Kuriles issue: could it be really better if Japan got Kuriles back

Kuriles issue: could it be really better if Japan got Kuriles back

Sorry for my English, it is definitely better than Google-translation anyway.



Usually our island (Sakhalin) is being mentioned due to difficulties between Russia and Japan. And very often it goes closely not to Sakhalin but to Kuril islands. And attitude towards their belonging.

My  references are historical works of many types. I will try name sources as much as possible, meanwhile it is not useful. Because they are in Russian.

But first issue is very simple, not required serious researches.

NB Unfortunately history of islands has a lot of white spots. Shortage of scientists can’t help it. A lot of things still never being under researching. Even important things (not for Sakhalin only, but for Asia neighbours).

What could Japan do with Kuriles if got it? Would islands to be developed and getting high level of well-being soon (under Japan)?

These questions itself are very manipulative and put people in argues and even “word-fights”. Because looking from our side on Japan it looks like they put a lot of efforts to develop ALL their territories.

NB It is questionable. Any country has pluses as well as minuses in area development.  And sometimes a lot of things changed rapidly.

And some people really thing that under Japan it would be better (they suppose local Russian residents could be under Japan; don’t know reason for such an opinion). No specific researches are done about it, and due to some political situation there are some doubts about honesty of answers if it could be done. That is why I cannot prove this statement by providing results of polls, for example.

First of all a little bit of history

At 1991 year (april) during Gorbachev’s visit to Japan the local newspaper (“Sovetskiy Sakhalin”/”Soviet Sakhalin”) asked Kurile’s resident about their expectations.

Here are word by word translation from that article:

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«Думаю, президент отдаст острова, включая Шикотан» / Guess The President returned islands including Shikotan

«Ничего хорошего не жду!» / Nothing good is expected

«Вряд ли будут изменения!» / Doubt that something changed

«Ничего хорошего для нас» / Nothing good for us

«Не отдаст Горбачев Курилы» / Gorbachov will not give Kuriles

«Надеюсь на заключение договора, который нормализует отношения между двумя странами» / Hope it will be agreement or treaty, which normalize relationships between our countries

NB Actually the relationship is very often kind and can be characterized as good neighborhood. From USSR time we have a lot of twin-cities (Sakhalin and Japan) with a good interaction between them. At 1975 Japan gave investition for Sakhalin oil on very attractive conditions (for short no oil no need to return credits). Etc.

«Возможно, президент отдаст наши острова» / Probably The President will give our islands.

«Будем надеяться, здравый смысл возобладает, и Южные Курилы будут возвращены Японии» / Hope the common sense will win and South Kuriles will be returned.

That time Kuriles experienced a lot of problem. Transport’s availability (sometimes to get there from mainland took weeks in waiting for places on ships) as main thing (and all consequences of it such is lack of supplying, difficulties with emergency service, so on). Second (in our opinion) is overall well-being. Old houses, no infrastructure, no profitable industries.

At 1991 Kunashiri residents organized specific group. They wanted get Japan citizenship. According to our local newspaper (Soviet Sakhalin – oldest and one of the best mass media) these people were not embarrassed by research in Japan done by soviet mass media “Komsomolskaya Pravda”. And {as part of research} Emperor said: we do not need such citizens.

Kuriles life in 1990-th is being described very good and with exact details (precise things of well-being) in local-history book of Valery Belonosov.

NB Valery Belonosov is Horonable Sir of Sakhalin Region. Political figure. Public figure. Having leadership positions in Region Culture Foundation. Having State awards. Started carrier as coal miner. The book we reference to is called “Piramides of Power or There on the coal mine…” (in two parts). It described all his carrier which is really long and belongs to human well-being.

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NB Quote from book.

“Автор не претендует на научное исследование летописца. Но подтверждает точность хронологических зарисовок. Приемы вымысла или фантазии не использовались. Он был участником, а не безучастным свидетелем истории“…

“The author does not pretend to provide scientific hystorical research. But prove exactness and accuracy of chronological sketches (narration). Fiction technique and fantasy technique were not used. Author was participant of history not infifferent witness”.

Only in 2000-th the quality of Kuriles Resident’s requirements significantly changed. Totally reduced demands to give money for relocation from Kuriles. People started  ask authorities for needs higher than food.

All that was written for you to understand Kuriles difficulties and why people could think that under Japan the islands could be developed better.


The answer is that such a statement / belief is at least questionable.

And probably the answer (more close to truth) is “not better than now”.

Please see why:

  1. South Kuriles were in Japan possession from 1755.
  2. From 1775 Japan received North Kuriles as well.
  3. It means that up to 1945 Japan has these islands at least 75 years (in fact 95 for South islands, which Japan still try to get back).
  4. Is 75 years enough for development of territory?  Yes. For example app 40 years of Karafuto’s ownership developed it very quick. At least better than Russia did before 1905 and at least better than North Sakhalin was developed at that time under USSR. We are talking about such indicators as industry achievements and amount of population.
  5. Fishery is only profitable industry. Does it really required development of islands when fleet can catch and transport aquatic biological resources in more convenient places for process/treatment?

History does not respect statements such as “may be / we can only imagine / etc”. That is why only thing we can say about Kuriles development is that islands are VERY difficult for living and getting to and do not have enough resources which could be reasonably and profitably used (especially taken in account that energy/power production is also VERY expencive). Kuriles have only one indisputable advantage. Their location very useful and profitable for warriors. Remember that Japan attacked USA in Pacific War from Kuriles. Islands are gates for Pacific and excellent location for protection of RF Far East.

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Lately Russia is trying to develop Kuriles economically. Unprecedented actions are done for companies started business there and trying to develop new activities. Fishery is still only profitable industry there as already mentioned. Another is mining the silver and the gold (company “KurilGeo”) . But it works on   …uninhabited island! Which does not have ANY approved transport or logistic points still.


As an argument we mentioned that Japan has enough time to develop islands. More over we said about South Sakhalin development. There is another important thing to be taken in account if you want to come deeper in subject.

Japan economic (reference is “Sakhalin Region Economic”, textbook for students) from 1930-th was more and more militarized. Simply saying Japan has shortage in money to develop even Karafuto.

Anyway Japan put a lot of efforts in Sakhalin (South). Remember that Sakhalin was official part of Japan. It called colony but it was governorship. Not as in Korea for example.

And meanwhile no “civil” investigation into Kurules, only “war”.