Nong Duc Manh was born on 11 September 1940 in Cuong Loi village, Bac Can province, a rural, mountainous area in the north of Vietnam. Several press reports indicate it is widely believed in Vietnam that Manh is a son of revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh, though Manh has denied the rumor. Manh is at least partially Tay, making him the first leader of Vietnam from one of the country's numerous and traditionally politically marginalized ethnic minorities. He attended regional schools where he studied forestry, an area in which he spent much of his early career. He studied Russian at the Ha Noi Foreign Language University in the mid-1960s and then went to the Soviet Union to study forestry at the Leningrad Forestry Institute of the Soviet Union (1966-1971.) Upon returning to Vietnam he assumed progressively higher posts within various forestry institutes. A long-time member of the Communist Party (he joined in 1963), Manh was appointed deputy secretary of the Party Committee of Bac Thai Province in 1980; in 1983 he was elevated to the post of secretary.