- Contested territories
- Area 10,503.2 km²
- Population 19,434
The Kuril Islands (Russian: Кури́льские острова́, Japanese: Kuriru rettō (クリル列島)) form a volcanic archipelago that stretches approximately 1,300 km between Japan and Russia. They are under Russian jurisdiction, but Japan claims the four southernmost islands, which they call the ‘Northern Territories’. They were under Japanese control between 1855 and 1945 but were seized by Russia after World War II. The Japanese population living on the islands was forced to moved by Russia to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The Ainu, the indigenous people who live on the lands surrounding the Sea of Okhotsk, also claim sovereignty over the islands. The disputed are Iturup/Etorofu, Kunashir /Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai Islands.
How a war in Ukraine crushed the hopes of thousands of elderly Japanese
Soviet soldiers barged into Hirotoshi Kawata’s home on Sept. 4, 1945, searching for hidden Japanese soldiers and valuables. Kawata, then 11, remembers understanding only two words they said: tokei, or wristwatch; and sake, which they went on to loot from the home.
How Ukraine War Fuels Japan’s Island Feud With Russia
As it overturned precedent to follow the U.S. and Europe in imposing harsh sanctions to punish Russia for invading Ukraine, Japan said it scrambled fighter jets to intercept a helicopter – thought to be Russian – that entered its airspace. That fueled more sniping between Japan and Russia, which have been at odds over four small islands that lie between them since the end of World War II, preventing them from formally ending hostilities.
Japan’s plan to resolve a 70-year-old row with Russia is failing
Like his predecessors, Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, would dearly like to reclaim the Northern Territories, as Japan calls the southern Kurils. But Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, is better known for taking territory than giving it back.
Russia and Japan on Different Wavelenghts in the Kuril Islands
Over seven decades have passed since World War II ended, but not for Russia and Japan—at least not officially. The status of the four southernmost Kuril Islands, nestled between the Sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific Ocean, has proved an impassable roadblock on the way toward an official peace treaty between the two nations.