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Disputed island
Native name: Ainu: エツ゚ヲロㇷ゚シㇼ
Other names: Russian: Итуру́п; Japanese: 択捉島
Iturup Terra cut.jpg
NASA image of Iturup with Berutarube volcano at the southern end of the island
Kuriles Iturup.PNG
Location Sea of Okhotsk
Coordinates 45°02′N147°37′E / 45.033°N 147.617°E / 45.033; 147.617 Coordinates: 45°02′N147°37′E / 45.033°N 147.617°E / 45.033; 147.617
Archipelago Kuril Islands
Area3,139 km2 (1,212 sq mi)
Length200 km (120 mi)
Width27 km (17 mi)
Highest point
Administered by
Flag of Russia.svg  Russia
Federal subject Sakhalin Oblast
District Kurilsky
Claimed by
Flag of Japan.svg  Japan
Prefecture Hokkaido
Subprefecture Nemuro
Population7,500 (as of 2003)

Iturup (Russian : Остров Итуру́п, romanized: Ostrov Iturúp [1] ; Ainu : エツ゚ヲロㇷ゚シㇼ, romanized: Etuworop=sir; Japanese : 択捉島, romanized: Etorofu-tō, [2] historically also called Etrof [3] and Yetorup) is one of the Kuril Islands. It was formerly known as Staten Island. [4] It is the largest and northernmost island in the southern Kurils, ownership of which is disputed by Japan and Russia.


The island was Japanese territory since 1855 until the end of the Second World War in 1945, when Soviet forces took possession of all the Kurils and forced out Japanese residents. The island is still claimed by Japan, which considers a site on Iturup to be its northernmost point.

Iturup is located near the southern end of the Kuril chain, between Kunashiri (19 km to the SW) and Urup (37 km to the NE). The town of Kurilsk, administrative center of Kurilsky District, is located roughly midway along its western shore.

Iturup and Urup are separated by the Vries Strait, named after Dutch explorer Maarten Gerritsz Vries, the first recorded European to explore the area. [5]

Relief map Iturup Relief Map, SRTM-1.jpg
Relief map


Iturup consists of volcanic massifs and mountain ridges. A series of a dozen calc-alkaline volcanoes running NE to SW form the backbone of the island, the highest being Stokap (1,634 m) in the central part of Iturup. The shores of the island are high and abrupt. The vegetation mostly consists of spruce, larch, pine, fir, and mixed deciduous forests with alder, lianas and Kuril bamboo underbrush. The mountains are covered with birch and Siberian Dwarf Pine scrub, herbaceous flowers (including Fragaria iturupensis , the Iturup strawberry) or bare rocks.

The island also contains some high waterfalls, such as the Ilya Muromets.

Rheniite, a rhenium sulfide mineral (ReS2), was discovered in active hot fumaroles on Kudriavy volcano and first described in 2004. In the field it was originally mistaken for molybdenite. [6]


Post-classical (500 to 1450)

The native inhabitants of Iturup and the Kuril islands are the Ainu. They lived there since before the 14th century.

Edo period

Iturup was reached in 1661 by the Japanese Shichirobei and his fellows after they had drifted there. The island saw both a Russian settlement (late 18th century) and a Japanese garrison (1800) at the site of the present-day Kurilsk. In 1855 Iturup was ceded to Japan by the Treaty of Shimoda. Its name comes from the Ainu エツ゚ヲロㇷ゚ (Etuworop), meaning "Place possessing [many] capes."

Showa period

On 26 November 1941, a Japanese carrier fleet left Hitokappu Bay (now called Kasatka Bay [7] ), on the eastern shore of Iturup, and sailed for an attack on the American base of Pearl Harbor.

Shana Village was located on Iturup (Etorofu) in the Showa era, before 1945. It was the administrative capital of the Kuril islands. There was a village hospital, an Etorofu Fisheries factory, a radio tower of the post office with a radio receiving antenna. The receiver was battery-powered. [8]


In 1945, according to decisions of the Yalta Conference, it was occupied by the Soviet Union after Japan's defeat in World War II. The Japanese inhabitants were expelled to mainland Japan. [9] In 1956 the two countries agreed to restore diplomatic relations, but a peace treaty, as of 2021, has not been concluded due to the disputed status of Iturup and some other nearby islands.

A Soviet Anti-Air Defense (PVO) airfield, Burevestnik (English: storm-petrel), is located on the island and was until 1993 home for a number of Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 fighter jets. [10] In 1968, Seaboard World Airlines Flight 253A was intercepted over the Kurils and forced to land at Burevestnik with 214 American troops bound for Vietnam. An older airfield, Vetrovoe, exists on the eastern part of the island and may have been used primarily by Japanese forces during World War II.

Contemporary period

A new international airport, Iturup Airport, was opened in 2014, 7 kilometres (4+12 miles) east of Kurilsk. It was the first airport built from scratch in Russia's post-Soviet history. It has a 2.3-kilometre-long (7,500 ft), 42-metre-wide (138 ft) runway and can receive Antonov An-74-200 aircraft. It also has a military use. The Burevestnik military airfield 60 km (37 mi) to the south, in the past received civilian aircraft as well, but was often closed because of fog. Burevestnik is now a reserve airfield for the new airport. [11] On February 2, 2018, PBS NewsHour reported that Russia announced it is sending fighter planes to Iturup. [12] Su-35 aircraft landed on a reserve airfield on the island in March 2018 [13] [14] and Su-35s were then deployed to Iturup airport on a trial basis in August 2018. [15]

Administratively the island belongs to the Sakhalin Oblast of the Russian Federation. Japan claims Iturup as part of Nemuro Subprefecture.

See also

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  1. "Ostrov Iturup: Russia". Geographical Names. Retrieved 2014-02-24.
  2. "Etorofu-tō: Russia". Geographical Names. Retrieved 2014-02-24.
  3. Contemporary Japan, Volume 24. Foreign Affairs Association of Japan. 1956. p. 520.
  4. Heawood, Edward (1912). A history of geographical discovery in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp.  87.
  5. Dutch exploration Archived 2008-03-25 at the Wayback Machine
  6. Korzhinsky, M.A.; Tkachenko, S. I.; Shmulovich, K. I.; Taran, Y. A.; Steinberg, G. S. (5 May 2004). "Discovery of a pure rhenium mineral at Kudriavy volcano". Nature . 369 (6475): 51–52. Bibcode:1994Natur.369...51K. doi:10.1038/369051a0. S2CID   4344624.
  7. Внешняя политика Японии: сентябрь 1939 г.-декабрь 1941 г – 1959, page 246 (in Russian)
  8. "Sana, the administrative capital - 行政の首都 紗那(しゃな)". Chishima People's Magazine Study Group (千島庶民誌研究会). 6 October 2016. Archived from the original on 10 November 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2020.
  9. Takahara, "Nemuro raid survivor"
  10. Austin, Greg; Muraviev, Alexey D. (2000). The Armed Forces of Russia in Asia. London: I.B.Tauris. p. 244. ISBN   9781860644856 . Retrieved 16 June 2018.
  11. "New airport on Kuril Iturup Island receives first flight". Russia Beyond. Interfax. 22 September 2014. Retrieved 16 June 2018.
  12. "PBS NewsHour full episode February 2, 2018 (Time Index 8:37)" . Retrieved 26 October 2014.
  13. "Russian fighter jets land on disputed island". Xinhua News Agency . March 26, 2018. Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  14. Gady, Franz-Stefan (August 1, 2018). "Japan Asks Russia to Reduce Militarization of Disputed Kuril Islands". The Diplomat . Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  15. "Report: Fighter jets deployed on Etorofu for trial". NHK . August 4, 2018. Retrieved August 5, 2018.