Kuril Islands

Last updated
Kuril Islands
Disputed islands
Native name: Курильские острова
Kuril Island.jpg
A coastline along one of the Kuril Islands
Sea of Okhotsk map with state labels.png
Location of the Kuril Islands in the Western Pacific between Japan and the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia
LocationPacific Ocean
Coordinates 46°30′N151°30′E / 46.500°N 151.500°E / 46.500; 151.500 Coordinates: 46°30′N151°30′E / 46.500°N 151.500°E / 46.500; 151.500
Total islands56
Area10,503.2 km2 (2,595,400 acres; 4,055.3 sq mi)
Length1,150 km (715 miles)
Highest point
  • Alaid
  • 2,339 metres (7,674 ft)
Administered by
Flag of Russia.svg  Russia
Federal subject Sakhalin Oblast
Districts Severo-Kurilsky, Kurilsky, Yuzhno-Kurilsky
Claimed by
Flag of Japan.svg  Japan
(partial claim, southernmost islands)
Prefecture Hokkaido
Subprefecture Nemuro
Population19,434 (as of 2010)
Ethnic groupsmajority Russians
Composite map of the islands between Kamchatka Peninsula and Nemuro Peninsula, combining twelve US Army Map Service maps compiled in the early 1950s Composite island map, from Series L506, U.S. Army Map Service, 1954-.jpg
Composite map of the islands between Kamchatka Peninsula and Nemuro Peninsula, combining twelve US Army Map Service maps compiled in the early 1950s

The Kuril Islands or Kurile Islands [lower-alpha 1] is a Russian-controlled volcanic archipelago part of the country's far eastern Sakhalin Oblast. It stretches approximately 1,300 km (810 mi) northeast from Hokkaido of Japan to Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia separating the Sea of Okhotsk from the north Pacific Ocean. There are 56 islands and many minor rocks. The Kuril Islands consist of the Greater Kuril Chain and the Lesser Kuril Chain. [1] They cover an area of around 10,503.2 square kilometres (4,055.3 sq mi), [2] with a population of roughly 20,000. [3]


Though all of the islands lie under Russian administration, Japan claims the four southernmost islands, including two of the three largest ones (Iturup and Kunashir), as part of its territory as well as Shikotan and the Habomai islets, which has led to the ongoing Kuril Islands dispute. The disputed islands are known in Japan as the country's "Northern Territories". [4] In 2018, Russo-Japanese talks on resolving the dispute resumed. [5]


The name Kuril originates from the autonym of the aboriginal Ainu, the islands' original inhabitants: kur, meaning "man". It may also be related to names for other islands that have traditionally been inhabited by the Ainu people, such as Kuyi or Kuye for Sakhalin and Kai for Hokkaidō. In Japanese, the Kuril Islands are known as the Chishima Islands (Kanji: 千島列島Chishima Rettōpronounced  [tɕiɕima ɾeꜜttoː] , literally, Thousand Islands Archipelago), also known as the Kuriru Islands (Katakana: クリル列島Kuriru Rettō [kɯɾiɾɯ ɾeꜜttoː] , literally, Kuril Archipelago). Once the Russians reached the islands in the 18th century they found a pseudo-etymology from Russian kurit' (курить – "to smoke") due to the continual fumes and steam above the islands from volcanoes.

Geography and climate

Caldera of the island Ushishir Yankicha.jpg
Caldera of the island Ushishir

The Kuril Islands form part of the ring of tectonic instability encircling the Pacific Ocean referred to as the Ring of Fire. The islands themselves are summits of stratovolcanoes that are a direct result of the subduction of the Pacific Plate under the Okhotsk Plate, which forms the Kuril Trench some 200 kilometres (124 mi) east of the islands. The chain has around 100 volcanoes, some 40 of which are active, and many hot springs and fumaroles. There is frequent seismic activity, including a magnitude 8.5 earthquake in 1963 and one of magnitude 8.3 recorded on November 15, 2006, which resulted in tsunami waves up to 1.5 metres (5 ft) reaching the California coast. [6] Raikoke Island, near the centre of the archipelago, has an active volcano which erupted again in June 2019, with emissions reaching 13,000 m (42,651 ft).

The climate on the islands is generally severe, with long, cold, stormy winters and short and notoriously foggy summers. The average annual precipitation is 40 to 50 inches (1,020 to 1,270 mm), a large portion of which falls as snow. The Köppen climate classification of most of the Kurils is subarctic (Dfc), although Kunashir is humid continental (Dfb). However, the Kuril Islands’ climate resembles the subpolar oceanic climate of southwest Alaska much more than the hypercontinental climate of Manchuria and interior Siberia, as precipitation is heavy and permafrost completely absent. It is characterized by mild summers with only 1 to 3 months above 10 °C or 50 °F and cold, snowy, extremely windy winters below −3 °C or 26.6 °F, although usually above −10 °C or 14 °F.

The chain ranges from temperate to sub-Arctic climate types, and the vegetative cover consequently ranges from tundra in the north to dense spruce and larch forests on the larger southern islands. The highest elevations on the islands are Alaid volcano (highest point: 2,339 m or 7,674 ft) on Atlasov Island at the northern end of the chain and Tyatya volcano (1,819 m or 5,968 ft) on Kunashir Island at the southern end.

Landscape types and habitats on the islands include many kinds of beach and rocky shores, cliffs, wide rivers and fast gravelly streams, forests, grasslands, alpine tundra, crater lakes and peat bogs. The soils are generally productive, owing to the periodic influxes of volcanic ash and, in certain places, owing to significant enrichment by seabird guano. However, many of the steep, unconsolidated slopes are susceptible to landslides and newer volcanic activity can entirely denude a landscape. Only the southernmost island has large areas covered by trees, while more northerly islands have no trees, or spotty tree cover.

Stratovolcano Mt. Ruruy; view from Yuzhno-Kurilsk Vulkan Rurui (s Iuzhno-Kuril'ska).jpg
Stratovolcano Mt. Ruruy; view from Yuzhno-Kurilsk

The northernmost, Atlasov Island (Oyakoba in Japanese), is an almost-perfect volcanic cone rising sheer out of the sea; it has been praised by the Japanese in haiku, wood-block prints, and other forms, in much the same way as the better-known Mount Fuji. Its summit is the highest point in Sakhalin Oblast.



Owing to their location along the Pacific shelf edge and the confluence of Okhotsk Sea gyre and the southward Oyashio Current, the Kuril islands are surrounded by waters that are among the most productive in the North Pacific, supporting a wide range and high abundance of marine life.

Invertebrates : Extensive kelp beds surrounding almost every island provide crucial habitat for sea urchins, various mollusks and countless other invertebrates and their associated predators. Many species of squid provide a principal component of the diet of many of the smaller marine mammals and birds along the chain.

Fish : Further offshore, walleye pollock, Pacific cod, several species of flatfish are of the greatest commercial importance. During the 1980s, migratory Japanese sardine was one of the most abundant fish in the summer.

Pinniped : The main pinnipeds were a significant object of harvest for the indigenous populations of the Kuril islands, both for food and materials such as skin and bone. The long term fluctuations in the range and distribution of human settlements along the Kuril island presumably tracked the pinniped ranges. In historical times, fur seals were heavily exploited for their fur in the 19th and early 20th centuries and several of the largest reproductive rookeries, as on Raykoke island, were extirpated. In contrast, commercial harvest of the true seals and Steller sea lions has been relatively insignificant on the Kuril islands proper. Since the 1960s there has been essentially no additional harvest and the pinniped populations in the Kuril islands appear to be fairly healthy and in some cases expanding. The notable exception is the now extinct Japanese sea lion, which was known to occasionally haul out on the Kuril islands.

Sea otters : Sea otters were exploited very heavily for their pelts in the 19th century, as shown by 19th and 20th century whaling catch and sighting records. [7]

Seabirds : The Kuril islands are home to many millions of seabirds, including northern fulmars, tufted puffins, murres, kittiwakes, guillemots, auklets, petrels, gulls and cormorants. On many of the smaller islands in summer, where terrestrial predators are absent, virtually every possibly hummock, cliff niche or underneath of boulder is occupied by a nesting bird. Several of the islands, including Kunashir and the Lesser Kuril Chain in the South Kurils, and the northern Kurils from Urup to Paramushir, have been recognised as Important Bird Areas (IBAs) by BirdLife International because they support populations of various threatened bird species, including many waterbirds, seabirds and waders. [8]


The composition of terrestrial species on the Kuril islands is dominated by Asian mainland taxa via migration from Hokkaido and Sakhalin Islands and by Kamchatkan taxa from the North. While highly diverse, there is a relatively low level of endemism.

The WWF divides the Kuril Islands into two ecoregions. The southern Kurils, along with southwestern Sakhalin, comprise the South Sakhalin-Kurile mixed forests ecoregion. The northern islands are part of the Kamchatka-Kurile meadows and sparse forests, a larger ecoregion that extends onto the Kamchatka Peninsula and Commander Islands.

Because of the generally smaller size and isolation of the central islands, few major terrestrial mammals have colonized these, though red and Arctic foxes were introduced for the sake of the fur trade in the 1880s. The bulk of the terrestrial mammal biomass is taken up by rodents, many introduced in historical times. The largest southernmost and northernmost islands are inhabited by brown bear, foxes, and martens. Some species of deer are found on the more southerly islands. It is claimed that a wild cat, the Kurilian Bobtail, originates from the Kuril Islands. The bobtail is due to the mutation of a dominant gene. The cat has been domesticated and exported to nearby Russia and bred there, becoming a popular domestic cat.

Among terrestrial birds, ravens, peregrine falcons, some wrens and wagtails are common.


Kuril Ainu people next to their traditional dwelling. Kuril Ainu dwelling.jpg
Kuril Ainu people next to their traditional dwelling.
A map of Kuril Islands from Gisuke Sasamori's 1893 book Chishima Tanken Map of Chishima by Gisuke Sasamori.jpg
A map of Kuril Islands from Gisuke Sasamori's 1893 book Chishima Tanken

Early history

The Ainu people inhabited the Kuril Islands from early times, although few records predate the 17th century. The Japanese administration first took nominal control of the islands during the Edo period (1603-1868) in the form of claims by the Matsumae clan. It is claimed[ by whom? ] that the Japanese knew of the northern islands 370 years[ timeframe? ] ago. [9] [ need quotation to verify ] The Shōhō Era Map of Japan (Shōhō kuni ezu ( 正保国絵図 )), a map of Japan made by the Tokugawa shogunate in 1644, shows 39 large and small islands northeast of Hokkaido's Shiretoko Peninsula and Cape Nosappu. A Dutch expedition under Maarten Gerritsz Vries explored the islands in 1643. Russian popular legend has Fedot Alekseyevich Popov sailing into the area c. 1649. [10] Russian Cossacks landed on Shumshu in 1711. [11]

The Ainu people seem to have used the name Choka for Paramushir and its neighbouring islands. Then Rakkoshima ("sea-otter isles") extended from Onnekotan to Simushir. Urup, Iturup and Kunashir are the three southern islands.[ citation needed ]

In 1811 the Golovnin Incident occurred: retainers of the Nambu clan captured the Russian captain Vasily Golovnin and his crew - who had stopped at Kunashir during their hydrographic survey - and sent them to the Matsumae authorities. Because Petr Rikord, the captain of a Russian vessel, also captured a Japanese trader, Takadaya Kahei, near Kunashir in 1812, Japan and Russia entered into negotiations to establish the border between the two countries.[ citation needed ]

American whaleships caught right whales off the islands between 1847 and 1892. [12] Three of the ships were wrecked on the islands: two on Urup in 1855 [13] [14] and one on Makanrushi in 1856. [15] In September 1892, north of Kunashir Island, a Russian schooner seized the bark Cape Horn Pigeon, of New Bedford and escorted it to Vladivostok, where it was detained for nearly two weeks. [16]

Japanese administration

Shana Village in Etorofu (Showa period): a village hospital in the foreground, a factory in the left background with a fishery and a central radio tower (before 1945). Shana Village in Etorofu Island.JPG
Shana Village in Etorofu (Shōwa period): a village hospital in the foreground, a factory in the left background with a fishery and a central radio tower (before 1945).

The Russian Empire and Japan concluded the Treaty of Commerce, Navigation and Delimitation in 1855, establishing their border between Iturup and Urup. This treaty confirmed that Japanese territory stretched south from Iturup and Russian territory stretched north from Urup. Sakhalin remained a place where people from both countries could live.

In 1869, in the context of the Boshin War of 1868-1869, Japan's Meiji government established the Colonization Commission in Sapporo to aid in the development of the northern area. Ezo was renamed "Hokkaidō" and Kita Ezo (South Sakhalin) later received the name of "Karafuto". Eleven provinces[ which? ] and 86 districts founded by the Meiji government were put under the control of feudal clans. Because the Meiji government could not sufficiently cope with Russians moving to south Sakhalin, Japan negotiated with Russia over control of the Kuril Islands, resulting in the Treaty of Saint Petersburg, which ceded the eighteen islands north of Uruppu to Japan and all of Sakhalin to Russia.

Road networks and post offices were established[ by whom? ] on Kunashiri and Etorofu. Life on the islands became more stable when a regular sea-route connecting the islands with Hokkaidō opened and a telegraphic system began. At the end of the Taishō period of 1912 to 1926, towns and villages were organized[ by whom? ] in the northern territories and village offices were established on each island. The Habomai island towns were all part of Habomai Village for example. In other cases the town and village system was not adopted on islands north of Uruppu, which came under direct control of the Nemuro Subprefectural office of the Hokkaidō government.

Each village had a district forestry system, a marine-product examination center, salmon hatchery, post office, police station, elementary school, Shinto temple, and other public facilities. As of 1930, 8,300 people lived on Kunashiri island and 6,000 on Etorofu island - most of them engaged in coastal and high-sea fishing.

From the very end of 19th century the Japanese administration started the forced assimilation of the native Ainu people. [17] [18] Also at this time the Ainu were granted automatic Japanese citizenship, effectively denying them the status of an indigenous group. Many Japanese moved onto former Ainu lands, including the Kuril islands. The Ainu were forced to learn Japanese, required to adopt Japanese names, and ordered to cease religious practices such as animal sacrifice and the custom of tattooing. [18] Prior to Japanese colonization [19] (in 1868) about 100 Ainu reportedly lived on the Kuril islands. [20]

During the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905, Gunji, a retired Japanese military man and local settler in Shumshu, led an invading party to the Kamchatka coast. Russia sent reinforcements to the area to capture and intern this group. After the end of the war, Japan received fishing rights in Russian waters as part of the Russo-Japanese Fisheries Agreement until 1945.

During their armed intervention in Siberia 1918–1925, Japanese forces from the northern Kurils, along with United States and European forces, occupied southern Kamchatka. Japanese vessels carried out naval strikes against Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.[ citation needed ]

World War II

In February 1945 the Yalta Agreement [22] promised to the Soviet Union South Sakhalin and the Kuril islands in return for entering into World War II against the Japanese. In August 1945 the Soviet Union mounted an armed invasion of South Sakhalin at the cost of over 5,000 Soviet and Japanese lives. [23] [ better source needed ]

Russian administration

Japan maintains a claim to the four southernmost islands of Kunashir, Iturup, Shikotan, and the Habomai rocks, together called the Northern Territories.

On 8 February 2017 the Russian government gave names to five previously unnamed Kuril islands in Sakhalin Oblast: Derevyanko Island (after Kuzma Derevyanko, 43°22′8″N146°1′3″E / 43.36889°N 146.01750°E / 43.36889; 146.01750 ), Gnechko Island (after Alexey Gnechko, 43°48′5″N146°52′1″E / 43.80139°N 146.86694°E / 43.80139; 146.86694 ), Gromyko Island (after Andrei Gromyko, 46°14′1″N150°36′1″E / 46.23361°N 150.60028°E / 46.23361; 150.60028 ), Farkhutdinov Island (after Igor Farkhutdinov, 43°48′5″N146°53′2″E / 43.80139°N 146.88389°E / 43.80139; 146.88389 ) and Shchetinina Island (after Anna Shchetinina, 46°13′7″N150°34′6″E / 46.21861°N 150.56833°E / 46.21861; 150.56833 ). [24]


Main village in Shikotan Shikotan 008.jpg
Main village in Shikotan
Russian Orthodox church, Kunashir Kunashir hram.jpg
Russian Orthodox church, Kunashir

As of 2013, 19,434 people inhabited the Kuril Islands. These include ethnic Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Tatars, Nivkhs, Oroch, and Ainus. Russian Orthodox Christianity is the main religion. Some of the villages are permanently manned by Russian soldiers (especially in Kunashir following recent tensions). Others are inhabited by civilians, which are mostly fishermen, workers of the fish factories, dockers, and social sphere workers (policemen, medics, teachers, etc.). Recent construction works on the islands attracts a lot of migrant workers from the rest of Russia and other Post-Soviet states. As of 2014, there were only 8 inhabited islands out of a total of 56. Iturup Island is over 60% ethnically Ukrainian. [4]


Fishing is the primary occupation. The islands have strategic and economic value, in terms of fisheries and also mineral deposits of pyrite, sulfur, and various polymetallic ores. There are hopes that oil exploration will provide an economic boost to the islands. [25]

The economic rise of the Russian Federation has been seen on the Kurils too. The most visible sign of improvement is the new construction in infrastructure. In 2014, construction workers built a pier and a breakwater in Kitovy Bay, central Iturup, where barges are a major means of transport, sailing between the cove and ships anchored offshore. A new road has been carved through the woods near Kurilsk, the island's biggest village, going to the site of Yuzhno-Kurilsk Mendeleyevo Airport. [26]

Gidrostroy, the Kurils' biggest business group with interests in fishing, construction and real estate, built its second fish processing factory on Iturup island in 2006, introducing a state-of-the-art conveyor system.

To deal with a rise in the demand of electricity, the local government is also upgrading a state-run geothermal power plant at Mount Baransky, an active volcano, where steam and hot water can be found. [27]


The main Russian force stationed on the islands is the 18th Machine Gun Artillery Division, which has its headquarters in Goryachiye Klyuchi on Iturup Island. There are also Border Guard Service troops stationed on the islands. In February 2011, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called for substantial reinforcements of the Kuril Islands defences. Subsequently in 2015, additional anti-aircraft missile systems 'Tor', 'BUK' missile systems, coastal defence missile systems 'Bastion', combat helicopters Ka-52 'Alligator' and 1 'Varshavyanka' project submarine came on defence of Kuril Islands. [28]

List of main islands

Yuzhno-Kurilsk, Kunashir Yuzhno-Kurilsk anchor.jpg
Yuzhno-Kurilsk, Kunashir
Severo-Kurilsk, Paramushir 214 1426 Sev Kur main street wiki.jpg
Severo-Kurilsk, Paramushir
Atlasov Atlasov.jpg
A view of the volcano Bogdan Khmelnitsky on Iturup Island Iturup volcano Bogdan Khmelnitsky.jpg
A view of the volcano Bogdan Khmelnitsky on Iturup Island
Mendeleyeva in the southern part of Kunashir Vulkan Tiatia s vulkana Mendeleeva.jpg
Mendeleyeva in the southern part of Kunashir
Yuzhno-Kurilsky District Odin iz zubtsov vulkana Mendeleeva.jpg
Yuzhno-Kurilsky District
Ebeko volcano, Paramushir Stratovulkan.jpg
Ebeko volcano, Paramushir
White Rocks, Iturup Belye skaly 5.jpg
White Rocks, Iturup

While in Russian sources[ citation needed ] the islands are mentioned for the first time in 1646, the earliest detailed information about them was provided by the explorer Vladimir Atlasov in 1697. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Kuril Islands were explored by Danila Antsiferov, I. Kozyrevsky, Ivan Yevreinov, Fyodor Luzhin, Martin Shpanberg, Adam Johann von Krusenstern, Vasily Golovnin, and Henry James Snow.

The following table lists information on the main islands from north to south:

Island Russian : Name Japanese : NameAlternative
Island GroupCapital /
Landing point
Other CitiesAreaPop.
Severo-Kurilsky District North KurilsNorth Kurils (北千島きたちしま) Severo-Kurilsk Shelikovo, Podgorny, Baikovo3,504 km2
(1,353 sq mi)
Shumshu Шумшу占守島しゅむしゅとうShumushuNorth KurilsBaikovo388 km2
(150 sq mi)
Atlasov Атласова阿頼度島あらいどとうOyakoba, AraidoNorth KurilsAlaidskaya Bay150 km2
(58 sq mi)
Paramushir Парамушир幌筵島ぱらむしるとうParamushiru, HoromushiroNorth Kurils Severo-Kurilsk Shelikovo, Podgorny 2,053 km2
(793 sq mi)
Antsiferov Анциферова志林規島しりんきとうShirinkiNorth KurilsAntsiferov beachCape Terkut7 km2
(2.7 sq mi)
Makanrushi Маканруши磨勘留島まかんるとうMakanruNorth KurilsZakat50 km2
(19 sq mi)
Awos Авось帆掛岩ほかけいわHokake, HainokoNorth Kurils0.1 km2
(0.039 sq mi)
Onekotan Онекотан温禰古丹島おんねこたんとうNorth KurilsMusselKuroisi, Nemo, Shestakov425 km2
(164 sq mi)
Kharimkotan Харимкотан志林規島しりんきとう春牟古丹島Harimukotan, HarumukotanNorth KurilsSunazhmaSevergin Bay70 km2
(27 sq mi)
Ekarma Экарма越渇磨島えかるまとうEkarumaNorth KurilsKruglyy30 km2
(12 sq mi)
Chirinkotan Чиринкотан知林古丹島ちりんこたんとうNorth KurilsCape Ptichy6 km2
(2.3 sq mi)
Shiashkotan Шиашкотан捨子古丹島しゃすこたんとうShasukotanNorth KurilsMakarovka122 km2
(47 sq mi)
Lowuschki Rocks Ловушки牟知列岩むしるれつがんMushiruNorth Kurils1.5 km2
(0.58 sq mi)
Raikoke Райкоке雷公計島らいこけとうNorth KurilsRaikoke4.6 km2
(1.8 sq mi)
Matua Матуа松輪島まつわとうMatsuwaNorth KurilsSarychevo52 km2
(20 sq mi)
Rasshua Расшуа羅処和島らしょわとうRashowa, RasutsuaNorth KurilsArches Point67 km2
(26 sq mi)
Srednego Среднего摺手岩すりでいわSurideNorth KurilsUn­known0
Ushishir Ушишир宇志知島うししるとうUshishiruNorth KurilsKraternyaRyponkicha5 km2
(1.9 sq mi)
Ketoy Кетой計吐夷島けといとうKetoiNorth KurilsStorozheva73 km2
(28 sq mi)
Kurilsky District Middle Kurils (Naka-chishima / 中千島)split between both Japanese groups Kurilsk Reidovo, Kitovyi, Rybaki, Goryachiye Klyuchi, Kasatka, Burevestnik, Shumi-Gorodok, Gornyy5,138 km2
(1,984 sq mi)
Simushir Симушир新知島しむしるとうShimushiru, ShinshiruNorth KurilsKraternyySrednaya bay360 km2
(140 sq mi)
Broutona Броутона武魯頓島ぶろとんとうBuroton, MakanruruNorth KurilsNedostupnyy7 km2
(2.7 sq mi)
Chirpoy Чирпой知理保以島ちりほいとうChirihoi, ChierupoiNorth KurilsPeschanaya Bay21 km2
(8.1 sq mi)
Brat Chirpoyev Брат Чирпоев知理保以南島ChirihoinanNorth KurilsGarovnikovaSemenova16 km2
(6.2 sq mi)
Urup Уруп得撫島うるっぷとうUruppuNorth KurilsMys KastrikumMys Van-der-Lind1,450 km2
(560 sq mi)
OtherNorth Kurils4.4 km2
(1.7 sq mi)
Iturup Итуруп択捉島えとろふとうEtorofu, YetorupSouth Kurils (Minami-chishima / 南千島) Kurilsk Reidovo, Kitovyi, Rybaki, Goryachiye Klyuchi, Kasatka, Burevestnik, Shumi-Gorodok, Gornyy3,280 km2
(1,270 sq mi)
Yuzhno-Kurilsky District South KurilsSouth Kurils Yuzhno-Kurilsk Malokurilskoye, Rudnaya, Lagunnoye, Otrada, Goryachiy Plyazh, Aliger, Mendeleyevo, Dubovoye, Polino, Golovnino1,860.8 km2
(718.5 sq mi)
Kunashir Кунашир国後島くなしりとうKunashiriSouth Kurils Yuzhno-Kurilsk Rudnaya, Lagunnoye, Otrada, Goryachiy Plyazh, Aliger, Mendeleyevo, Dubovoye, Polino, Golovnino1,499 km2
(579 sq mi)
Shikotan GroupШикотан色丹列島しこたんれっとうSouth Kurils Malokurilskoye Dumnova, Otradnaya, Krabozavodskoye (formerly Anama), Zvezdnaya, Voloshina, Kray Sveta264.13 km2
(101.98 sq mi)
Shikotan IslandШикотан色丹島しこたんとうSouth Kurils Malokurilskoye Dumnova, Otradnaya, Krabozavodskoye (formerly Anama), Zvezdnaya, Voloshina, Kray Sveta255 km2
(98 sq mi)
OtherSouth KurilsAyvazovskovo9.1 km2
(3.5 sq mi)
Khabomai Хабомаи歯舞群島はぼまいぐんとうHabomaiSouth KurilsZorkiy Zelyony, Polonskogo97.7 km2
(37.7 sq mi)
PolonskogoПолонского多楽島たらくとうTarakuSouth KurilsMoriakov Bay station11.57 km2
(4.47 sq mi)
Oskolki Осколки海馬島かいばとうTodo, KaibaSouth KurilsUn­known0
Zelyony Зелёный志発島しぼつとうShibotsuSouth KurilsGlushnevskyi station58.72 km2
(22.67 sq mi)
Kharkar Харкар春苅島はるかるとうHarukaru, DyominaSouth KurilsHaruka0.8 km2
(0.31 sq mi)
Yuri Юрий勇留島ゆりとうYuriSouth KurilsKalernaya10.32 km2
(3.98 sq mi)
Anuchina Анучина秋勇留島あきゆりとうAkiyuriSouth KurilsBolshoye Bay2.35 km2
(0.91 sq mi)
Tanfilyeva Танфильева水晶島すいしょうじまSuishōSouth KurilsZorkiyTanfilyevka Bay, Bolotnoye12.92 km2
(4.99 sq mi)
Storozhevoy Сторожевой萌茂尻島もえもしりとうMoemoshiriSouth Kurils0.07 km2
(0.027 sq mi)
Rifovy Рифовыйオドケ島OdokeSouth KurilsUn­known0
Signalny Сигнальный貝殻島かいがらじまKaigaraSouth Kurils0.02 km2
(0.0077 sq mi)
OtherSouth KurilsOpasnaga, Udivitelnaya1 km2
(0.39 sq mi)
Total:10,503.2 km2
(4,055.3 sq mi)

See also


  1. /ˈkʊərɪl,ˈkjʊərɪl,kjʊˈrl/ ; Russian:Кури́льские острова́, tr. Kurilskiye ostrova, IPA:  [kʊˈrʲilʲskʲɪjə ɐstrɐˈva] ; Japanese: Kuriru rettō (クリル列島, "Kuril Islands") or Chishima rettō (千島列島, "Thousand Islands")

Related Research Articles

Kuril Islands dispute Disagreement between Japan and Russia over sovereignty of the South Kuril Islands

The Kuril Islands dispute, also known in Japan as the Northern Territories dispute, is a disagreement between Japan and Russia and also some individuals of the Ainu people over sovereignty of the four southernmost Kuril Islands. The Kuril Islands is a chain of islands that stretch between the Japanese island of Hokkaido at the southern end and the Russian Kamchatka Peninsula at the northern end. The islands separate the Sea of Okhotsk from the Pacific Ocean. The four disputed islands, like other islands in the Kuril chain that are not in dispute, were annexed by the Soviet Union following the Kuril Islands landing operation at the end of World War II. The disputed islands are under Russian administration as the South Kuril District of the Sakhalin Oblast. They are claimed by Japan, which refers to them as its Northern Territories or Southern Chishima, and considers them part of the Nemuro Subprefecture of Hokkaido Prefecture.

Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1875)

The Treaty of Saint Petersburg between the Empire of Japan and Empire of Russia was signed on 7 May 1875, and its ratifications exchanged at Tokyo on 22 August 1875. The treaty itself went into effect in 1877.

Nemuro Subprefecture Place in Hokkaido

Nemuro is a subprefecture of Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan. Japan claims the southern parts of the disputed Kuril Islands as part of this subprefecture.

Invasion of the Kuril Islands

The Invasion of the Kuril Islands was the World War II Soviet military operation to capture the Kuril Islands from Japan in 1945. The invasion was part of the Soviet–Japanese War, and was decided on when plans to land on Hokkaido were abandoned. The successful military operations of the Red Army at Mudanjiang and during the Invasion of South Sakhalin created the necessary prerequisites for invasion of the Kuril Islands.

Kunashir Island

Kunashir Island, possibly meaning Black Island or Grass Island in Ainu, is the southernmost island of the Kuril Islands archipelago. The island is currently under Russian control, though Japan also claims the island.


Iturup is one of the Kuril Islands. It was formerly known as Staten Island. It is the largest and northernmost island in the southern Kurils, ownership of which is disputed by Japan and Russia.

Chishima Province was a province of Japan created during the Meiji Era. It originally contained the Kuril Islands from Kunashiri northwards, and later incorporated Shikotan as well. Its original territory is currently occupied by Russia, and its territory was renounced in the San Francisco Treaty.


Urup is an uninhabited volcanic island in the Kuril Islands chain in the south of the Sea of Okhotsk, northwest Pacific Ocean. Its name is derived from the Ainu language word for salmon trout. It was formerly known as Company's Land.

Habomai Islands

The Habomai Islands (Russian: Хабомаи, Japanese: 歯舞群島 or 歯舞諸島 are a group of islets in the southernmost Kuril Islands. They are currently under Russian administration, but together with Iturup, Kunashir, and Shikotan are claimed by Japan.


Paramushir, is a volcanic island in the northern portion of Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk in the northwest Pacific Ocean. It is separated from Shumshu by the very narrow Second Kuril Strait in the northeast 2.5 km (1.6 mi), from Antsiferov by the Luzhin Strait to the southwest, from Atlasov in the northwest by 20 km (12 mi), and from Onnekotan in the south by the 40 km (25 mi) wide Fourth Kuril Strait. Its northern tip is 39 km (24 mi) from Cape Lopatka at the southern tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula. Its name is derived from the Ainu language, from “broad island” or “populous island”. Severo-Kurilsk, the administrative center of the Severo-Kurilsky district, is the only permanently populated settlement on Paramushir island.

Yuri (island)

Yuri (Iurii) is an island in the Habomai Islands sub-group of the Kuril Islands chain in the south of the Sea of Okhotsk, northwest Pacific Ocean. The island is uninhabited from 1945 after the Soviet invasion of the Kuril Islands and deportation of Japanese to Hokkaido. It is currently administered as part of Yuzhno-Kurilsky District, Sakhalin Oblast of the Russian Federation. Its name is derived from the Ainu language word for cormorant.

Antsiferov Island

Antsiferov Island is an uninhabited volcanic island located in the northern Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk in the northwest Pacific Ocean. Its former Japanese name is derived from the Ainu language for "place of tall waves". Its nearest neighbor is Paramushir, located 15 km away across the Luzhin Strait. It is currently named for the cossack explorer Danila Antsiferov, who first described it along with other northern Kuril islands in the early eighteenth century.


Kharimkotan ; Japanese 春牟古丹島; Harimukotan-tō, alternatively Harumukotan-tō or 加林古丹島; Karinkotan-tō) is an uninhabited volcanic island located 15 km (9 mi) from Onekotan near the northern end of the Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk in the northwest Pacific Ocean. Its name is derived from the Ainu language, from “village of many Cardiocrinum”.


Shumshu is the second-northernmost island of the Kuril Islands chain, which divides the Sea of Okhotsk from the northwest Pacific Ocean. The name of the island is derived from the Ainu language, meaning "good island". It is separated from Paramushir by the very narrow Second Kuril Strait in the northeast 2.5 kilometres (1.6 mi), and its northern tip is 11 kilometres (6.8 mi), from Cape Lopatka at the southern tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula. The island has a seasonal population of around 100 inhabitants.

Yuzhno-Kurilsk Urban-type settlement in Sakhalin Oblast, Russia

Yuzhno-Kurilsk is an urban locality and the administrative center of Yuzhno-Kurilsky District of Sakhalin Oblast, Russia. Population: 5,832 (2010 Census); 5,751 (2002 Census); 6,344 (1989 Census). It is the largest settlement on the Kunashir Island of the Kuril Islands.

Ainu in Russia Indigenous people of Russia

The Ainu in Russia are an indigenous people of Russia located in Sakhalin Oblast, Khabarovsk Krai and Kamchatka Krai. The Russian Ainu people, also called Kurile, Kamchatka's Kurile or Eine, can be subdivided into six groups.

Kuril Ainu or Kuril, is an extinct and poorly attested Ainu language of the Kuril Islands, now part of Russia. The main inhabited islands were Kunashir, Iturup and Urup in the south, and Shumshu in the north. Other islands either had small populations or were visited for fishing or hunting. There may have been a small mixed Kuril–Itelmen population at the southern tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula.

Japan–Russia border

The Japan–Russia border is the de facto maritime boundary that separates the territorial waters of the two countries. According to the Russia border agency, the border's length is 194.3 km (120.7 mi).

Kurils Nature Reserve

Kurils Nature Reserve is a Russian 'zapovednik' covering the north and south portions of Kunashir Island, the largest and most southernmost of the Kuril Islands, which stretch between Hokkaido Island in Japan to the Kamchatka peninsula in the Russia Far East. It also covers two smaller islands nearby to the southeast. The area is one of the largest wintering sites for coastal seabirds. The reserve sits on a tectonically unstable location, and is one of two Russian national reserves that protects territory of active volcanoes. The reserve is situated in the Yuzhno-Kurilsky District of Sakhalin Oblast. The reserve was created in 1984, and covers an area of 65,364 ha (252.37 sq mi).


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Further reading