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Title: Kunashir  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Ainu people, Foreign relations of Russia, Kuril Islands, Kuril Islands dispute, Nemuro Subprefecture, List of islands of Russia, Least weasel, Treaty of Shimoda, Chishima Province, Urup
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Kunashir Island
Disputed island
Native name: Kunashiri (Ainu)
Other names: Russian: Кунаши́р; Japanese: 国後島
Kunashir coastline on a photo taken by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in November 2010.
Kunashir Island
Kunashir Island (off the coast of Hokkaidō)
Location Sea of Okhotsk
Coordinates 07|N|145|51|E|type:isle name=


Archipelago Kuril Islands
Area 1,490 square kilometres (370,000 acres)
Length 123 kilometres (76 mi)
Width from 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) to 30 kilometres (19 mi)
Highest point Tyatya
1,819 metres (5,968 ft)
Administered by
Oblast Sakhalin
Claimed by
Prefecture Hokkaidō
Oblast Sakhalin

Kunashir Island (Russian: Кунаши́р; Japanese: 国後島, Kunashiri-tō; or クナシㇽ, Kunasir), 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 (see Kuril Islands dispute).

It lies between the straits of Kunashir, Catherine, Izmena, and South Kuril. Kunashir is visible from the nearby Japanese island of Hokkaidō, from which it is separated by the Nemuro Strait.

Kunashir is formed by four volcanoes which were separate islands but have since joined together by low-lying areas with lakes and hot springs. All these volcanoes are still active: Tyatya (1,819 m), Smirnov, Mendeleev (Rausu-yama), and Golovnin (Tomari-yama).[1]

The island is made up of volcanic and crystalline rocks. The climate is humid continental with very heavy precipitation especially in the autumn and a strong seasonal lag with maximum temperatures in August and September. The vegetation mostly consists of spruce, pine, fir, and mixed deciduous forests with lianas and Kuril bamboo underbrush. The mountains are covered with birch and Siberian Dwarf Pine scrub, herbaceous flowers or bare rocks.

Tree cores of century-old oaks (Quercus crispula) were found in July 2001 on Kunashir Island.[2]


In 1789 Kunashiri was one of the settings of the Menashi-Kunashir Battle in which Ainu revolted against Japanese tradespeople and colonists.

Russian navigator Vasily Golovnin attempted to map and explore the island in 1811, but was apprehended by Japanese authorities and spent two years in prison.

On September 1, 1945, or one day before the surrender documents of World War II were signed on September 2, 1945, in accordance with decisions made at the Yalta Conference, the Soviet Union landed on and annexed the Kuril Islands and the disputed Northern territories. The Japanese government claims that the Northern Territories were not part of the Kuril Islands, due to historical reasons. This occurred after the Soviet Union renounced the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact in April 1945 and declared war on Japan on August 9, 1945 (formally, the pact itself remained in effect until April 13, 1946).


The largest settlement on Kunashir is Yuzhno-Kurilsk, administrative center of Yuzhno-Kurilsky District.


The primary economic activity is the fishing industry. The island has a port next to Yuzhno-Kurilsk.


The island is served by Mendeleyevo Airport.


After the 1994 earthquake, about one-third of Kunashir's population left, and did not return. By 2002, the island's population was approximately 7,800. The total population of the disputed Kuril islands at that time was approximately 17,000.[3]

See also



General references

  • Wayback Machine (archived December 23, 2010)
  • Flights to Kunashir Island banned

External links

  • Sakhalin Oblast
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