Accessibility links

The Kurile Islands: Why World War II Never Ended

For Russia, they are the justly earned spoils of war. For Japan, the southern Kurile Islands are stolen territory, lost to Soviet aggression and Western interference. More than 70 years after the last shot was fired in World War II, the two countries remain locked in a stalemate over four wave-battered islands.
Show more

A young dog sidesteps a Reuters photographer on Kunashir Island, one of four islands that Russia has settled but Japan calls its Northern Territories. Kunashir lies just 20 kilometers from the Japanese mainland.  
1

A young dog sidesteps a Reuters photographer on Kunashir Island, one of four islands that Russia has settled but Japan calls its Northern Territories. Kunashir lies just 20 kilometers from the Japanese mainland.

 

A Russian woman touches up her lipstick on Kunashir. The dispute over the islands means a peace treaty has never been signed between Russia and Japan to formally end World War II hostilities. As one local woman put it, "There is no war, but there is no peace either."
2

A Russian woman touches up her lipstick on Kunashir. The dispute over the islands means a peace treaty has never been signed between Russia and Japan to formally end World War II hostilities. As one local woman put it, "There is no war, but there is no peace either."

The Kurile Islands (center) lie like a trail of droplets between Japan and Russia. Historically the boundary between the two countries has been tugged up and down the island chain, but after World War II that boundary slid south, hard against the Japanese mainland.
3

The Kurile Islands (center) lie like a trail of droplets between Japan and Russia. Historically the boundary between the two countries has been tugged up and down the island chain, but after World War II that boundary slid south, hard against the Japanese mainland.

In the waning days of World War II, the United States and United Kingdom promised Moscow the Kurile Islands in return for entering the fight against Japan. This Soviet-era painting depicts the landing of Soviet forces on one of the islands.
4

In the waning days of World War II, the United States and United Kingdom promised Moscow the Kurile Islands in return for entering the fight against Japan. This Soviet-era painting depicts the landing of Soviet forces on one of the islands.

Load more

XS
SM
MD
LG