Kuril Islands

  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, posing issues in resource allocation along the country’s western border.
  • Japan sees this as an opportunity to retake the Kuril Islands, also known as Japan’s Northern Territories, which were captured by Soviet soldiers during WWII.


  • The Kuril Islands, commonly known as the Kurile Islands, are an archipelago of volcanic islands in the northern Pacific Ocean.
  • They extend from the northeastern tip of Japan’s Hokkaido to the southernmost point of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.
  • It consists of 56 islands, the most important of which are Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan, and Habomai.
  • The Kuril Islands are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of severe volcanic and seismic activity caused by tectonic plate movement.
  • Several active volcanoes can be found on the islands, including Alaid, Ebeko, and Chikurachki.

What exactly is the point of contention?

  • Since the end of World War II, the islands have been a source of contention between Russia and Japan.
  • Following the war, the Soviet Union seized control of the Kuril Islands, displacing around 17,000 Japanese people.
  • The southernmost islands (Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan, and Habomai) are claimed by Japan and referred to as the “Northern Territories.”
  • Russia retains authority over the islands and regards them as an extension of its territory.
  • The territory dispute has prevented Russia and Japan from negotiating a formal peace treaty to officially conclude World War II hostilities.
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