Group of islands extending from south of the Kamchatka Peninsula, northeast Siberia, to Hokkaidō. Of volcanic origin, the group of more than 30 large and small islands includes many active volcanoes and hot springs and are surrounded by rich fishing grounds. Under the terms of the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951, Japan renounced all claims to the Kuril Islands, which had been Japanese territory since 1875. However, Japan still claims the islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan, and the Habomai Islands, which were occupied by the Soviet Union in 1945 and which Japan maintains are not part of the Kuril Islands. (adapted from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993)
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