Kunashir Island (Russian: Кунаши́р; Japanese: 国後島, Kunashiri-tō; Ainu: クナシㇼ or クナシㇽ, Kunasir), possibly meaning Black Island or Grass Island in Ainu, is the southernmost island of the Kuril Islands archipelago. The island is currently under Russian control, though Japan also claims the island (see Kuril Islands dispute).

Kunashir Island
Disputed island
Native name: Kunashir Island (Ainu)
Other names: Russian: Кунаши́р; Japanese: 国後島
Мыс Столбчатый. После заката.jpg
Cape Stolbchaty on the eastern side of the island
Kunashir Island is located in Russia
Kunashir Island
Location of Kunashir Island
Kunashir Island is located in Japan
Kunashir Island
Kunashir Island (Japan)
Location of Kunashir Island
Location of Kunashir Island
LocationSea of Okhotsk
Coordinates44°07′N 145°51′E / 44.117°N 145.850°E / 44.117; 145.850Coordinates: 44°07′N 145°51′E / 44.117°N 145.850°E / 44.117; 145.850
ArchipelagoKuril Islands
Area1,490 square kilometres (370,000 acres)
Length123 kilometres (76 mi)
Widthfrom 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) to 30 kilometres (19 mi)
Highest point
  • Tyatya
  • 1,819 metres (5,968 ft)
Administered by
Federal subjectSakhalin Oblast
Claimed by
Populationapprox. 7000 (as of 2007)

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

  • Area: 1,490 km2 (580 sq mi)
  • Length: 123 km (76 mi)
  • Width: 4–30 km (2.5–18.6 mi)

Kunashir Island 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 (5,968 ft)), 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 Kunashiri Island.[2]


In 1789 Kunashir Island was one of the settings of the Menashi-Kunashiri 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 acquired the Kuril Islands. 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). Although Japan agreed after deliberations to cede its claims on the entire island chain including the Northern Territories as part of the Treaty of San Francisco in 1951, the Japanese government has claimed since the 1960s that the southern islands were not part of the ceded Kuril Islands.


The largest settlement on Kunashir Island 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 Kunashir Island enjoys a Mendeleevskaya GeoPP geothermal power plant with the capacity of 1.8 MW[3]


The island is served by Mendeleyevo Airport.


After the 1994 earthquake, about one-third of Kunashir Island'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.[4]

Relief map
Sulfuric River, Kunashir Island
Kunashir Island coastline: photo taken by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in November 2010

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Volcanoes
  2. ^ Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
  3. ^ "2007 Survey of Energy Resources" (PDF). World Energy Council 2007. 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 April 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
  4. ^ Yuzhno-Kurilsk Journal; Between Russia and Japan, a Pacific Tug of War — The New York Times, 2002

General referencesEdit

External linksEdit