Soviet Union; In September 1952, the Soviet Union requested the United Nations Security Council to admit the Democratic Republic of Vietnam as a member, but France, the U.K., and the U.S. vetoed this vote; and the Soviet Union greatly assisted Vietnam with weapons, vehicles, medicines, and even military advisors in the Dien Bien Phu Campaign in 1954 and the resistance war to reunify the country with the glorious victory in April 1975. I was touched when reading sentimental and responsible statements made by leaders of the Party and State of the Soviet Union, supporting our people’s struggle against foreign aggressors. While the U.S. imperialists intensified their sabotage attacks to the North of Vietnam by using bombers to raze Quang Binh province, Comrade Alexei. N. Kosygin, member of the Politburo and Premier of the Soviet Union Government, visited Vietnam and declared trenchantly: “The Executive Committee of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union resolutely condemns the U.S. imperialists’ predatory actions in Indochina, their armed intervention against the peace-loving people in the South of Vietnam and their undeniable predatory attacks against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.” Words accompanied by actions, the Soviet Union actively assisted Vietnam with practical deeds, increasing physical and spiritual strengths substantially for the just struggle of our nation.

Additionally, when the struggle against the French colonialists and the U.S. imperialists were on the fierce pinnacle, right in 1953, the Soviet Union helped train 200 Vietnamese students to prepare human resources for the country in the future. I resonated with Vu Khoan, who later became member of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam and Deputy Prime Minister, one of the first 200 Vietnamese students studying in the Soviet Union and then stayed and worked in the country for nearly 20 years, when he recalled in a book, “Despite assisting Vietnam substantially, the life of the Russian, especially in the early 1950s, was very hard. They had to live in very small apartments and had black bread and black tea for breakfast but were willing to share to unconditionally support other nations, including Vietnam.”

During the time he worked at the Vietnamese Embassy in Moscow, Khoan usually received citizens, war veterans, pensioners, and students who came to the embassy to express their sentiments with the Vietnamese people who were braving hardships to protect the country, and asked the embassy staff to send humble gifts to the people in Vietnam. “Many people consistently asked to go to fight voluntarily side by side with our soldiers and people,” Khoan wrote.

Imbued with our nation’s tradition of “when drinking water, remember its source” and “when you eat the fruit, think of the man who grows the tree,” considering “a stitch in time saves nine”… in this visit, despite his busy schedule in Russia and Belarus, President Tran Dai Quang spared his time to meet and present gifts to war veterans of the two countries who had served in Vietnam and shared hardships with our soldiers and people in the fight against the U.S. imperialists. In those full of comradeship meetings, some of the veterans expressed their moved feelings about Vietnam and its people. The achievements gained by Vietnam over the past more than 30 years of the renewal were supported by the Russian friends with hopes that the following generations would continue to treasure and nurture the Vietnam-Russia friendship to make it ever-green and flourish.

Flowers and fruits

With the viewpoint of considering human the most valuable resource to build a new society, the Soviet Union made a lot of efforts to help train Vietnamese cadres in different fields. Since 1953, when the first 200 Vietnamese students went to study in the country, the Soviet Union has helped train about 52,000 Vietnamese scientists and technicians, including over 30,000 graduates, over 3,000 associate professors, over 200 Ph.D students, and thousands of technicians. We are grateful and proud that among those students, some have become top leaders of our Party and State, such as Phan Van Khai, Nguyen Phu Trong, Nguyen Van An and To Huy Rua. Meanwhile, some have become famous in science sector such as professors Nguyen Dinh Tu, Nguyen Van Hieu, Nguyen Van Dao, Dang Huu, Dang Vu Minh and Pham Minh Hac. And yet others succeeded in the armed forces, such as Air Force Senior Lieutenant General Pham Thanh Ngan, Senior Lieutenant General and member of the Russian Military Academy Nguyen Huy Hieu, Lieutenant General Dang Quan Thuy (who later became Vice Chairman of the Vietnamese National Assembly), Lieutenant General Pham Tuan – Hero and the first Vietnamese astronaut. Moreover, hundreds of scientists and technicians have become “leading birds” working side by side with Russian experts at construction sites of hydropower plants of Thac Ba, Hoa Binh, and Tri An, thermo-power plants of Uong Bi and Pha Lai, and mechanical factories of Hanoi, Cam Pha, and Song Cong, etc.

President Tran Dai Quang talking to the Vietnamese War Veterans Association and the Vietnam-Russia Friendship Association in Moscow in June 2017

Our people, especially younger generations, are keen on works of famous writers of the Soviet Union, such as Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Lermontov, Chekhov, Gogol, Sholokhov, Paustovsky, Imatov and Gamzatov… Especially, those who fought against the French colonialists and the American imperialists always considered Ostrovsky’s How the steel was tempered and Pushkin’s Love poems companions that inspired them. In the period from 1945 to 1987 alone, 907 books of the Soviet literature were translated into Vietnamese and published in the country. Vice versa, hundreds of Vietnamese works have been translated into Russian and attracted many Russian readers. Some Russian universities teach “Vietnamese studies”, including its history, literature, linguistics, politics… We treasure outstanding researchers in Vietnamese studies, such as Nikulin, Tcasov, Solev, Finmilova, Atosenko…

Among sectors that harvest “golden crops”, it is necessary to mention the young movie industry of Vietnam, whose development was nurtured by Soviet masters. Many Vietnamese students, who studied at the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (VGIK), have grown up and contributed substantially to the country ranging from movies, documentary to cartoon.

The Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory has also helped train a lot of talented musicians for Vietnam, such as Dang Thai Son, Ton Nu Nguyet Minh, Ton That Triem, Do Hong Quan, Trung Kien, Le Dung, Tran Thu Ha, Kieu Hung, Bui Cong Duy… Moreover, many Russian love songs have survived through generations of the Vietnamese, such as Two banks of the same river, Katiusza, Afternoon in the Roadstead, Weeping Willow, Moscow Afternoon….

The Russian-Soviet Theater has also left considerable impression on many Vietnamese spectators, from Chekhov’s classical plays to the modern ones.

We will never forget that Russia has trained the seeds of arts and literature for our country in terms of fine arts, dance, circus, photography, architect… Right from 1956, Vietnam was assisted by the Soviet Union Federation of Book Export and Import so that many of Vietnamese works have been introduced to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, Russian publishing houses help Vietnam a lot in translation and publication of literature works, dictionaries, textbooks, etc. And, the Soviet Union also assisted Vietnam to attend many exhibitions to exchange books and other materials with Eastern European countries.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Russia has gradually restored and developed cultural relations with Vietnam, actively pushing up investment and confirming the position of a comprehensive strategic partner with Vietnam. Since 2007, the two countries have successfully organized “Russian Cultural Days,” “Moscow Days in Hanoi,” “Russian Movies Week in Hanoi,’ and “Hanoi Days in Moscow”…

Friendship bridges, hospitals, theaters, and parks sponsored by the Soviet Union are standing in Vietnam despite time. In his first visit to Vietnam in 2001, Russian President Putin came to the Vietnam-Soviet Union Friendship Labor Palace to attend the meeting with thousands of people representing those who have been trained and lived in the former Soviet Union and present Russia. At that meeting, President Putin revealed that he was proud to visit the country of President Ho Chi Minh and great poet Nguyen Du and it was his pride to visit a country with many people who are fluent in Russian language. The President was moved when he sang the song Moscow Afternoon in Russian together with all the Vietnamese there.

Written by Nguyen Hong Vinh - Former Chairman of the Central Council for Theory and Criticism of Literature and Arts

Translated by Nam Long