Libmonster ID: VN-1227
Author(s) of the publication: P. TSVETOV

More recently, in one of the central districts of Hanoi, there was a prison building built by French colonialists at the end of the XIX century. In 1993, the prison was closed. Part of the wall of the prison premises was preserved, restored and turned into a museum for public viewing. A multi-storey complex "Hanoi Tau era" was built on the rest of the territory, including hotel rooms, executive rooms, conference rooms, shops and restaurants. But if the fashionable "Hanoi Towers" hardly gets customers (now there are many hotels of this class in the Vietnamese capital), then the modest museum is constantly visited by both Vietnamese and foreigners.

The French named Indochina's largest prison "Maison Central" ("Central House"), and the Vietnamese prisoners christened it "Hoa lo" - "Hellhole", which probably corresponded more to the feelings of a person trapped in gloomy, cramped casemates, where instead of the usual 450, more than two thousand were sometimes held in prison prisoners. Prisoners were often shackled, and some of them were waiting for the French innovation of "civilization" - the guillotine.

With prison, the colonialists tried to pacify the recalcitrant. But more often it was the other way around. The most determined fighters for national independence, who were ready to go to death, but not to bow their heads before foreign oppressors, were put in prison. After the formation of the Communist Party of Indochina in 1930, the Communists turned Hoa Lo into a training school for party cadres. A handwritten magazine was published in the prison, and the "red days" of revolutionary holidays were celebrated. Many leaders of the Communist Party of Vietnam, including Truong Tinh, Le Duan, Nguyen Van Linh, and Do Myoi, have passed its "universities".

In 1954, after the victory over the French colonialists, the prison gates opened.

But with the liberation from the colonial yoke, the history of Hoa Lo did not end. There was still a place reserved for criminals. And in August 1964, new prisoners appeared in the prison - American military pilots shot down in the skies of democratic Vietnam. More than a hundred pilots passed through the cells of the Hanoi Hilton, as the new guests called the prison. New prisoners were given special conditions: they were allowed to receive letters and parcels from home, attend Catholic masses, and make special beds that were long enough for tall, lanky guys. Many Americans appreciated the humane attitude of the authorities. After leaving Hoa Lo in 1973, they joined the movement to normalize relations between the former adversaries. Among them was the future US Ambassador to Vietnam, Douglas Peterson, who even more endeared himself to the hearts of Vietnamese people by marrying a Vietnamese woman and marrying her in the main Catholic cathedral of Hanoi.

15 years after the end of the US-Vietnam War, Hoa Lo Prison is once again in the public eye. The country has embarked on the path of transition to the market. A discussion broke out about the future of the prison. Everyone was saying that she didn't belong in the center of a modern city. The passionate debate reflected the contradictions of ideological life. Old party members called for Hoa Lo to be turned into a museum of the revolution (something like Petropavlovsk in Vietnam), while the younger generation, unencumbered by the baggage of the past, called for the demolition of the prison and the construction of an international trade center on this site.

The compromise was reached taking into account the positions of both sides. On a sunny Saturday afternoon, the whole family took a trip to the prison museum. We walked through the dark, narrow corridors, through the bars and through the peephole of the iron door, we looked at the solitary cells where clay "prisoners" sit for greater authenticity: we saw the guillotine on which the leader of the Iyenbai uprising of 1930, Nguyen Thai Hok, ended his revolutionary path; we looked with surprise at the narrow sewer drains through which they repeatedly escaped from prison. prisons are political prisoners. In the last room, the list of people who passed through the Hoa Lo dungeons includes many names known in the modern history of Vietnam.

So in the center of Hanoi, the country's past and present are intertwined.

P. TSVETOV, our own correspondent in Vietnam


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P. TSVETOV, THE PRISON BECAME A MUSEUM // Hanoi: Vietnam (BIBLIO.VN). Updated: 24.04.2024. URL: https://biblio.vn/m/articles/view/THE-PRISON-BECAME-A-MUSEUM (date of access: 26.05.2024).

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