I. KONOREVA, Candidate of Historical Sciences (Kursk State University)
The protracted and bloody conflict that began in Indochina more than 60 years ago has continued intermittently for several decades. It significantly changed the geopolitical situation in Southeast Asia, and had a serious impact on the policies of the USSR, the United States, France, China, and a number of other countries. There are still ongoing discussions among political scientists about the nature of the events that took place, the degree of guilt of external forces and politicians in Indochina itself in unleashing this conflict. This article attempts to reconstruct the events that took place in 1945-1954.
In the historical and political sense, the states of Indochina include Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. These countries have an ancient history and common cultural and historical traditions. In the second half of the 19th century, they became part of the French Colonial Empire. During World War II, Indochina was occupied by Japan, which included it in its "Greater East Asia co-prosperity sphere".
PREHISTORY OF THE FIRST INDOCHINA WAR
All these years, the population of this region did not stop fighting against the Japanese, and then against the French invaders who returned to Indochina again. The armed opposition was led by the Indochina Communist Party (CPIK), led by Ho Chi Minh, which united the most diverse political forces within the framework of the Viet Minh Front.
By the summer of 1945, vast areas of North Vietnam had been formed, where the power of the Vietnamese Communists was established. In August 1945, on the eve of the surrender of Japan, they decided to start a general uprising. In just a few days, the rebels, who enjoyed the support of the population, captured most of the country. The Communists persuaded the puppet Emperor Bao Dai to abdicate and accept the new government. The August Revolution was victorious.
On September 2, 1945, Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) in Hanoi. The Declaration of Independence was issued, stating that the people of Vietnam were "breaking off relations with imperialist France" and that " Vietnam... became a free and independent state"1. France did not recognize the new government, but agreed to negotiate the future status of Vietnam.
Liberation movements also emerged in Laos and Cambodia, and in the autumn of 1945 they began to fight for the elimination of French colonial rule. In these countries, the royal regimes had a strong position.
In Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh and his associates did not openly express their views on the future development of the country and sought to enter into an alliance with representatives of nationalist movements. On the territory of China, there were schools for military training of Vietnamese revolutionaries. Ho Chi Minh had significant ties to the Kuomintang Party, and the fact that he had lived in China for a long time gave the Kuomintang government reason to hope that Chinese influence in Vietnam would prevail. This, in particular, was well known in the USSR, as is clearly shown by some declassified materials of the Archive of Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation and the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History2.
The French, however, managed to gain a foothold in the south of Vietnam, where they had many supporters. Thus, the process of splitting Vietnam into two parts began, which as a result led to the beginning of the Indochina local conflict.
On September 9, 1945, in accordance with the agreements reached at the Potsdam Conference, the 200-thousandth Chinese army entered the territory of North Vietnam to disarm Japanese troops north of the 16th parallel.
At the same time, the British landed south of the 16th parallel for the same purpose. Partnership relations between France and Great Britain allowed the French on September 23, 1945 (with the tacit consent of the British) occupy
* Vietminh-League of Struggle for the Independence of Vietnam in 1941-1951. It was formed in May 1941 on the initiative of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. It included the CPIK, professional, youth, women's and peasant organizations, and later representatives of the national bourgeoisie.
Saigon, remove the local administration of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from power and proclaim the restoration of French colonial rule. In response to these actions, a partisan war of supporters of the Viet Minh began.
Initially, the warring parties tried to resolve the conflict peacefully. So, in particular, representatives of France and the DRW signed a preliminary agreement on March 6, 1946, and on September 14, 1946, an interim agreement ("modus vivendi") was concluded, according to which France recognized the DRW as a "free state", but subject to its entry into the Indochina Federation and the French Union. In addition, the agreement stipulated that the French expeditionary force should remain in the country for an extended period of time.
Both sides interpreted the signed agreement in their own way. The French declared that the DRV remained part of its colonial empire, and Ho Chi Minh's supporters perceived it as recognition by the "former metropolis" of the DRV's independence. Each side stubbornly stood on its own positions, which led in December 1946 to an armed conflict between them, which lasted almost 8 years.
MILITARY STAGE OF THE CONFLICT
The question of who first started military operations is still debatable. Representatives of the Viet Minh claimed that they were provoked by the French, who on November 20, 1946 in the port of Haiphong fired at their junk, allegedly carrying weapons. The next day, the French command issued an ultimatum to the Viet Minh demanding to leave the territory of Haiphong. Having been refused, the French commander-in-chief, General J. E. Valluy, gave the order to "teach the Viet Minh a good lesson." On November 23, residential areas were shelled, and the Vietnamese suffered serious damage. According to them, 20,000 people were killed, according to the French side - 6,000.3
According to another version, parts of the Viet Minh began to attack the French troops arriving in the DRV. On December 19, 1946, Vietnamese loyalists attacked the French garrison in Hanoi.
The armed resistance of the Viet Minh supporters by January 1947 covered almost the entire territory of Vietnam. These events in Vietnamese historiography are considered to be the beginning of the "First War of Resistance".
The Vietminh Front played an important role in mobilizing the Vietnamese people. In addition, in May 1946, at the initiative of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Indochina, to expand the social base of participants in the anti - French resistance, another political organization was formed-Lien Viet (National Union of the Vietnamese People), which united parties and movements that for one reason or another were not part of the Vietminh Front.4
By the end of March 1947, the French military had taken control of the main cities and roads. In addition, they were in the hands of the sea coast and estuaries of rivers in Tonkin (north Vietnam) and Annam (central Vietnam). Their control over Cochin Hin (southern Vietnam) was further strengthened. The Viet Minh headquarters was moved from Hanoi to Vietbac (on the border with China).
In the spring of 1947, the French government approached former Emperor Bao Dai, who used the name Vinh-Thuy to reside in Hong Kong, with a proposal to return to Vietnam and head the government there, which, as it was believed in Paris, would sign a new protectorate treaty with France. At first, Bao Dai refused, but on September 18, he still agreed.
From mid-May until October 1947, military operations were not carried out: at this time, the rainy season falls, when not only roads, but also trails become almost impassable.
On October 7, 1947, the French army launched a large-scale offensive in the direction of the mountainous northern region of Vietnam - Vietbac, where the DRV government and the main part of the Vietnamese People's Army created by the Communists were located. Operation Lea began with a parachute landing in the vicinity of Bak Kan. However, Ho Chi Minh and Viet Minh military leader Vo Nguyen Ziap managed to escape. The offensive launched by the French was suspended by ambushes, blown up bridges, destroyed roads.
After two and a half months of unsuccessful fighting, the French troops were forced to retreat. The overall outcome of the offensive was disappointing for the French - the goals set were not achieved, they were unable to capture the leaders of the Viet Minh and impose a decisive battle on the enemy. These events were the beginning of the active resistance of the Vietnamese people to the French invaders. At the same time, the partisan movement was gaining strength in the territories under the control of the French.
In May 1948, a "provisional central government" was established in Saigon, whose head, Nguyen Van Xuan, signed a "joint declaration" with the French High Commissioner to Indochina, E. Bollaert, on June 5, 1948, according to which France recognized the independence of Vietnam, which is part of the French Union as an "affiliated state". However, it was planned to postpone indefinitely the decision on the reunification of Cochinchina with the other two parts of Vietnam (Annam and Tonkin), since this territory was previously a colony of France, and the former metropolis intended to preserve this special position until the convocation of the local parliament, which, according to Paris, should speak out for the unity of all parts of Vietnam.
On March 8, 1949, an agreement was signed between French President Vincent Auriol and Bao Dai, according to which France granted" internal sovereignty "to the"state of Vietnam", that is, French-controlled Vietnamese territory. At the end of June 1949. Vietnam was legally united by the French under the rule of Bao Dai, which meant that Vietnam was split into two independent states.
The reaction of interested external forces immediately followed. DRW Government 14
January 1950 declared its desire to establish diplomatic relations with countries that respect the right to equal rights, territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Vietnam. This initiative was supported by the Soviet Union and a number of other states that recognized the DRW. In February 1950, at the request of France, the governments of the United States, Britain and some other Western countries declared recognition of the government of Bao Dai, and then the regimes loyal to France in Laos and Cambodia.
The successful actions of the Vietnamese army in 1948-1950 allowed it to move to the liberation of the territory near the Vietnam-China border by September 1950. As a result, the Vietminh-liberated zone expanded significantly, and the DRC Government established communication with the outside world. Already in 1951, after the signing of an agreement on joint struggle with the allied Viet Minh liberation movements Khmer Issarak in Cambodia and Neo Lao Itsala in Laos, Vietnamese military units entered their territories in order to assist their allies.
In March 1951. The Viet Minh merged with Lien Viet to form the new United National Front of Vietnam.
French colonial forces by mid-October 1953 We have concentrated a powerful group in the north-western part of Vietnam, near the village of Dien Bien Phu. The French plan became known to the North Vietnamese side, which retaliated by surrounding the enemy. In December 1953, Hanoi called for a battle of "strategic importance"to be fought in the area.5
North Vietnamese troops under the command of Vo Nguyen Ziap killed more than 16,000 people in six days of fighting in May 1954. The remaining French soldiers were forced to surrender 6.
The Battle of Dien Bien Phu lasted 55 days. As a result of its successful completion, more than three-quarters of the entire territory of Vietnam was under the control of the DRV Government. In foreign historiography, this battle is often called "Vietnam Stalingrad", and Vo Nguyen Ziap - "Vietnam Zhukov".
The war cost France dearly: the French expeditionary Force lost more than 100 thousand people killed and wounded in Indochina; the cost of the war exceeded 2000 billion francs7. In addition, the international prestige of France was significantly undermined, in which, in addition to the USSR and the PRC, the then influential French Communist Party played a significant role, whose leaders constantly criticized the government of their country for its policy in Indochina and expressed solidarity with the struggle of left-wing forces in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia for national liberation.
The Geneva Conference on Korea and Indochina, which was held in April - July 1954 with the active participation of the USSR delegation, decided to recognize the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the three Indochina countries - Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia-and to cease hostilities in order to establish peace in the region. The agreement provided for the holding of free general elections in Vietnam until July 1956, with the aim of subsequently forming a unified Vietnam and establishing the victorious political force in power. Before the reunification of the country, both its zones were not supposed to join military blocs, not to allow the creation of foreign military bases on their territories.
The delegation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea proposed its plan for establishing peace in Indochina based on the recognition of the independence, unity and democratic development of the Indochinese States. These proposals were supported by representatives of the USSR and China. In addition, the DRV was the main military and political ally of the Neo Lao Itsal and Khmer Issarak forces , the patriotic popular fronts of Laos and Cambodia, which established their own governments in the liberated territories in 1950. The DRV leadership planned to later assume a leadership role in these areas and thus realize its geopolitical aspirations in the Indochina Peninsula.
The head of the US delegation refused to sign the agreement on establishing peace in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, because it, in his opinion, supported the transition of part of Vietnam under the control of the "communist government". To resolve the situation, it was decided that the US representative would not sign the document at all, and the conference participants would express their attitude on this issue verbally.
The US official said that the US government "takes note" of the agreements reached and promises to "refrain from the threat or use of force" to violate them. This wording gave the Americans freedom of action in the future in relation to Indochina.
The Chinese side, in general, supported the proposals of the USSR and the DRV to grant independence and sovereignty to the states of Indochina. However, the Chinese leadership has clearly established a position to consider the Indochina Peninsula as an area of its primary interests. It was the Geneva Conference, according to the Chinese leadership, that was supposed to confirm China's" special role " in Asia. During a meeting of representatives of the People's Republic of China, the Soviet Union, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in April 1954, Zhou Enlai said that his country would not openly provide assistance to Vietnam in the event of an expansion of the conflict, as this would negatively affect the attitude of other Southeast Asian states towards the PRC and would enable the United States to create a bloc covering a large number of states - from India to Indonesia..
In addition, the Chinese leadership had a plan that, according to Beijing, allowed it to put pressure on the United States and its allies: the idea of creating a "pan-Asian commonwealth" consisting of India, China and Indonesia.
However, the expectations of the PRC did not materialize, as the creation of a directly opposite bloc
representatives of the United States were engaged. At that time, the Chinese delegation began to advocate for the recognition of national rights for the peoples of Indochina, emphasizing the importance of making mutual commitments to preserve peace in Asia.
The Chinese side actively insisted that Asian peoples should participate in the search for solutions to their own problems. At the same time, Beijing showed a desire to cooperate with the royal governments of Laos and Cambodia, but on the condition that Laos and Cambodia should become neutral states, and Western powers should refuse to establish military bases there.
On June 16, 1954, in Geneva, Zhou Enlai called for the withdrawal of Vietnamese volunteers from Cambodia and Laos, suggesting that the Vietnamese problem should be considered separately from the Cambodian and Lao ones. The Chinese delegation paid special attention to military issues, the essence of which was to prohibit Indochina countries from participating in military alliances, importing additional weapons and introducing military units of other states into their territories.
This position is quite understandable from the point of view of China's geopolitical plans, since it was easier for it to reach an agreement with each country than with a bloc of states pursuing a common political line. (All this gave rise to the leadership of the already unified Vietnam in 1979, in the midst of polemics with the PRC, to declare that "this was the first case of betrayal by the Chinese leaders of the revolutionary struggle of the peoples of Vietnam, Laos and Kampuchea."9)
GEOPOLITICAL INTERESTS OF THE USSR, USA AND CHINA
In Russian and foreign historiography, it is still possible to find statements that the states of Indochina were in 1945-1954, first of all, a tool of the great powers in solving ideological, geopolitical and other issues. In our opinion, there is a well-founded assumption that the great powers created world politics in this region, and the leaders of small Asian countries, skillfully using the contradictions that existed between them at that time, solved their own problems. And, thus, the world powers were already becoming a kind of tool in the hands of Indochinese politicians.
During the Tehran Conference on 28.11-1.12.1943, US President John Kerry Roosevelt called on his main allies in the anti-Hitler coalition to jointly govern Indochina after the end of the war. And this appeal received the support of J. V. Stalin, who offered to grant this region (in 20-30 years) independence. But in November 1944, Roosevelt changed his position and said that his country had not yet made a final decision on the future status of Indochina. The beginning of the Cold war convinced American leaders that the region should remain under French control.
This position of the United States can be explained by the victory of the Communists in China and the proclamation of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949, which became an ally of the Vietnamese Communists. By starting to provide military assistance to the French, the Americans sought to turn Vietnam into their strategic springboard in the fight against the PRC.
Naturally, the leadership of the USSR decided not to remain indifferent, seeing here the prospect of the formation, along with Eastern Europe, of another hotbed of its own influence.
In Washington, the Indochina War was declared part of the "battle" against "world communism." In May 1950, the United States allocated $ 10 million for military assistance to the French in Indochina.10 Aid also went to the Baodai regime in Vietnam and the royal governments in Laos and Cambodia.
Moscow's reaction was immediate. The Soviet representative to the UN said that the US government has taken the path of inciting war against the Vietnamese people in order to support the colonial regime in Indochina, thereby showing that it assumes the role of a gendarme of the peoples of Asia.
In September 1950, the United States signed a treaty with France and the "affiliated states" on "American participation in the defense of Indochina", and in December of the same year - a treaty on "assistance in the mutual defense of Indochina". These treaties made it possible to provide assistance to Indochina countries, bypassing France. A permanent US mission was sent to Indochina to control its distribution. Thus, the Americans began to penetrate Indochina in order to create their own geopolitical strongholds in Southeast Asia as the first step towards ousting France from there.
Information about the size and nature of Soviet aid to the DRV is still classified. It is only known that it began to be provided after October 1949 through the territory of the PRC. Documents declassified in recent years by the RGASPI indicate that the Soviet Union provided assistance to the Vietnamese people through the Ministries of Defense, Higher Education, VOX, the Soviet Peace Defense Committee, and a number of other agencies.11
As for the discussion of Indochina problems at the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU(b), one can point to the meetings where questions were discussed about sending propaganda literature to Vietnam, 12 about the reaction to the letter of the French leadership to the USSR Foreign Ministry with information about the creation of the Bao Dai government in Vietnam (it was decided to leave it unanswered)13 and on the representation of the USSR in the DRV (it was decided that the interests of the USSR in the DRV will be represented by the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in this country)14.
In 1954, after the end of the active phase of the military conflict in Vietnam, the Embassy of the USSR was opened in Hanoi.
Increased attention to the Indochina region by the United States intensified the Soviet Union's involvement in Southeast Asian affairs.
The United States, at the final stage of the war in Indochina, realizing that the French were not able to cope with the unfavorable situation that had arisen for them, intended to help the allies, even using atomic weapons. So, in the spring of 1954, the Joint Committee
The US Chiefs of Staff even discussed the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Indochina. In particular, the chairman of the committee, Arthur Radford, sought the right to use it to break the siege of French troops near Dien Bien Phu. Then-US Secretary of State D. F. Dulles also hinted that the US might resort to an atomic attack. However, common sense still prevailed, and they did not do this. The US military command has reported that it will take up to a million US troops to achieve a military victory in Indochina. The then American leadership, which had just ended the Korean War, was not ready to pay such a high price for full control of Indochina, so it decided to strengthen only in the southern part of Vietnam.
A few days after the Geneva Conference, the National Security Council, chaired by President D. Eisenhower, concluded that the conference's decisions would have "disastrous consequences for US influence in Southeast Asia"15 and stated the need to oppose the implementation of these decisions. New efforts were made to support Ngo Dinh Diem's newly formed pro-American Government and disrupt the Geneva Conference's planned general elections to unify the country.
The agreements reached at the Geneva Conference did not change the views of its participants on the future of Indochina. The Eisenhower administration has never abandoned its previous belief that Indochina is the key to an Asian and possibly global balance of power. The leadership of the DRV did not lose hope of uniting the whole of Indochina under communist rule, and the leaders of the USSR and the PRC sought to increase (including at the expense of Indochina) the number of countries of the world's "socialist system". All this could not but lead to a further confrontation between the great powers in Indochina, which resulted in several more bloody local conflicts in this region.
1 Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Constitution, legislative acts, documents / Translated from French M., 1955, pp. 13-14.
2 Archive of Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation. F. 79. O. 2. Port. N 5. D. 720. Folder 1 (hereinafter-WUA of the Russian Federation); Russian State Archive of Socio-political History. F. 17. O. 137. D. 425, l. 60-81 (hereinafter-RGA-SPI).
Davidson F. 3 Voina v v Namme (1946-1975) [The Vietnam War (1946-1975)].
4 In March 1951, at the All-Vietnam People's Congress, both organizations were reformed into a single structure - the United National Front of Vietnam.
5 The most complete version of the North Vietnamese side is presented by Vo Nguyen Ziap in his book Dien Bien Phu, published in Hanoi in Russian in 1961.
6 The fighting vanguard of the Vietnamese people. Istoriya kommunisticheskoi partii V Nama [History of the Communist Party of Vietnam].
7 Indokitay: puti k mir [Indochina: the Path to Peace], Moscow, 1977, p. 26.
Kapitsa M. S. 8 On different parallels. Zapiski diplomata [Notes of a Diplomat], Moscow, 1996, p. 262; The truth about Vietnam-China relations over the past 30 years. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam, Hanoi, 1979, p. 25.
9 The Truth about Vietnam-China Relations, p. 31.
Mikheev Yu. L. 10 Edict. soch., p. 27.
11 RGASPI. F. 17. O. 137. D. 147, 471, 951.
12 Ibid. O. 3. d. 1080, l. 78, 259.
13 Ibid., d. 1078, l. 80.
14 Ibid. d. 1080, l. 55.
16 Potsdam to Guam, Moscow, 1974, p. 165.
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