The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Kuril Islands

The Kuril Islands (Russian: Кури́льские острова́), also known as Kurile Islands, stretch northeast from Hokkaido, Japan, to Kamchatka, separating the Sea of Okhotsk from the North Pacific Ocean. They are part of Russia's Sakhalin Oblast.

The islands are known in Japanese as the 千島列島 - Chishima rettō (Thousand Islands Archipelago) or クリル列島 - Kuriru rettō (Kuril Archipelago). The name originates from the autonym of the aboriginal Ainu: "kur", meaning man.

The Kuril Islands were inhabited by the Ainu from time immemorial until they were expelled from the northernmost by the Russians in the 18th century. Japan inherited them in 1875 (Treaty of Saint Petersburg) in exchange for ceding Sakhalin to Russia. Russia reclaimed them after the World War II (Treaty of San Francisco), but Japan maintains a claim to the four southernmost islands, called Northern Territories in Japan (see Kuril Island conflict).

The Kuril Islands form a volcanic island arc as a result of plate tectonics. The Kuril Trench is an oceanic trench that runs about 200 km east of the Kuril Islands. The islands themselves are summits of stratovolcanoes that rise from the seabed.

The islands are renowned for their fogginess, but are rich in seaweed and marine life, such as fish and otters. The northernmost, Atlasov Island (Oyakoba to the Japanese), is an almost perfect volcanic cone rising sheer out of the sea, and has led to many Japanese eulogies in haiku, wood-block prints, etc., extolling its beauty, much as they do the more well-known Mt. Fuji.

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 in 1697. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Kurils were explored by Danila Antsiferov , I.Kozyrevsky, Ivan Yevreinov , Fyodor Luzhin , Martin Shpanberg, Adam Johann von Krusenstern, and Vasily Golovnin.

Last updated: 05-07-2005 15:16:23
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04