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Archipelago, eastern Russia. It extends for some 750 mi (1,200 km) from the southern tip of Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula to the northeastern coast of Japan's Hokkaido island. The 56 islands occupy 6,000 sq mi (15,600 sq km) and together with Sakhalin Island form an administrative region (pop., 2006 est.: 526,235) of Russia. The Kurils were originally settled by the Russians in the 17th–18th century. Japan seized the southern islands and in 1875 obtained the entire chain. After World War II they were ceded to the Soviet Union, and the Japanese population was repatriated and replaced by Soviets. Japan still claims historical rights to the southernmost islands.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Kuril Islands, visit Britannica.com.