Kuril Islands

Kuril Islands

Overview

The Kuril Islands in Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

's Sakhalin Oblast
Sakhalin Oblast
Sakhalin Oblast is a federal subject of Russia comprising the island of Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands.The oblast has an area of 87,100 km² and a population of 546,695...

 region, form a volcanic archipelago
Archipelago
An archipelago , sometimes called an island group, is a chain or cluster of islands. The word archipelago is derived from the Greek ἄρχι- – arkhi- and πέλαγος – pélagos through the Italian arcipelago...

 that stretches approximately 1300 km (807.8 mi) northeast from Hokkaidō
Hokkaido
, formerly known as Ezo, Yezo, Yeso, or Yesso, is Japan's second largest island; it is also the largest and northernmost of Japan's 47 prefectural-level subdivisions. The Tsugaru Strait separates Hokkaido from Honshu, although the two islands are connected by the underwater railway Seikan Tunnel...

, Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, to Kamchatka
Kamchatka Peninsula
The Kamchatka Peninsula is a peninsula in the Russian Far East, with an area of . It lies between the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Sea of Okhotsk to the west...

, Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, separating the Sea of Okhotsk
Sea of Okhotsk
The Sea of Okhotsk is a marginal sea of the western Pacific Ocean, lying between the Kamchatka Peninsula on the east, the Kuril Islands on the southeast, the island of Hokkaidō to the far south, the island of Sakhalin along the west, and a long stretch of eastern Siberian coast along the west and...

 from the North Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

. There are 56 islands and many more minor rocks. It consists of Greater Kuril Ridge
Greater Kuril Ridge
Greater Kuril Ridge - a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean, that's part of the Kuril Islands. It includes North Kurils, Iturup and Kunashir.Separated from Lesser Kuril Ridge by South Kuril Strait. Maximum height - 2339 m ....

 and Lesser Kuril Ridge
Lesser Kuril Ridge
Lesser Kuril Ridge - a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean, that's part of the Kuril Islands. It includes Shikotan, Habomai Islands and several small islands lying close to the Shikotan....

. The total land area is about 15600 km2 and total population about 19,000.

All of the islands are under Russian jurisdiction, but Japan claims the two southernmost large islands as part of its territory, as well as Shikotan
Shikotan
Shikotan, in Russian , Japanese , or シコタㇴ), is one of the bigger islands of the Kuril Islands, which are controlled by Russia. It is one of the four southernmost islands which Japan maintains a claim for...

 and the Habomai islets, which has led to the ongoing Kuril Islands dispute
Kuril Islands dispute
The Kuril Islands dispute , also known as the , is a dispute between Japan and Russia over sovereignty over the South Kuril Islands. The disputed islands, which were occupied by Soviet forces during the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation at the end of World War II, are under Russian...

.


The name Kuril originates from the autonym of the aboriginal Ainu
Ainu people
The , also called Aynu, Aino , and in historical texts Ezo , are indigenous people or groups in Japan and Russia. Historically they spoke the Ainu language and related varieties and lived in Hokkaidō, the Kuril Islands, and much of Sakhalin...

, the islands' original inhabitants
Indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples are ethnic groups that are defined as indigenous according to one of the various definitions of the term, there is no universally accepted definition but most of which carry connotations of being the "original inhabitants" of a territory....

: "kur", meaning man.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Kuril Islands'
Start a new discussion about 'Kuril Islands'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia

The Kuril Islands in Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

's Sakhalin Oblast
Sakhalin Oblast
Sakhalin Oblast is a federal subject of Russia comprising the island of Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands.The oblast has an area of 87,100 km² and a population of 546,695...

 region, form a volcanic archipelago
Archipelago
An archipelago , sometimes called an island group, is a chain or cluster of islands. The word archipelago is derived from the Greek ἄρχι- – arkhi- and πέλαγος – pélagos through the Italian arcipelago...

 that stretches approximately 1300 km (807.8 mi) northeast from Hokkaidō
Hokkaido
, formerly known as Ezo, Yezo, Yeso, or Yesso, is Japan's second largest island; it is also the largest and northernmost of Japan's 47 prefectural-level subdivisions. The Tsugaru Strait separates Hokkaido from Honshu, although the two islands are connected by the underwater railway Seikan Tunnel...

, Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, to Kamchatka
Kamchatka Peninsula
The Kamchatka Peninsula is a peninsula in the Russian Far East, with an area of . It lies between the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Sea of Okhotsk to the west...

, Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, separating the Sea of Okhotsk
Sea of Okhotsk
The Sea of Okhotsk is a marginal sea of the western Pacific Ocean, lying between the Kamchatka Peninsula on the east, the Kuril Islands on the southeast, the island of Hokkaidō to the far south, the island of Sakhalin along the west, and a long stretch of eastern Siberian coast along the west and...

 from the North Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

. There are 56 islands and many more minor rocks. It consists of Greater Kuril Ridge
Greater Kuril Ridge
Greater Kuril Ridge - a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean, that's part of the Kuril Islands. It includes North Kurils, Iturup and Kunashir.Separated from Lesser Kuril Ridge by South Kuril Strait. Maximum height - 2339 m ....

 and Lesser Kuril Ridge
Lesser Kuril Ridge
Lesser Kuril Ridge - a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean, that's part of the Kuril Islands. It includes Shikotan, Habomai Islands and several small islands lying close to the Shikotan....

. The total land area is about 15600 km2 and total population about 19,000.

All of the islands are under Russian jurisdiction, but Japan claims the two southernmost large islands as part of its territory, as well as Shikotan
Shikotan
Shikotan, in Russian , Japanese , or シコタㇴ), is one of the bigger islands of the Kuril Islands, which are controlled by Russia. It is one of the four southernmost islands which Japan maintains a claim for...

 and the Habomai islets, which has led to the ongoing Kuril Islands dispute
Kuril Islands dispute
The Kuril Islands dispute , also known as the , is a dispute between Japan and Russia over sovereignty over the South Kuril Islands. The disputed islands, which were occupied by Soviet forces during the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation at the end of World War II, are under Russian...

.

Nomenclature



The name Kuril originates from the autonym of the aboriginal Ainu
Ainu people
The , also called Aynu, Aino , and in historical texts Ezo , are indigenous people or groups in Japan and Russia. Historically they spoke the Ainu language and related varieties and lived in Hokkaidō, the Kuril Islands, and much of Sakhalin...

, the islands' original inhabitants
Indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples are ethnic groups that are defined as indigenous according to one of the various definitions of the term, there is no universally accepted definition but most of which carry connotations of being the "original inhabitants" of a territory....

: "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
Sakhalin
Sakhalin or Saghalien, is a large island in the North Pacific, lying between 45°50' and 54°24' N.It is part of Russia, and is Russia's largest island, and is administered as part of Sakhalin Oblast...

 and Kai for Hokkaidō
Hokkaido
, formerly known as Ezo, Yezo, Yeso, or Yesso, is Japan's second largest island; it is also the largest and northernmost of Japan's 47 prefectural-level subdivisions. The Tsugaru Strait separates Hokkaido from Honshu, although the two islands are connected by the underwater railway Seikan Tunnel...

. In Japanese
Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

, the Kuril Islands are known as the Chishima Islands (Kanji
Kanji
Kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters hanzi that are used in the modern Japanese writing system along with hiragana , katakana , Indo Arabic numerals, and the occasional use of the Latin alphabet...

: tɕiɕima ɽetːoː, literally, Thousand Islands Archipelago), also known as the Kuriru Islands (Kanji
Kanji
Kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters hanzi that are used in the modern Japanese writing system along with hiragana , katakana , Indo Arabic numerals, and the occasional use of the Latin alphabet...

: kɯɽiɽɯ ɽetːoː, literally, Kuril Archipelago).

Geography


The Kuril Islands form part of the ring of tectonic
Tectonics
Tectonics is a field of study within geology concerned generally with the structures within the lithosphere of the Earth and particularly with the forces and movements that have operated in a region to create these structures.Tectonics is concerned with the orogenies and tectonic development of...

 instability encircling the Pacific ocean referred to as the Ring of Fire
Pacific Ring of Fire
The Pacific Ring of Fire is an area where large numbers of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur in the basin of the Pacific Ocean. In a horseshoe shape, it is associated with a nearly continuous series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, and volcanic belts and/or plate movements...

. The islands themselves are summits of stratovolcano
Stratovolcano
A stratovolcano, also known as a composite volcano, is a tall, conical volcano built up by many layers of hardened lava, tephra, pumice, and volcanic ash. Unlike shield volcanoes, stratovolcanoes are characterized by a steep profile and periodic, explosive eruptions...

es that are a direct result of the subduction of the Pacific Plate
Pacific Plate
The Pacific Plate is an oceanic tectonic plate that lies beneath the Pacific Ocean. At 103 million square kilometres, it is the largest tectonic plate....

 under the Okhotsk Plate
Okhotsk Plate
The Okhotsk Plate is a tectonic plate covering the Sea of Okhotsk, the Kamchatka Peninsula, Sakhalin Island and Tōhoku and Hokkaidō in Japan. It was formerly considered a part of the North American Plate, but recent studies indicate that it is an independent plate, bounded on the north by the...

, which forms the Kuril Trench some 200 kilometres (124.3 mi) east of the islands. The chain has around 100 volcanoes, some 40 of which are active, and many hot springs
Hot Springs
Hot Springs may refer to:* Hot Springs, Arkansas** Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas*Hot Springs, California**Hot Springs, Lassen County, California**Hot Springs, Modoc County, California**Hot Springs, Placer County, California...

 and fumaroles. There is frequent seismic activity
Earthquake
An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves. The seismicity, seismism or seismic activity of an area refers to the frequency, type and size of earthquakes experienced over a period of time...

, including a magnitude
Moment magnitude scale
The moment magnitude scale is used by seismologists to measure the size of earthquakes in terms of the energy released. The magnitude is based on the seismic moment of the earthquake, which is equal to the rigidity of the Earth multiplied by the average amount of slip on the fault and the size of...

 8.5 earthquake
1963 Kuril Islands earthquake
The 1963 Kuril Islands earthquake occurred at 05:17 UTC, on October 13. The earthquake had a magnitude of 8.5 and was followed by a Mw=7.8 event seven days later...

 in 1963 and one of magnitude 8.3 recorded on November 15, 2006
2006 Kuril Islands earthquake
The 2006 Kuril Islands earthquake was an 8.3 magnitude earthquake that hit the Kuril Islands at 11:14 UTC on November 15, 2006. A small tsunami hit the Japanese northern coast, with a larger wave following earlier small ones, due to reflection. The tsunami crossed the Pacific and did damage in...

, which resulted in tsunami
Tsunami
A tsunami is a series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water, typically an ocean or a large lake...

 waves up to 5 feet (1.5 m) reaching the California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 coast.

The climate on the islands is generally severe, with long, cold, stormy winters and short and notoriously foggy summers. The average annual precipitation is 30 –, most of which falls as snow.

The chain ranges from temperate to sub-Arctic climate types, and the vegetative cover consequently ranges from tundra
Tundra
In physical geography, tundra is a biome where the tree growth is hindered by low temperatures and short growing seasons. The term tundra comes through Russian тундра from the Kildin Sami word tūndâr "uplands," "treeless mountain tract." There are three types of tundra: Arctic tundra, alpine...

 in the north to dense spruce
Spruce
A spruce is a tree of the genus Picea , a genus of about 35 species of coniferous evergreen trees in the Family Pinaceae, found in the northern temperate and boreal regions of the earth. Spruces are large trees, from tall when mature, and can be distinguished by their whorled branches and conical...

 and larch
Larch
Larches are conifers in the genus Larix, in the family Pinaceae. Growing from 15 to 50m tall, they are native to much of the cooler temperate northern hemisphere, on lowlands in the north and high on mountains further south...

 forests on the larger southern islands. The highest elevations on the islands are Alaid volcano (highest point: 2339 m (7,673.9 ft)) on Atlasov Island
Atlasov Island
Atlasov Island, known in Russian as Ostrov Atlasova , or in Japanese as Araido , is the northernmost island and volcano and also the highest volcano of the Kuril islands, part of the Sakhalin Oblast in Russia. The Russian name is sometimes rendered in English as Atlasova Island...

 at the northern end of the chain and Tyatya volcano (1819 m (5,967.8 ft)) on Kunashir Island
Kunashir Island
Kunashir Island , possibly meaning Black Island or Grass Island in Ainu, is the southernmost island of the Kuril Islands, which are controlled by Russia and claimed by Japan ....

 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
Alpine tundra
Alpine tundra is a natural region that does not contain trees because it is at high altitude. Alpine tundra is distinguished from arctic tundra, because alpine soils are generally better drained than arctic soils...

, crater lake
Crater lake
A crater lake is a lake that forms in a volcanic crater or caldera, such as a maar; less commonly and with lower association to the term a lake may form in an impact crater caused by a meteorite. Sometimes lakes which form inside calderas are called caldera lakes, but often this distinction is not...

s 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
Seabird
Seabirds are birds that have adapted to life within the marine environment. While seabirds vary greatly in lifestyle, behaviour and physiology, they often exhibit striking convergent evolution, as the same environmental problems and feeding niches have resulted in similar adaptations...

 guano
Guano
Guano is the excrement of seabirds, cave dwelling bats, and seals. Guano manure is an effective fertilizer due to its high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen and also its lack of odor. It was an important source of nitrates for gunpowder...

. However, many of the steep, unconsolidated slopes are susceptible to landslides and newer volcanic activity can entirely denude
Denudation
In geology, denudation is the long-term sum of processes that cause the wearing away of the earth’s surface leading to a reduction in elevation and relief of landforms and landscapes...

 a landscape.

Marine ecology


Owing to their location along the Pacific shelf edge and the confluence of Okhotsk Sea gyre and the southward Oyashio Current
Oyashio Current
, also known as Oya Siwo, Okhotsk or the Kurile current, is a cold subarctic ocean current that flows south and circulates counterclockwise in the western North Pacific Ocean. It collides with the Kuroshio Current off the eastern shore of Japan to form the North Pacific 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
Kelp
Kelps are large seaweeds belonging to the brown algae in the order Laminariales. There are about 30 different genera....

 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
Squid
Squid are cephalopods of the order Teuthida, which comprises around 300 species. Like all other cephalopods, squid have a distinct head, bilateral symmetry, a mantle, and arms. Squid, like cuttlefish, have eight arms arranged in pairs and two, usually longer, tentacles...

 provide a principal component of the diet of many of the smaller marine mammals and birds along the chain.

Fish
Fish
Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

: Further offshore, walleye pollock
Pollock
Pollock is the common name used for either of the two species of marine fish in the Pollachius genus. Both P. pollachius and P. virens are commonly referred to as pollock. Other names for P...

, Pacific cod
Pacific Cod
The Pacific cod, Gadus macrocephalus, is an important commercial food species. It is also known as gray cod, gray goo, gray wolf, grayest or grayfish. It has three separate dorsal fins, and the catfish-like whiskers on its lower jaw. In appearance, it is similar to the Atlantic Cod...

, several species of flatfish
Flatfish
The flatfish are an order of ray-finned fish, also called the Heterosomata, sometimes classified as a suborder of Perciformes. In many species, both eyes lie on one side of the head, one or the other migrating through and around the head during development...

 are of the greatest commercial importance. During the 1980s, migratory Japanese sardine
Sardine
Sardines, or pilchards, are several types of small, oily fish related to herrings, family Clupeidae. Sardines are named after the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, around which they were once abundant....

 was one of the most abundant fish in the summer and the main commercial species, but the fishery collapsed and by 1993 no sardines were reported caught leading to significant economic contraction in the few settlements on the islands. Several salmon species, notably pink
Pink salmon
Pink salmon or humpback salmon, Oncorhynchus gorbuscha, is a species of anadromous fish in the salmon family. It is the smallest and most abundant of the Pacific salmon.- Appearance :...

 and sockeye, spawn on some of the larger islands.

Pinnipeds: The Kuril islands are home to two species of Eared Seal
Eared Seal
The eared seals or otariids are marine mammals in the family Otariidae, one of three groupings of Pinnipeds. They comprise 16 species in seven genera commonly known either as sea lions or fur seals, distinct from true seals and the Walrus...

, the Steller Sea Lion and northern fur seal
Northern Fur Seal
The Northern fur seal is an eared seal found along the north Pacific Ocean, the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk. It is the largest member of the fur seal subfamily and the only species in the genus Callorhinus.-Physical description:Northern fur seals have extreme sexual dimorphism, with males...

, both of which aggregate on several smaller islands along the chain in the summer to form several of the largest reproductive rookeries in Russia. A distinct Kuril island subspecies of the Common Seal (Phoca vitulina stejnegeri) and Largha
Spotted Seal
The spotted seal , also known as the larga or largha seal, is a member of the family Phocidae, and is considered a "true seal". It inhabits ice floes and waters of the north Pacific Ocean and adjacent seas...

 are also abundant.

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
Japanese Sea Lion
The Japanese Sea Lion is thought to have become extinct in the 1970s. Prior to 2003 it was considered to be a subspecies of California Sea Lion as Zalophus californianus japonicus. However, it was subsequently reclassified as a separate species. Some taxonomists still consider it as a subspecies...

 which was known to occasionally haul out on the Kuril islands.

Sea otters were exploited very heavily for their pelts in the 19th century. Indeed, the pursuit of the valuable otter pelts drove the expansion of the Russians onto the islands and much of the Japanese interest. Their numbers consequently dwindled rapidly. A near total ban on harvest since the mid 20th century has allowed the species to recover and they are now reasonably abundant throughout the chain.

Cetaceans: The most abundant cetaceans include Orcas, Harbor and Dall's
Dall's Porpoise
Dall's porpoise is a species of porpoise found on the North Pacific. It came to worldwide attention in the 1970s when it was disclosed for the first time to the public that salmon fishing trawls were killing a lot, thousands of Dall's porpoises and other cetaceans each year by accidentally...

 Porpoises. Baird's and Cuvier's
Cuvier's Beaked Whale
Cuvier's beaked whale is the most widely distributed of all the beaked whales. It is the only member of the genus Ziphius. Another common name for the species is goose-beaked whale because its head is said to be shaped like the beak of a goose. Georges Cuvier first described it in 1823 from part...

 Beaked Whales, Minke Whale
Minke Whale
Minke whale , or lesser rorqual, is a name given to two species of marine mammal belonging to a clade within the suborder of baleen whales. The minke whale was given its official designation by Lacepède in 1804, who described a dwarf form of Balænoptera acuto-rostrata...

s, Fin Whale
Fin Whale
The fin whale , also called the finback whale, razorback, or common rorqual, is a marine mammal belonging to the suborder of baleen whales. It is the second longest whale and the sixth largest living animal after the blue whale, bowhead whale, and right whales, growing to nearly 27 metres long...

s, and Sperm Whales are also observed regularly. The surrounding water is considered as the major habitat for North Pacific Right Whale
North Pacific Right Whale
The North Pacific right whale is a very large, robust baleen whale species that is now extremely rare and endangered. The Northeast Pacific subpopulation, that summers in the southeastern Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska, may have no more than 50 animals...

s, one of the most endangered of all whale species.

Seabirds: The Kuril islands are home to many millions of seabirds, including Northern Fulmar
Northern Fulmar
The Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis, Fulmar, or Arctic Fulmar is a highly abundant sea bird found primarily in subarctic regions of the north Atlantic and north Pacific oceans. Fulmars come in one of two color morphs: a light one which is almost entirely white, and a dark one which is...

s, Tufted Puffin
Tufted Puffin
The Tufted Puffin also known as Crested Puffin, is a relatively abundant medium-sized pelagic seabird in the auk family found throughout the North Pacific Ocean....

s, Murres, Kittiwake
Kittiwake
The kittiwakes are two closely related seabird species in the gull family Laridae, the Black-legged Kittiwake and the Red-legged Kittiwake . The epithets "Black-legged" and "Red-legged" are used to distinguish the two species in North America, but in Europe, where R...

s, Guillemot
Guillemot
Guillemots is the common name for several species of seabird in the auk family . In British use, the term comprises two genera: Uria and Cepphus. In North America the Uria species are called "murres" and only the Cepphus species are called "guillemots"...

s, Auklets, Petrel
Petrel
Petrels are tube-nosed seabirds in the bird order Procellariiformes. The common name does not indicate relationship beyond that point, as "petrels" occur in three of the four families within that group...

s, Gull
Gull
Gulls are birds in the family Laridae. They are most closely related to the terns and only distantly related to auks, skimmers, and more distantly to the waders...

s, Cormorant
Cormorant
The bird family Phalacrocoracidae is represented by some 40 species of cormorants and shags. Several different classifications of the family have been proposed recently, and the number of genera is disputed.- Names :...

s. 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.

Terrestrial ecology


The composition of terrestrial species on the Kuril islands is dominated by Asian mainland taxa via migration from Hokkaido and Sakhalin
Sakhalin
Sakhalin or Saghalien, is a large island in the North Pacific, lying between 45°50' and 54°24' N.It is part of Russia, and is Russia's largest island, and is administered as part of Sakhalin Oblast...

 Islands and by Kamchatkan taxa from the North. While highly diverse, there is a relatively low level of endemism.

Because of the generally smaller size and isolation of the central islands, few major terrestrial mammals have colonized these, though red
Red Fox
The red fox is the largest of the true foxes, as well as being the most geographically spread member of the Carnivora, being distributed across the entire northern hemisphere from the Arctic Circle to North Africa, Central America, and the steppes of Asia...

 and arctic
Arctic fox
The arctic fox , also known as the white fox, polar fox or snow fox, is a small fox native to Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere and is common throughout the Arctic tundra biome. The Greek word alopex, means a fox and Vulpes is the Latin version...

 fox
Fox
Fox is a common name for many species of omnivorous mammals belonging to the Canidae family. Foxes are small to medium-sized canids , characterized by possessing a long narrow snout, and a bushy tail .Members of about 37 species are referred to as foxes, of which only 12 species actually belong to...

es 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
Brown Bear
The brown bear is a large bear distributed across much of northern Eurasia and North America. It can weigh from and its largest subspecies, the Kodiak Bear, rivals the polar bear as the largest member of the bear family and as the largest land-based predator.There are several recognized...

, foxes
Red Fox
The red fox is the largest of the true foxes, as well as being the most geographically spread member of the Carnivora, being distributed across the entire northern hemisphere from the Arctic Circle to North Africa, Central America, and the steppes of Asia...

, and martens. Some species of deer
Deer
Deer are the ruminant mammals forming the family Cervidae. Species in the Cervidae family include white-tailed deer, elk, moose, red deer, reindeer, fallow deer, roe deer and chital. Male deer of all species and female reindeer grow and shed new antlers each year...

 are found on the more southerly islands. It is claimed that a wild cat, the Kurilian Bobtail
Kurilian Bobtail
The Kurilian Bobtail is a cat breed originating from the Kuril Islands, claimed by both Russia and Japan and Sakhalin Island, Russia. Short- or long-haired, it has a semi-cobby body type and a distinct short, fluffy tail. The back is slightly arched with hind legs longer than the front, similar to...

, 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, raven
Raven
Raven is the common name given to several larger-bodied members of the genus Corvus—but in Europe and North America the Common Raven is normally implied...

s, peregrine falcon
Peregrine Falcon
The Peregrine Falcon , also known as the Peregrine, and historically as the Duck Hawk in North America, is a widespread bird of prey in the family Falconidae. A large, crow-sized falcon, it has a blue-gray back, barred white underparts, and a black head and "moustache"...

s, some wren
Wren
The wrens are passerine birds in the mainly New World family Troglodytidae. There are approximately 80 species of true wrens in approximately 20 genera....

s and wagtail
Wagtail
The wagtails form the passerine bird genus Motacilla. They are small birds with long tails which they wag frequently. Motacilla, the root of the family and genus name, means moving tail...

s are common.

Human settlement history



The Ainu people
Ainu people
The , also called Aynu, Aino , and in historical texts Ezo , are indigenous people or groups in Japan and Russia. Historically they spoke the Ainu language and related varieties and lived in Hokkaidō, the Kuril Islands, and much of Sakhalin...

 were early inhabitants of Kuril Islands, although there are few records that pre-date the 17th century. The Japanese administration first took nominal control of the islands in the Edo period
Edo period
The , or , is a division of Japanese history which was ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family, running from 1603 to 1868. The political entity of this period was the Tokugawa shogunate....

 of Japan, in the form of claims by the Matsumae clan
Matsumae clan
The was a Japanese clan which was granted the area around Matsumae, Hokkaidō as a march fief in 1590 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and charged with defending it, and by extension all of Japan, from the Ainu 'barbarians' to the north. The clan was originally known as the Kakizaki clan who settled...

. It is claimed that the Japanese knew of the northern islands 370 years ago. On "Shōhō Onkuko Ezu", a map of Japan made by the Tokugawa shogunate
Tokugawa shogunate
The Tokugawa shogunate, also known as the and the , was a feudal regime of Japan established by Tokugawa Ieyasu and ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family. This period is known as the Edo period and gets its name from the capital city, Edo, which is now called Tokyo, after the name was...

, in 1644, there are 39 large and small islands shown northeast of the Shiretoko peninsula
Shiretoko Peninsula
is located on the easternmost portion of the Japanese island of Hokkaidō, protruding into the Sea of Okhotsk. It is separated from the Kunashir Island of Russia by the Nemuro Strait. The name Shiretoko is derived from the Ainu language word sir etok, meaning the end of the Earth or the place where...

 and Cape Nosappu.
The Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 began to advance into the Kurils in the early 17th century. Although the Russians often sent expedition parties for research and hunted sea otters, they never went south of Urup
Urup
Urup is an uninhabited volcanic island near in the south of the Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk in the northwest Pacific Ocean. Its name is derived from the Ainu language word for salmon trout.-Geography and climate:...

 island.

Russian settlements extended as far as Iturup
Iturup
Iturup is the largest island of the South Kuril Islands. It is the northernmost island in the southern Kuril/Chishima islands, and though it is presently controlled by Russia, Japan also claims this island...

 in the 18th century. Parts of the islands south of Iturup were occupied by guards of the Tokugawa shogunate.

In 1811, Russian Captain Vasily Golovnin
Vasily Golovnin
Vasily Mikhailovich Golovnin .-Early life and career:Vasily Mikhailovich Golovnin was born in April 1776, in the village of Gulyniki in Ryazan Oblast, on his father's country estate. Both his father and grandfather had served in the Russian military as officers in the elite Preobrazhensky...

 and his crew, who stopped at Kunashir during their hydrographic survey, were captured by retainers of the Nambu clan, and sent to the Matsumae authorities. Because a Japanese trader, Takadaya Kahei
Takadaya Kahei
Born in 1769 on Awaji Island, was a Japanese merchant credited with transforming the trading outpost of Hakodate in Japan's northern island of Hokkaidō into a thriving city...

, was also captured by Petr Rikord, Captain of a Russian vessel near Kunashir in 1812, Japan and Russia entered into negotiations to establish the border between the two countries.

The Treaty of Commerce, Navigation and Delimitation was concluded in 1855, and the border was established between Iturup and Urup. This border confirmed that Japanese territory stretched south from Iturup and Russian territory stretched north of Urup. Sakhalin
Sakhalin
Sakhalin or Saghalien, is a large island in the North Pacific, lying between 45°50' and 54°24' N.It is part of Russia, and is Russia's largest island, and is administered as part of Sakhalin Oblast...

 remained a place where people from both countries could live. The Treaty of Saint Petersburg in 1875 resulted in Japan relinquishing all rights over Sakhalin in exchange for Russia ceding all of the Kuril Islands north of Iturup to Japan.

During the Russo-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...

 of 1904–1905, Gunji
Gunji
Gunji is a village in Belgaum district in the southern state of Karnataka, India.-References:...

, a retired Japanese military man and local settler in Shumshu
Shumshu
Shumshu , is the northernmost island of Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk in 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 , its northern...

, led an invading party to the Kamchatka coast. Russia sent reinforcements to the area to capture and intern this group. After the war was over, Japan received fishing rights in Russian waters as part of the Russo-Japanese Fisheries Agreement until 1945.

During their armed intervention in Siberia
Japan during the Siberian Intervention
The ' of 1918–1922 was the dispatch of troops of the Imperial Japanese Army to the Russian Maritime Provinces as part of a larger effort by western powers and Japan to support White Russian forces against the Bolshevik Red Army during the Russian Civil War....

 1918–1925, Japanese forces from the northern Kurils, along with United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and European forces, occupied southern Kamchatka. Japanese vessels made naval strikes against Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky
Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky
Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is the main city and the administrative, industrial, scientific, and cultural center of Kamchatka Krai, Russia. Population: .-History:It was founded by Danish navigator Vitus Bering, in the service of the Russian Navy...

.

The Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 seized southern Sakhalin and the Kuril islands at the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Japan maintains a claim to the four southernmost islands of Kunashir, Iturup
Iturup
Iturup is the largest island of the South Kuril Islands. It is the northernmost island in the southern Kuril/Chishima islands, and though it is presently controlled by Russia, Japan also claims this island...

, Shikotan
Shikotan
Shikotan, in Russian , Japanese , or シコタㇴ), is one of the bigger islands of the Kuril Islands, which are controlled by Russia. It is one of the four southernmost islands which Japan maintains a claim for...

, and the Habomai rocks, together called the Northern Islands Territories (see Kuril Islands dispute
Kuril Islands dispute
The Kuril Islands dispute , also known as the , is a dispute between Japan and Russia over sovereignty over the South Kuril Islands. The disputed islands, which were occupied by Soviet forces during the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation at the end of World War II, are under Russian...

).

Japanese administration



In 1869, the Meiji
Meiji period
The , also known as the Meiji era, is a Japanese era which extended from September 1868 through July 1912. This period represents the first half of the Empire of Japan.- Meiji Restoration and the emperor :...

 government established the Colonization Commission in Sapporo to aid in the development of the northern area. Ezo was renamed Hokkaidō and Kita Ezo later received the name of Karafuto. Eleven provinces and 86 districts were founded by Meiji government and 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 that ceded the eighteen islands north of Uruppu to Japan and all of Sakhalin to Russia.

Road networks and post offices were established on Kunashiri and Etorofu. Life on the islands became more stable when a regular sea route connecting islands with Hokkaidō was opened and a telegraphic system began. At the end of the Taishō period
Taisho period
The , or Taishō era, is a period in the history of Japan dating from July 30, 1912 to December 25, 1926, coinciding with the reign of the Taishō Emperor. The health of the new emperor was weak, which prompted the shift in political power from the old oligarchic group of elder statesmen to the Diet...

, towns and villages were organized 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 were under direct control of the Nemuro Subprefectural
Nemuro Subprefecture
is a subprefecture of Hokkaidō, Japan. The Japanese claim the disputed Southern Kurile Islands as part of this subprefecture....

 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. In 1930, 8,300 people lived on Kunashiri island and 6,000 on Etorofu island, and most of them were engaged in coastal and high sea fishing.

There were 17,291 Japanese islanders on the Kurils.

World War II

  • Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto
    Isoroku Yamamoto
    was a Japanese Naval Marshal General and the commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet during World War II, a graduate of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy and a student of Harvard University ....

     ordered the meeting of the Imperial Japanese Navy
    Imperial Japanese Navy
    The Imperial Japanese Navy was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1869 until 1947, when it was dissolved following Japan's constitutional renunciation of the use of force as a means of settling international disputes...

     strike force for the Hawaii Operation
    Attack on Pearl Harbor
    The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

     attack on Pearl Harbor, November 22, 1941 in Tankan or Hitokappu Bay, in Iturup
    Iturup
    Iturup is the largest island of the South Kuril Islands. It is the northernmost island in the southern Kuril/Chishima islands, and though it is presently controlled by Russia, Japan also claims this island...

     Island, South Kurils. The territory was chosen for its sparse population, lack of foreigners, and constant fog coverage. The Admiral ordered the move to Hawaii on the morning of November 26.

  • On July 10, 1943, the first bombardment against the Shumushu and Paramushiro Japanese bases by American forces occurred. From Alexai airfield
    Alexai Point Landing Field
    Alexai Point Landing Field is an abandoned World War II airfield with two runways laid across Alexai Point on Attu Island, Alaska. The remains of the airbase are located about 4 miles east of Naval Air Station Attu, directly across Massacre Bay.- History :...

     8 B-25 Mitchell
    B-25 Mitchell
    The North American B-25 Mitchell was an American twin-engined medium bomber manufactured by North American Aviation. It was used by many Allied air forces, in every theater of World War II, as well as many other air forces after the war ended, and saw service across four decades.The B-25 was named...

    s from the 77th Bombardment Squadron took off, led by Capt James L. Hudelson. This mission principally struck Paramushiro.

  • Another mission was flown during September 11, 1943, when Eleventh Air Force
    Eleventh Air Force
    The Eleventh Air Force is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Pacific Air Forces . It is headquartered at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska....

     dispatched eight B-24 Liberator
    B-24 Liberator
    The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was an American heavy bomber, designed by Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego, California. It was known within the company as the Model 32, and a small number of early models were sold under the name LB-30, for Land Bomber...

    s and 12 B-25s. But now the Japanese were alert and reinforced their defenses. 74 crew members in three B-24s and seven B-25 failed to return. Twenty two men were killed in action, one taken prisoner and 51 interned in Kamchatka, Russia.

  • The Eleventh Air Force implemented other bombing missions against the northern Kurils including a strike by six B-24s from the 404th Bombardment Squadron and 16 P-38s from the 54th Fighter Squadron
    54th Fighter Squadron
    The 54th Fighter Squadron is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was to the 3d Operations Group, being stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska...

     on February 5, 1944.

  • Japanese sources report that the Matsuwa military installations were subject to American air strikes between 1943–44.

  • The Americans' "Operation Wedlock", diverted Japanese attention north and misled them about U.S. strategy in the Pacific. The plan included air strikes by U.S.A.A.F. and U.S. Navy Bombers and U.S. Navy shore bombardment and submarine operations. Japanese increased their garrison in the north Kurils from 8,000 in 1943 to 41,000 in 1944 and maintained more than 400 aircraft in Kurils and Hokkaidō
    Hokkaido
    , formerly known as Ezo, Yezo, Yeso, or Yesso, is Japan's second largest island; it is also the largest and northernmost of Japan's 47 prefectural-level subdivisions. The Tsugaru Strait separates Hokkaido from Honshu, although the two islands are connected by the underwater railway Seikan Tunnel...

     area in anticipation that the Americans might invade from Alaska
    Alaska
    Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

    .

  • American planners had briefly contemplated an invasion of northern Japan
    Japan
    Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

     from the Aleutian islands during the fall of 1943 but rejected that idea as too risky and impractical. They considered the use of Boeing B-29 Superfortresses, on Amchitka
    Amchitka
    Amchitka is a volcanic, tectonically unstable island in the Rat Islands group of the Aleutian Islands in southwest Alaska. It is part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. The island is about long, and from wide...

     and Shemya
    Shemya
    Shemya or Simiya is a small island in the Near Islands group of the Semichi Islands chain in the Aleutian Islands archipelago southwest of Alaska, at . It has a land area of 5.903 sq mi , and is about 1,200 miles southwest of Anchorage, Alaska.The Russian vessel Saint Peter and Paul wrecked at...

     Bases, but rejected that idea, too. The U.S. military maintained interest in these plans when they ordered the expansion of bases in the western Aleutians, and major construction began on Shemya. In 1945, plans were shelved for a possible invasion of Japan via the Northern route.

  • In August 18–31, Soviet forces invaded the North and South Kurils. The entire Japanese civilian population of roughly 17,000 was expelled until 1946.

  • Between August 24 and September 4, 1945, the Eleventh Air Force of the United States Army Air Force sent two B-24s on reconnaissance missions over North Kuril Islands with intention to take photos of the Soviet occupation in the area. Soviet fighters intercepted and forced them away, a foretaste of the Cold war
    Cold War
    The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

     that lay ahead.

Russian administration

  • Severo-Kurilsky District
    Severo-Kurilsky District
    Severo-Kurilsky District is an administrative district , one of the 17 in Sakhalin Oblast, Russia....

     (Severo-Kurilsk
    Severo-Kurilsk
    Severo-Kurilsk is a town in Sakhalin Oblast, Russia. It is situated in the northern part of the Kuril Islands, on the island of Paramushir. Population: 2,592 ; 5,180 .-History:...

    )
  • Kurilsky District
    Kurilsky District
    Kurilsky District is an administrative district , one of the 17 in Sakhalin Oblast, Russia....

     (Kurilsk
    Kurilsk
    Kurilsk ; , Shana) is a town in Sakhalin Oblast, Russia, situated on the island of Iturup. It is the administrative center of Kurilsky District. Population: 2,233 ; 2,699 .-History:...

    )
  • Yuzhno-Kurilsky District (Yuzhno-Kurilsk
    Yuzhno-Kurilsk
    Yuzhno-Kurilsk is an urban-type settlement in Sakhalin Oblast, Russia. It is the largest settlement on the Kunashir Island of the Kuril Islands. Population: 5,751 ; 6,344 ....

    )

Current situation and the economy



As of 2003, roughly 16,800 people (ethnic Russians
Russians
The Russian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia, speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries....

, Ukrainians
Ukrainians
Ukrainians are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Ukraine, which is the sixth-largest nation in Europe. The Constitution of Ukraine applies the term 'Ukrainians' to all its citizens...

, Belarusians
Belarusians
Belarusians ; are an East Slavic ethnic group who populate the majority of the Republic of Belarus. Introduced to the world as a new state in the early 1990s, the Republic of Belarus brought with it the notion of a re-emerging Belarusian ethnicity, drawn upon the lines of the Old Belarusian...

, Tatars
Tatars
Tatars are a Turkic speaking ethnic group , numbering roughly 7 million.The majority of Tatars live in the Russian Federation, with a population of around 5.5 million, about 2 million of which in the republic of Tatarstan.Significant minority populations are found in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan,...

, Nivkhs, Oroch) inhabited the Kuril Islands. About half of the population lived below the poverty line. Fishing
Fishing
Fishing is the activity of trying to catch wild fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping....

 is the primary occupation. The islands have strategic and economic value, in terms of fisheries and also mineral deposits of pyrite
Pyrite
The mineral pyrite, or iron pyrite, is an iron sulfide with the formula FeS2. This mineral's metallic luster and pale-to-normal, brass-yellow hue have earned it the nickname fool's gold because of its resemblance to gold...

, sulfur
Sulfur
Sulfur or sulphur is the chemical element with atomic number 16. In the periodic table it is represented by the symbol S. It is an abundant, multivalent non-metal. Under normal conditions, sulfur atoms form cyclic octatomic molecules with chemical formula S8. Elemental sulfur is a bright yellow...

, and various polymetallic ores
Orés
Orés is a municipality in the Cinco Villas, in the province of Zaragoza, in the autonomous community of Aragon, Spain. It belongs to the comarca of Cinco Villas. It is placed 104 km to the northwest of the provincial capital city, Zaragoza. Its coordinates are: 42° 17' N, 1° 00' W, and is...

.

In recent times the economic rise of Russia has been seen on the Kurils too.

The most visible sign of improvement is the new construction in infrastructure. Construction workers are now working vigorously to build a pier and a breakwater in Kitovy Bay, central Iturup, where barges are still 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 an airport scheduled to open in 2010 at a cost of 1.26 billion rubles (US$44 million).

Gidrostroy, the Kurils' biggest business group with interests in fishing as well as 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.

Military



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. According to analysts, the division is unlikely to be able to defend the islands against an attack on its own. In February 2011, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called for substantial reinforcements of the Kuril Islands defences following the heating up of the dispute in early 2011.

Atlasov Island


The second northernmost, Atlasov Island
Atlasov Island
Atlasov Island, known in Russian as Ostrov Atlasova , or in Japanese as Araido , is the northernmost island and volcano and also the highest volcano of the Kuril islands, part of the Sakhalin Oblast in Russia. The Russian name is sometimes rendered in English as Atlasova Island...

 (Araido in Japanese), is an almost perfect volcanic
Volcano
2. Bedrock3. Conduit 4. Base5. Sill6. Dike7. Layers of ash emitted by the volcano8. Flank| 9. Layers of lava emitted by the volcano10. Throat11. Parasitic cone12. Lava flow13. Vent14. Crater15...

 cone rising sheer out of the sea; it has been praised by the Japanese in haiku
Haiku
' , plural haiku, is a very short form of Japanese poetry typically characterised by three qualities:* The essence of haiku is "cutting"...

, wood-block prints, and other forms, in much the same way as the better-known Mt. Fuji.

List of the islands


While in Russian sources the islands are mentioned for the first time in 1646, the earliest detailed information about them was provided by the explorer Vladimir Atlasov
Vladimir Atlasov
Vladimir Vasilyevich Atlasov or Otlasov was a Siberian Cossack who was the first Russian to explore the Kamchatka Peninsula. Atlasov Island, an uninhabited volcanic island off the southern tip of Kamchatka, is named after him....

 in 1697. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Kuril Islands were explored by Danila Antsiferov
Danila Antsiferov
Danila Yakovlevich Antsiferov was a Russian explorer.Upon the death of Vladimir Atlasov in 1711, Danila Antsiferov was elected Cossack ataman of the Kamchatka. Together with Ivan Kozyrevsky, he was one of the first Russian Cossacks to visit the Shumshu and Paramushir Islands of the Kuril Islands...

, I.Kozyrevsky, Ivan Yevreinov
Ivan Yevreinov
Ivan Mikhaylovich Yevreinov was a Russian geodesist and explorer.Ivan Yevreinov was born in Poland, then brought to Russia and baptized into Orthodox Christianity....

, Fyodor Luzhin
Fyodor Luzhin
Fyodor Fyodorovich Luzhin was a Russian geodesist and cartographer.Fyodor Luzhin was first a student at the School for Mathematical and Navigational Sciences in Moscow and then in a geodesic class of the Naval Academy in St. Petersburg...

, Martin Shpanberg
Martin Shpanberg
Martin Petrovich Shpanberg was a Danish born naval lieutenant who took part in Berings two Kamchatka expeditions as second in command. He is best known for exploring the Kuril Islands and finding the sea route to Japan....

, Adam Johann von Krusenstern
Adam Johann von Krusenstern
Adam Johann Ritter von Krusenstern , was an admiral and explorer, who led the first Russian circumnavigation of the globe.- Life :...

, Vasily Golovnin
Vasily Golovnin
Vasily Mikhailovich Golovnin .-Early life and career:Vasily Mikhailovich Golovnin was born in April 1776, in the village of Gulyniki in Ryazan Oblast, on his father's country estate. Both his father and grandfather had served in the Russian military as officers in the elite Preobrazhensky...

, and Henry James Snow.

From north to south, the main islands are (alternative names given in parentheses):

North Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)
  • Shumshu
    Shumshu
    Shumshu , is the northernmost island of Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk in 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 , its northern...

     
  • Atlasov
    Atlasov Island
    Atlasov Island, known in Russian as Ostrov Atlasova , or in Japanese as Araido , is the northernmost island and volcano and also the highest volcano of the Kuril islands, part of the Sakhalin Oblast in Russia. The Russian name is sometimes rendered in English as Atlasova Island...

     (Остров Атласова; Araido / 阿頼度島)
  • Paramushir
    Paramushir
    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 , from Antsiferov by the Luzhin Strait to the southwest, from Atlasov in the...

     (Парамушир; Paramushiru, Horomushiro / 幌筵島)
  • Antsiferov (Остров Анциферова; Shirinki / 志林規島)
  • Makanrushi
    Makanrushi
    Makanrushi is an uninhabited volcanic island located 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.-Geology:...

     (Маканруши; Makanru / 磨勘留島)
  • Onekotan
    Onekotan
    Onekotan Island is an uninhabited volcanic island located 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 for "large village".-Geology:...

     (Онекотан; Onnekotan / 温禰古丹島)
  • Kharimkotan
    Kharimkotan
    Kharimkotan ; Japanese 春牟古丹島; Harimukotan-tō, alternatively Harumukotan-tō or 加林古丹; Karinkotan-tō) is an uninhabited volcanic island located km from Onekotan near the northern end of the Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk in the northwest Pacific Ocean...

     (Харимкотан; Harimukotan, Harumukotan / 春牟古丹島)
  • Ekarma
    Ekarma
    Ekarma is an uninhabited volcanic island near the center of the Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk in the northwest Pacific Ocean, separated from Shiashkotan by the Ekarma Strait...

     (Экарма; Ekaruma / 越渇磨島)
  • Chirinkotan
    Chirinkotan
    Chirinkotan is an uninhabited volcanic island located in the centre of the Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk in the northwest Pacific Ocean. Its name is derived from the Ainu language for "mudslide"...

     (Чиринкотан; 知林古丹島)
  • Shiashkotan
    Shiashkotan
    Shiashkotan ; is an uninhabited volcanic island near the center of the Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk in the northwest Pacific Ocean, separated from Ekarma by the Ekarma Strait. Its name is derived from the Ainu language, from “Konbu village”....

     (Шиашкотан; Shasukotan / 捨子古丹島)
  • Raikoke
    Raikoke
    Raikoke , also spelled Raykoke, is an uninhabited volcanic island near the center of the Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk in the northwest Pacific Ocean, across Golovnin Strait from Matua. Its name is derived from the Ainu language, from “hellmouth”.-Geology:Raikoke is roughly circular,...

     (Райкоке; 雷公計島)
  • Matua
    Matua Island
    Matua is an uninhabited volcanic island near the center of the Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk in the northwest Pacific Ocean, 16 kilometers across Golovnin Strait from Raikoke...

     (Матуа; Matsuwa, Matsua / 松輪島)
  • Rasshua
    Rasshua
    Rasshua , is an uninhabited volcanic island near the center of the Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk in the northwest Pacific Ocean, from Ushishir and southwest of Matua. Its name is derived from the Ainu language for “fur coat”.-Geology:...

     or Rasshya (Расшуа; Rasutsuwa, Rashowa, Rasuwa / 羅処和島)
  • Ushishir
    Ushishir
    Ushishir is an uninhabited volcanic island located in the centre of the Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk in the northwest Pacific Ocean. Its name is derived from the Ainu language for "hot spring".-Geology:...

     (Ушишир; Ushishiru / 宇志知島)
  • Ketoy
    Ketoy
    Ketoy is an uninhabited volcanic island located in the centre of the Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk in the northwest Pacific Ocean.-Geology:Ketoy is roughly circular with an area of 73 km² and a diameter of 10 km...

     (Кетой; Ketoi / 計吐夷島)
  • Simushir
    Simushir
    Simushir is an uninhabited volcanic island near the center of the Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk in the northwest Pacific Ocean. Its name is derived from the Ainu language for “large island”.-Geology:...

     (Симушир; Shimushiru, Shinshiru / 新知島)
  • Broutona
    Broutona
    Broutona is an uninhabited volcanic island located near the northern end of the southern Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk in the northwest Pacific Ocean. Its name is derived from William Robert Broughton, a British American ship captain who charted many of the Kurile Islands during his...

     (Остров Броутона; Buroton, Makanruru / 武魯頓島)
  • Chirpoy
    Chirpoy
    Chyornie Bratya is collectively the name for a pair of uninhabited volcanic islands located between Simushir and Urup in the Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk in the northwest Pacific Ocean. The larger of the two is named Chirpoy, and the smaller is named Brat Chirpoev...

     (Чирпой; Chirihoi, Chieruboi / 知理保以島)
  • Brat Chirpoyev
    Chirpoy
    Chyornie Bratya is collectively the name for a pair of uninhabited volcanic islands located between Simushir and Urup in the Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk in the northwest Pacific Ocean. The larger of the two is named Chirpoy, and the smaller is named Brat Chirpoev...

     (Брат Чирпоев; Chirihoinan / 知理保以南島)
  • Urup
    Urup
    Urup is an uninhabited volcanic island near in the south of the Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk in the northwest Pacific Ocean. Its name is derived from the Ainu language word for salmon trout.-Geography and climate:...

     (Уруп; Uruppu / 得撫島)

South Kurils (Minami-chishima / 南千島)
  • Iturup
    Iturup
    Iturup is the largest island of the South Kuril Islands. It is the northernmost island in the southern Kuril/Chishima islands, and though it is presently controlled by Russia, Japan also claims this island...

     (Итуруп; Etorofu / 択捉島)
  • Kunashir (Кунашир; Kunashiri / 国後島)
  • Shikotan
    Shikotan
    Shikotan, in Russian , Japanese , or シコタㇴ), is one of the bigger islands of the Kuril Islands, which are controlled by Russia. It is one of the four southernmost islands which Japan maintains a claim for...

     (Шикотан; 色丹島)
  • Khabomai
    Khabomai
    The Habomai Islands are a group of islets in the southernmost Kuril Islands...

     Rocks (Южно-Курильская гряда; Habomai Shotō / 歯舞諸島)
    • Polonskogo (Остров Полонского; Taraku / 多楽島)
    • Zelyonyi (Зелёный; Shibotsu / 志発島)
    • Yuri
      Yuri (island)
      Yuri island is part of the Russian Kuril Islands. The Kuril Islands are a group of islands in the Pacific Ring of Fire running northeast from Hokkaido, Japan to Kamchatka, Russia....

       (Юрий; 勇留島)
    • Anuchina (Остров Анучина; Akiyuri / 秋勇留島)
    • Kharkar (Остров Харкар; Harukaru / 春苅島)
    • Tanfilyeva (Остров Танфильева; Suishō / 水晶島)
    • Signalny (Сигнальный; Kaigara / 貝殻島)

See also



  • 2006 Kuril Islands earthquake
    2006 Kuril Islands earthquake
    The 2006 Kuril Islands earthquake was an 8.3 magnitude earthquake that hit the Kuril Islands at 11:14 UTC on November 15, 2006. A small tsunami hit the Japanese northern coast, with a larger wave following earlier small ones, due to reflection. The tsunami crossed the Pacific and did damage in...

  • 2006 Kuril Islands tsunami
  • 2007 Kuril Islands earthquake
    2007 Kuril Islands earthquake
    The 2007 Kuril Islands earthquake was a great earthquake that occurred east of the Kuril Islands on January 13, 2007 at 1:23 p.m. JST with a magnitude of 8.1 Mw. A tsunami warning was issued following the earthquake, and sea level gauges indicate that a tsunami was generated...

  • Chishima Province
    Chishima Province
    was a province of Japan created during the Meiji Era. It originally contained the Kurile Islands from Kunashiri northwards, and later incorporated Shikotan as well...

  • Evacuation of Karafuto and Kuriles
    Evacuation of Karafuto and Kuriles
    The evacuation of Karafuto and the Kuriles refers to the events that took place during the Pacific theater of World War II as the Japanese population left these areas, to August 1945 in the northwest of the main islands of Japan....

  • Invasion of the Kuril Islands
  • Governor-General of Karafuto
  • Karafuto
  • Organization of Hokkai (North) Army
  • Organization of Karafuto Fortress
    Organization of Karafuto Fortress
    The Karafuto Fortress was the defensive unit formed by the Karafuto fortification installations, and the Karafuto detachment of Japanese forces, the88th Division...

  • Organization of Kita and Minami Fortresses
    Organization of Kita and Minami Fortresses
    The Kita and Minami Fortresses were defensive structures of the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy in the Kuril Archipelago....

  • Political divisions of Karafuto Prefecture
    Political divisions of Karafuto Prefecture
    Between 1905 and 1945, the Japanese Empire administered the southern half of Sakhalin, using the name . The area was designated a chō, the same term given to Hokkaidō at the time. It is commonly referred to as Karafuto Prefecture in English...

  • Kuril Islands dispute
    Kuril Islands dispute
    The Kuril Islands dispute , also known as the , is a dispute between Japan and Russia over sovereignty over the South Kuril Islands. The disputed islands, which were occupied by Soviet forces during the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation at the end of World War II, are under Russian...



External links