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Le dictionnaire

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MARTYR

Vietnamese communists at the helm of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam defined, codified, and categorized their ‘chosen’ fallen soldiers of the Indochina War according to a system of martyrs (liet si). This patriotic elite, as Benoit de Tréglodé has shown, provided an important source of legitimacy for the party and the state it ran. In order for families to receive a posthumous certificate recognizing the entry of their deceased into the realm of the martyrs, surviving members had to demonstrate that the former soldier or resistance bureaucrat had died as the result of a direct confrontation with the enemy or as a result of bombing or imprisonment, including torture. In July 1956, the government defined five groups of people who could qualify for “national martrydom” as cadres and bureaucrats of the revolution: those of the land reform campaign; members of the people’s army; those of the Viet Minh’s pre-August Revolution guerillas; workers engaged in national defense; and youth who died in the defense of the nation. Although the law of 1956 theoretically excluded class, religion, and ethnicity as criteria for choosing martyrs, in practice the communist-minded DRV made selections based on such ideological factors. In 1962, the DRV had on file 11,290 “martyr families” (gia dinh liet si). Such a legal status entailed more than honor for the families. It also entitled widows, parents, and children of the deceased to state privileges and financial support. For the DRV leadership, control of the heroic dead allowed it to reinforce its legitimacy, control the meaning of the war from which its legitimacy derived, and keep pension costs manageable. See also CEMETERIES; EXPERIENCE OF WAR; MYTH OF WAR.