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Northern Challenges: The Japan–Russian Border Dispute and Local Voices

Yukiko Kuroiwa


Although 67 years have passed since the end of World War II, Japan and Russia have yet to conclude a peace treaty due to the unresolved territory problem. There have been many disputes concerning the Kuril Islands between Japan and the USSR/Russia; however, there is little mention of the residents of the Kuril Islands whose lives have been greatly influenced by these border issues. This article re-examines the Russo-Japanese territorial issues from the border viewpoint while clarifying what has occurred to the residents living in the border areas. The first Russo-Japanese border was drawn in 1855, separating the living areas of the indigenous people in the north and south of the Kuril Islands. A Japanese society, formed after the fall and assimilation of the indigenous people, was extinguished after Soviet Forces occupied the archipelago in 1945. Since then an actual border between the Kuril Islands and the eastern shore of Hokkaido has been in place. Most Japanese who were expelled from the southern Kurils settled in the Nemuro area in the eastern shore of Hokkaido and a Russian society has been established in the Kuril Islands. Residents on both sides desire cross-border economic cooperation. They have shown a more flexible stance than that of their respective governments. Realities of borderland and the voices of people living there can be clues to resolve longstanding territorial disputes.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229