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Various Authors & Editors

Comintern Archives: Files of the Communist Party of Japan

"General Staff of the World Revolution"
The Communist, or Third, International (Comintern) was founded in early 1919 as an international revolutionary proletarian party. For more than a quarter of a century, the Comintern deeply influenced the political life of many countries. The semi-legal and clandestine activities instigated by the Comintern made this federation of about 70 parties in Europe, Asia, and America one of the most cloistered societies of recent centuries. In practice, the Comintern was a Soviet-sponsored agency designed to coordinate the overthrow of the capitalist system worldwide, acting thus as the "General Staff of the World Revolution."

Rumours and myths
As with all such semi-secretive organizations, the Comintern soon became a source of rumors and myths that were perpetuated over the years. For a long time, historians could only speculate on the reality behind these myths, as they had no access to the Central Party archive in Moscow where the Comintern archives were stored. This situation is now changing and new areas of historical research are being opened up.

Top secret
After the Comintern was dissolved in 1943, its archives were transferred to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR, and later to the Central Party Archive of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism. Classified as top secret, the Comintern archives were inaccessible to researchers until late 1991, when the archives were opened to the public. However, even though they are now public, the archives are still difficult for researchers to access. The archives contain 220,00 files (15 linear kilometers of shelving) in almost 90 languages, and are divided into 521 documentary units (files). The Comintern archives contain 55 million pages of original documents from seven Congresses, thirteen ECCI Plenums, and over 70 communist and socialist parties, and other international organizations. The archives cover the whole period during which the organization was active, namely 1919-1943. As a result of the increasing international tension in the 1920s and 1930s, the documents of the communist parties of Germany, Italy, France, and other countries were stored for safekeeping in the Moscow-based archive. Many materials were received directly from the national communist parties or from representatives of the Comintern. Hand-written amendments and other personal corrections made by various figureheads of the communist movement make this material even more valuable.

The Communist Party of Japan
Initially a distinct group within the Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA), the CPJ was founded in 1922 and remained an underground organization until the end of WW II. During these years, many CPJ leaders were imprisoned in Japan or fell victim to the 1937-38 purges in the Soviet Union. Today, the CPJ has about 400,000 members and is represented in Japan's upper house of parliament.

The CPJ files
The CPJ files cover the period 1919-1941 and include extensive documentation on the relations between the Soviet Communist Party and its counterparts in Japan, the Far East, Europe, and America. The collection contains, for example, the proceedings of CPJ conferences, the plenums of the Central Committee, and records of local organizations; documents of the Executive Committee of the Comintern (ECCI) and correspondence between the leaders of the CPJ and the ECCI and its Shanghai- and Vladivostok-based Bureaus; materials about the labor history of Japan, trade unions, and youth organizations; and many periodicals and newspapers produced by the CPJ and trade unions.


Herbarium P.F. von Siebold, 1796-1866
National Herbarium of the Netherlands, Leiden University Branch

The Siebold collection
The Leiden branch of the National Herbarium of the Netherlands (NHN), formerly the Rijksherbarium, houses many important botanical collections. One of these is a 19th century collection of Japanese plants, generally referred to as the "Siebold" collection. The plants belonging to this collection were gathered during a period in which Japan was still closed to all western nations except the Netherlands. A considerable number of the c. 12,000 specimens, which include phanerogams as well as cryptogams, were brought together by the famous German physician P.F. von Siebold (1796-1866). In 1823 the Government of the Dutch East Indies sent him to Japan as the physician of the factory on Deshima, an artificial island in the Bay of Nagasaki. He also had the task of collecting information about the various aspects of Japan.
Von Siebold thought himself very lucky to go to Japan. Almost nothing new had been learned about the Japanese flora since the publication of Thunberg's Flora Japonica in 1784. For Von Siebold this meant that there were many opportunities to make new discoveries. Even before he arrived on Deshima, he planned to describe the fauna and flora of Japan as completely as possible and to collect all the species to be found there. In 1823 he wrote that he would not leave Japan before he had collected all the material needed for the preparation of a Flora Japonica (Schmid, 1942).

Von Siebold's collaborators
Von Siebold not only collected specimens himself, but also obtained many specimens from his Japanese students and collaborators, such as Mizutani Sugerok (1779-1833), Ohkôchi Zonshin (1796-1882), Ito Keiske (1803-1901), and Katsuragawa Hoken (1797-1844), one of the physicians to the Shogun. There are also Japanese plants present which, although not collected by Von Siebold personally, are counted as being part of the "Siebold" collection in the widest sense. These include plants collected by Von Siebold's assistant and successor on Deshima, H. Bürger (1806?-1858) who stayed on Deshima in the period 1825-1832 (and for some months in 1834); and the dried plants assembled by collectors Von Siebold sent out to Japan after his own departure.

Von Siebold's society
In 1839 Von Siebold established a society in the Netherlands for the introduction and cultivation of Japanese plants. To collect living plants for this society, Von Siebold sent J. Pierot (1812-1841) to Japan in 1840. Pierot, however, died on his way there, but while on Java (together with G. Bisschop) he bought a collection of dried Japanese plants that may have been collected by Bürger. C.J. Textor (1816-x) succeeded Pierot as a collector for Von Siebold's society. The dried plants he collected were sent directly to the Rijksherbarium.

O.G.J. Mohnike
The first physician on Deshima after Von Siebold was O.G.J. Mohnike (1813-1887). He stayed in Japan from 1848 to 1851. As the official in charge of the natural sciences he oversaw the study and collection of natural history materials. Although there is no direct relationship between the plants collected by Mohnike and Von Siebold, these have been added to the collection for the sake of completeness.

Largest collection of Japanese plants
The plants Von Siebold collected during his stay in Japan (1823-1829) were not the first Japanese plants to have reached Europe. E. Kämpfer (1651-1716) and C.P. Thunberg (1743-1828) had collected specimens in Japan in the 17th and 18th century respectively. However, the herbarium Von Siebold assembled was the largest collection of Japanese plants at that time. According to a catalogue of plant names it covered some 2,200-2,300 species of phanerogams (Hoffmann & Schultes, 1853). Publication on the Japanese flora at that time was impossible without consulting the Japanese collections in Leiden. Publications on the Japanese collections ( Flora Japonica) By 1829 Von Siebold had published on the Japanese Hydrangeas, a genus in which he was very interested (Von Siebold, 1829). Together with the German botanist J.G. Zuccarini (1797-1848) he started the publication of his Flora Japonica in 1835. After the death of Zuccarini in 1848 this project came to a halt. Also with Zuccarini, Von Siebold described many new genera and species based on the herbarium collections (Von Siebold & Zuccarini, 1843; 1845; 1846). The last two publications were intended to be as complete a representation of the Japanese flora as possible.
F.A.W. Miquel (1811-1871), director of the Rijksherbarium from 1862, was also very interested in the Japanese collections. After Von Siebold died in 1866, he published some new parts of the Flora Japonica. He also published on the Japanese collections in the Annales Musei Botanici Lugduno-Batavi (1863-1870), in which he described many new taxa, and in his Prolusio florae Japonicae (1866-1867). The latter is mainly a reprint of the Annales. In 1871 W.F.R. Suringar (1832-1898) succeeded Miquel as director of the Rijksherbarium. He was especially interested in the Japanese algae and published on them in the Algae Japonica (1870) and in the first two volumes of the Musée botanique de Leide (1871-1875).

Type specimens
The "Siebold" collection therefore contains many type specimens - specimens to which a certain plant name will always be linked. Many of the type specimens of plants named by Von Siebold, or by Von Siebold and Zuccarini, can be found here. Furthermore, many names created by Miquel and Suringar are based on this collection. However, the Japanese collections were not only studied in the past. In recent times they have been the subject of ongoing research. From a source of new species they have become important in the study of the history of early Japanese botany. Since 1995 T. Yamaguchi and N. Kato have visited the NHN many times to study the Japanese collections. The results of their extensive studies have been published amongst others in the Japanese periodical Calanus (Yamaguchi, 1997; 1998; 2003).

Gerard Thijsse, Nationaal Herbarium Nederland, Universiteit Leiden branch

Various Authors & Editors

Von Siebold, 1796-1866
Collection of rare Japanese books: National Museum of Ethnology at Leiden, the Netherlands

Most of the rare books in this collection are in Japanese, collected by Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796-1866) in Japan during his stay in Decima and Tokyo after 1822. A printed list of the Japanese titles (20 pp.) reprinted from the Catalogus librorum et manuscriptorum Japonicarum by J. Hoffmann comes free with the microfiche.

Various Authors & Editors

Japanese manuscripts
School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

32 Japanese manuscripts housed at the SOAS. Manuscripts include poems, stories, treaties and other official records, the earliest from ca. 1300.