Kuril Islands

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

 
Jump to: navigation, search
Location of Kuril Islands in the Western Pacific.
Matua Island as seen from Raikoke.

The Kuril Islands or Kurile Islands (/ˈkʊərɪl/, /ˈkjʊərɪl/, or /kjʊˈrl/; Russian: Кури́льские острова́, tr. Kuril'skie ostrova; IPA: [kʊˈrʲilʲskʲɪjə ɐstrɐˈva]; Japanese: クリル列島 Kuriru rettō, (千島列島 Chishima rettō?)), in Russia's Sakhalin Oblast region, form a volcanic archipelago that stretches approximately 1,300 km (810 mi) northeast from Hokkaido, Japan, to Kamchatka, Russia, separating the Sea of Okhotsk from the North Pacific Ocean. There are 56 islands and many more minor rocks. It consists of Greater Kuril Ridge and Lesser Kuril Ridge.[1] The total land area is 10,503.2 square kilometres (4,055.3 sq mi)[2] and total population is 19,434.[3]

All of the islands are under the Russian jurisdiction, but Japan claims the two southernmost large islands (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.

Nomenclature[edit]

The Sarychev volcano erupting on June 12, 2009, as seen from the International Space Station.

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 Rettō pronounced [tɕiɕima ɽetːoː], literally, Thousand Islands Archipelago), also known as the Kuriru Islands (Katakana: クリル列島 Kuriru Rettō [kɯɽiɽɯ ɽetːoː], 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[edit]

The Kuril Islands, showing the de facto division between Japan and Russia over time.

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 (120 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.[4]

The climate on the islands is generally severe, with long, cold, stormy winters and short and notoriously foggy summers. The average annual precipitation is 30–40 inches (760–1,020 mm), most of which falls as snow.

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.

One of the Kuril Islands.

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.

Marine ecology[edit]

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 and 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 were exploited very heavily for their pelts in the 19th century. Indeed, as shown by 19th and 20th century whaling catch and sighting records [5]

Seabirds: The Kuril islands are home to many millions of seabirds, including Northern Fulmars, Tufted Puffins, Murres, Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Auklets, Petrels, Gulls, 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.

Terrestrial ecology[edit]

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.

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.

Human settlement history[edit]

Kuril Ainu people next to their traditional dwelling.

The Ainu people were early inhabitants of Kuril Islands, although there are few records that predate the 17th century. The Japanese administration first took nominal control of the islands in the Edo period of Japan, in the form of claims by the Matsumae clan. It is claimed that the Japanese knew of the northern islands 370 years ago.[6] On "Shōhō Onkuko Ezu", a map of Japan made by the Tokugawa shogunate, in 1644, there are 39 large and small islands shown northeast of the Shiretoko peninsula and Cape Nosappu. The Russian Empire began to advance into the Kurils in the early 18th century. Although the Russians often sent expedition parties for research and hunted sea otters, they never went south of Urup island.[citation needed][contradiction]

Russian settlements extended as far as Iturup 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 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, 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.[citation needed]

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 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 south of Kamchatka.

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 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 1918–1925, Japanese forces from the northern Kurils, along with United States and European forces, occupied southern Kamchatka. Japanese vessels made naval strikes against Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.

The Soviet Union seized southern Sakhalin and the Kuril islands at the end of World War II. Japan maintains a claim to the four southernmost islands of Kunashir, Iturup, Shikotan, and the Habomai rocks, together called the Northern Islands Territories (see Kuril Islands dispute).

Japanese administration[edit]

A map of Kuril Islands from Gisuke Sasamori's 1893 book Chishima Tanken

In 1869, the Meiji 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[which?] 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, 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 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.[citation needed]

World War II[edit]

Russian administration[edit]

Current situation[edit]

Main village in Shikotan

As of 2013, 19,434 people inhabited the Kuril Islands. These include ethnic Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Tatars, Nivkhs, and Oroch. Russian Orthodoxy and Islam are the only religions with significant following among the population.[citation needed]. Some of the villages are permanently manned by Russian Soldiers (Especially in Kunashir following recent tensions). other are manned by civilians, which are employees of the Border Guard Service of the Russian police. These employees are not considered soldiers, so they are counted in the census data. as of 2014, There are only 9 inhabited islands out of a total of 56.

Economy[edit]

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.[7]

In recent times 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. 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 Yuzhno-Kurilsk Mendeleyevo Airport.[8]

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.[9]

Military[edit]

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 following the heating up of the dispute in early 2011.[10]

Atlasov Island[edit]

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 Mt. Fuji.

List of the islands[edit]

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 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.

Atlasov Island — northernmost island of the Kurils, viewed from space

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

IslandRussian: NameJapanese: NameAlternative namesIsland GroupCapital / Landing pointOther CitiesArea (km²)Population
Severo-Kurilsky DistrictNorth KurilsNorth Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)Severo-KurilskShelikovo, Podgorny, Baikovo3504.002560
ShumshuШумшу占守島ShumushuNorth Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)Baikovo388.020
AtlasovАтласоваAraido / 阿頼度島OyakobaNorth Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)Alaidskaya Bay150.00
AwosAvosNorth Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)0.10
ParamushirПарамушир幌筵島HoromushiroNorth Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)Severo-KurilskShelikovo, Podgorny2053.02540
AntsiferovАнциферова志林規島ShirinkiNorth Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)Antsiferov beachCape Terkut7.00
MakanrushiМаканруши磨勘留島MakanruNorth Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)Zakat50.00
OnekotanОнекотан温禰古丹島North Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)MusselKuroisi, Nemo, Shestakov425.00
KharimkotanХаримкотан春牟古丹島Harimukotan, HarumukotanNorth Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)SunazhmaSevergin Bay70.00
EkarmaЭкарма越渇磨島EkarumaNorth Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)Kruglyy30.00
ChirinkotanЧиринкотан知林古丹島North Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)Cape Ptichy6.00
ShiashkotanШиашкотан捨子古丹島ShasukotanNorth Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)Makarovka122.00
RaikokeРайкоке雷公計島North Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)Raikoke4.60
MatuaМатуа松輪島Matsuwa, MatsuaNorth Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)Sarychevo52.00
RasshuaРасшуа羅処和島Rasutsuwa, RashowaNorth Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)Arches Point67.00
UshishirУшишир宇志知島UshishiruNorth Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)KraternyaRyponkicha5.00
KetoyКетой計吐夷島KetoiNorth Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)Storozheva73.00
OtherNorth Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)ToporkovaOstrov Srednego, Lowuschki Rock1.30
Kurilsky DistrictMiddle Kurilssplit between both Japanese groupsKurilskReidovo, Kitovyi, Rybaki, Goryachiye Klyuchi, Kasatka, Burevestnik, Shumi-Gorodok, Gornyy5138.46606
SimushirСимушир新知島Shimushiru, ShinshiruNorth Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)KraternyySrednaya bay360.00
BroutonaБроутона武魯頓島Buroton, MakanruruNorth Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)Nedostupnyy7.00
ChirpoyЧирпой知理保以島Chirihoi, ChierupoiNorth Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)Peschanaya Bay21.00
Brat ChirpoyevБрат Чирпоев知理保以南島ChirihoinanNorth Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)GarovnikovaSemenova16.00
UrupУруп得撫島UruppuNorth Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)Mys KastrikumMys Van-der-Lind1450.0~4
OtherNorth Kurils (Kita-chishima / 北千島)4.40
IturupИтуруп択捉島EtorofuSouth Kurils (Minami-chishima / 南千島)KurilskReidovo, Kitovyi, Rybaki, Goryachiye Klyuchi, Kasatka, Burevestnik, Shumi-Gorodok, Gornyy3280.06602
Yuzhno-Kurilsky DistrictSouth KurilsSouth Kurils (Minami-chishima / 南千島)Yuzhno-KurilskMalokurilskoye, Rudnaya, Lagunnoye, Otrada, Goryachiy Plyazh, Aliger, Mendeleyevo, Dubovoye, Polino, Golovnino1860.810268
KunashirКунашир国後島KunashiriSouth Kurils (Minami-chishima / 南千島)Yuzhno-KurilskRudnaya, Lagunnoye, Otrada, Goryachiy Plyazh, Aliger, Mendeleyevo, Dubovoye, Polino, Golovnino1499.07800
Shikotan GroupШикотан色丹島South Kurils (Minami-chishima / 南千島)MalokurilskoyeDumnova, Otradnaya, Krabozavodskoye, Anama, Zvezdnaya, Voloshina, Kray Sveta264.132440
Shikotan IslandШикотан色丹島South Kurils (Minami-chishima / 南千島)MalokurilskoyeDumnova, Otradnaya, Krabozavodskoye, Anama, Zvezdnaya, Voloshina, Kray Sveta255.002440
OtherSouth Kurils (Minami-chishima / 南千島)Ayvazovskovo9.10
KhabomaiЮжно-Курильская гряда歯舞諸島HabomaiSouth Kurils (Minami-chishima / 南千島)ZorkiyZelyonyi, Polonskogo97.7028
** PolonskogoПолонского多楽島TarakuSouth Kurils (Minami-chishima / 南千島)Moriakov Bay station11.572
** ZelyonyiЗелёный志発島ShibotsuSouth Kurils (Minami-chishima / 南千島)Glushnevskyi station58.723
** YuriЮрий勇留島IiuriSouth Kurils (Minami-chishima / 南千島)Kalernaya10.320
** AnuchinaАнучина秋勇留島AkiyuriSouth Kurils (Minami-chishima / 南千島)Bolshoye Bay2.350
** KharkarХаркар春苅島Harukaru, DyominaSouth Kurils (Minami-chishima / 南千島)Haruka0.80
** TanfilyevaТанфильева水晶島SuishōSouth Kurils (Minami-chishima / 南千島)ZorkiyTanfilyevka Bay, Bolotnoye12.9223
** SignalnyСигнальный貝殻島KaigaraSouth Kurils (Minami-chishima / 南千島)0.020
** OtherSouth Kurils (Minami-chishima / 南千島)Oskolki, Opasnaga, Udivitelnaya1.00
Total10503.219434
Signalny Rock, viewed from Cape Nosappu, Japan

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ GSE
  2. ^ http://www.sakhalin.ru/Engl/Region/geography.htm
  3. ^ "Kuril Islands: factfile". The Daily Telegraph (London). November 1, 2010. 
  4. ^ Central Kuril Island Tsunami in Crescent City, California University of Southern California
  5. ^ Clapham, P. J.; C. Good, S. E. Quinn, R. R. Reeves, J. E. Scarff and R.L. Brownell, Jr. (2004). "Distribution of North Pacific". Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 6 (1): 1–6. 
  6. ^ Stephan, John J (1974). The Kuril Islands. Oxford: Clarendon Press. pp. 50–56. 
  7. ^ "It was hoped that the proceeds from the ongoing projects would help to alleviate the high level of poverty in the region". Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia, s.v. Sakhalin Oblast" (Europa Publications) 2003.
  8. ^ "Profile on Yuzhno-Kurilsk Mendeleyevo Airport". Retrieved May 24, 2014. 
  9. ^ Islands disputed with Japan feel Russia's boom - The China Post
  10. ^ "Russia moves to defend Kuril Islands claim." RIA Novosti, 9 February 2011.

Further reading[edit]

  • Gorshkov, G. S. Volcanism and the Upper Mantle Investigations in the Kurile Island Arc. Monographs in geoscience. New York: Plenum Press, 1970. ISBN 0-306-30407-4
  • Krasheninnikov, Stepan Petrovich, and James Greive. The History of Kamtschatka and the Kurilski Islands, with the Countries Adjacent. Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1963.
  • Rees, David. The Soviet Seizure of the Kuriles. New York: Praeger, 1985. ISBN 0-03-002552-4
  • Takahashi, Hideki, and Masahiro Ōhara. Biodiversity and Biogeography of the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin. Bulletin of the Hokkaido University Museum, no. 2-. Sapporo, Japan: Hokkaido University Museum, 2004.
  • Hasegawa, Tsuyoshi. Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan. 2006. ISBN 067402241.
  • Alan Catharine and Denis Cleary. Unwelcome Company. A fiction thriller novel set in 1984 Tokyo and the Kuriles featuring a light aircraft crash and escape from Russian-held territory. On Kindle.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 46°30′N 151°30′E / 46.500°N 151.500°E / 46.500; 151.500