The Kuril Islands
, in Russia's Sakhalin Oblast region, form a volcanic archipelago that stretches approximately 1,300 km (810 mi) northeast from Hokkaidō, Japan, to Kamchatka, Russia, separating the Sea of Okhotsk from the North Pacific Ocean.
There are 56 islands and many more minor rocks and the archipelago consists of Greater Kuril Ridge and Lesser Kuril Ridge. The total land area is about 15,600 square km (6,000 sq mi) and total population about 19,000.
All of the islands are under Russian jurisdiction, but Japan claims the two southernmost large islands as part of its territory, as well as Shikotan and the Habomai islets, which has led to the ongoing Kuril Islands dispute.
Along with millions of seabirds, crabs and fish, the Ainu people were the early inhabitants of these islands. Yet a long-running dispute over these territories still continues.
While it is quite difficult to access the islands, they are a tourist attraction, mainly due to the history of the islands.