Learning about Vietnam for 40 years Dr. Alain Ruscio.
The Phan Chau Trinh Culture Foundation presented the Vietnamese studies award to a Frenchman, Dr. Alain Ruscio, for his outstanding contribution to advertising Vietnamese cultural and history values in France and Europe.
Dr. Ruscio, a historian, a doctor of literature and an independent researcher has spent his life in researching Indochina and the France war in Indochina, including an important part of Vietnam’s history.
Dr. Ruscio has been the director of the French Center for Information and Documentation on Contemporary Vietnam for over 20 years, which has the participation of many retired professors, overseas Vietnamese and Vietnamese studies experts.
Dr. Ruscio went to Vietnam for the first time in 1978, as a correspondent of the L’Humanite Newspaper. That was the extremely difficult time of Vietnam because the war just passed for several years.
“Vietnam was very poor at that time but I saw a country of pride and a country that did not stop struggling to rebuild,” he said.
The French correspondent stayed in Vietnam until the summer 1980. He said that he was very lucky to travel along Vietnam, from Lao Cai in the north to Ca Mau in the south. His experience in the first two years in Vietnam was noted in the book “Vivre au Vietnam” (Live in Vietnam”. The book is his thinking about Vietnam five years after the Vietnam War.
Dr. Ruscio has taken at least 30 flights from Paris to Hanoi because he has returned to Vietnam each two years.
“I’ve worked very very hard. I was not a researcher of Vietnam at the beginning, but in the past 40 years, I’ve focused my mind in researching Vietnam’s history, especially wars of resistance. I witnessed many significant moments in Vietnam’s history during my two years working as a correspondent in your country. I see a close relation between correspondents and historians,” he added.
Speaking at the Phan Chau Trinh award ceremony, Dr. Ruscio related his meetings with Vietnamese PM Pham Van Dong and General Vo Nguyen Giap, who is his great idol.
“April 30, 1979, became the most memorable day in my life. When I knew that I was about to see Mr. Giap. I told myself that I was about to have a meeting with ‘history in capital letters.’”
“But when I stepped up onto small footsteps and saw a gentle, righteous and smiling man, I suddenly felt no fear. He gave me a hug. And he talked with me by his perfect French.”
He remembered his meetings with General Giap in a book entitled “Vo Nguyen Giap – A Life” which was published in 2011.
Dr. Ruscio also researches the modern history of former colonial countries of France. He won the Book against Colonialism awards in 2008 and 2011.
He has written 15 books about Vietnam. Six books on Vietnam’s history
Researcher Pavel Pozner talks with Vietnamese writer Nguyen Ngoc.
He is among several experts on Vietnamese studies at the Eastern Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences since 1973. He is also the chairman of the project to compile six books on Vietnamese history, which will be published in Russian in 2013 and in English in 2016.
Russian researcher Pavel Pozner said that the six books will cover Vietnam’s history from the Hung Vuong era to 2010.
The first volume will tell about Vietnam’s history from the Hung Vuong era to the end of the Ly dynasty. The second volume will continue from the end of the Ly dynasty to 1600 (Le-Mac dynasties). The third book will tell Vietnam’s history from 1600 to 1897. The modern history will be in the fourth and fifth volumes, from 1897 to 1945 and from 1945 to 2010. The sixth book will include annotations, detailed articles, maps, etc.
“We will finalize the preparation phase by this year end and the book will be published next year,” he said.
“We have traveled from the north to the south to collect documents and take photos for the books and we have always received warm support from everyone.”
“These books will be expensive because they will be printed on high-quality papers, with many illustration pictures. After delivering the books in Russia, we hope to publish them in Russia,” he added.
Pozner was born in 1945 in New York. His family returned to Germany in 1948 and then to Russia in 1952. His father is a famous film producer in France, USA and Russia.
Cinema used to be Pozner’s passion when he was a child but he became a student of the University of Oriental Languages. A trip to Vietnam in 1979 turned Pozner into a researcher of Vietnamese studies.
He successfully defended his MA thesis on ancient history of Vietnam in 1976 and the doctoral thesis on Vietnamese history from the beginning to the 10th century in France in 1987.
He is the translator of a Chinese-Russian book on Vietnamese history.
|Dr. Alain Ruscio talks with Vietnam News |
What were your feelings when you received the award?
I was of course surprised and very honoured. I know that Phan Chau Trinh is well-known. He is a national hero and a cultural expert, and one of those who preceded President Ho Chi Minh down the nationalist path. Not many French people have received this prize, maybe I am the first, I don't know.
You received your award for your research into Vietnamese history. You published a book about General Vo Nguyen Giap, entitled Vo Nguyen Giap – Une Vie (Vo Nguyen Giap – A Life) last year. Could you tell about the book?
The book gathers together a number of interviews I had with General Vo Nguyen Giap since 1979 when I met him for the first time. At that time, I was in Vietnam as a correspondent for the French newspaper L'Humanite. The country was preparing to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Dien Bien Phu victory. I asked to have an interview with the General. Our first meeting was friendly and warm. Since then, I've been back to Vietnam about 30 times and we gradually got in the habit of meeting each to discuss the news in Vietnam and the world. He always expressed very nicely, very sincerely his views. He told me much about his life, of the battles and the victories the country had been involved in. This book is a collection of those interviews, focusing on his life from his youth to 1975. I asked his permission to write the book but he asked me to wait. He didn't want to put himself forward. He firmly believes that it was the Vietnamese nation that won the war, not he. I had to wait 20 years for his permission. The book will be translated into Vietnamese this year.]
What were your impressions of General Giap?
He is very modest and cultured. He is very knowledgeable. And he smiles a lot. I very impressed with how accessible and open he is for such an important person in Vietnamese history. I could see him anytime I wanted. My last meeting with him was in 2008. He said that that would be the last time because of his ill-heath.
Besides Giap, I have met other Vietnam's personalities, including former prime minister Pham Van Dong, ex vice-president Madame Nguyen Thi Binh.
You are also director of an information and documentary centre on Vietnam in France? Would you tell about this centre?
I founded the centre with some ten other researchers in 1984. It was an opportunity to talk about Vietnam's history and news. The centre collects, classifies and makes publicly available an important number of documents from a number of sources in Viet Nam, France, England, Russia and Italy. The Vietnam National Library sends us new books every three months.
The centre is located in Montreuil, near Paris, but now it is housed at the Cultural House of Vietnam in Paris.
Why are you so interested in studying Vietnamese history?
I have been interested in Vietnam's history since I was very young. During the American war, I was among the many young people who cried out for justice and liberty in Vietnam. I loved Vietnam at that time but I didn't know the country very well. Later when I become a historian, I chose to specialise in Vietnam. I wanted to understand the causes of the resistance and the courage of the Vietnamese people.
The first book of my life was dedicated to Vietnam. It is entitled Vivre au Vietnam (Life in Viet Nam) and was published 30 years ago. I have since published more than 10 books on Vietnamese history.
You have witnessed many changes in Viet Nam. What do you think about this?
I believe that the changes have been very positive. When I first arrived in the country in 1979, life was very difficult here. The doi moi (renewal) process was cleverly conceived. Thanks to it, consumption has developed markedly. Young people now have a wide range of choices in fashion, motorbikes, mobile phones.
However, now that Viet Nam is open to the effects of globalisation, its cultural identity has been weakened. I know the Government is aware of this. It should find ways to preserve the Vietnamese spirit, its culture, respect for the family, its music, its literature.