Originally Posted by Gman88
To whom does it belong, anyway?
Until the early 18th century the archipelago was populated by independent tribes called Ainu. During the 18th century the islands were divided by Japan (two southermnost islands) and Russia (all others). In late 19th century Russia gave up all archipelago to Japan in exchange for the southern part of Sakhalin island which later Russia lost to Japan anyway during a war in 1905. During WWII all Kuril archipelago and Sakhalin island were overtaken by the Soviet Union. Since then nothing changed.