Other names: Russian: Итуру́п; Japanese: 択捉島; Ainu:エﾂﾟヲロプシㇼ
NASA image of Iturup with Berutarube volcano at the southern end of the island
|Location||Sea of Okhotsk|
|Area||3,139 square kilometres (776,000 acres)|
|Length||200 kilometres (120 mi)|
|Width||27 kilometres (17 mi)|
|Population||7,500 (as of 2003)|
Iturup (Russian: Итуру́п and Oстров Итуру́п, Ostrov Iturup; Ainu: エﾂﾟヲロプシㇼ, Etuworop-sir; Japanese: 択捉島, Etorofu-tō, historically also called Yetorup), is one of the Kuril Islands. It was formerly known as Staten Island. It is the largest and northernmost island in the southern Kurils, ownwership of which is disputed by Japan and Russia.
The island was Japanese territory until the end of the Second World War in 1945, when Soviet forces took possession of all the Kurils and forced out Japanese residents. The island is still claimed by Japan, which considers a site on Iturup to be its northernmost point.
Iturup is located near the southern end of the Kuril chain, between Kunashiri (19 km to the SW) and Urup (37 km to the NE). The town of Kurilsk, administrative center of Kurilsky District, is located roughly midway along its western shore.
Iturup consists of volcanic massifs and mountain ridges. A series of a dozen calc-alkaline volcanoes running NE to SW form the backbone of the island, the highest being Stokap (1,634 m) in the central part of Iturup. The shores of the island are high and abrupt. The vegetation mostly consists of spruce, larch, pine, fir, and mixed deciduous forests with alder, lianas and Kuril bamboo underbrush. The mountains are covered with birch and Siberian Dwarf Pine scrub, herbaceous flowers (including Fragaria iturupensis, the Iturup strawberry) or bare rocks.
Initially inhabited by the Ainu, Iturup was reached in 1661 by the Japanese Shichirobei and his fellows after they had drifted there. The island saw both a Russian settlement (late 18th century) and a Japanese garrison (1800) at the site of the present-day Kurilsk. In 1855 Iturup was ceded to Japan by the Treaty of Shimoda. Its name comes from the Ainu エﾂﾟヲロプ (Etuworop), meaning "Place possessing [many] capes."
In 1945, according to decisions of the Yalta Conference, it was occupied by the Soviet Union after Japan's defeat in World War II. The Japanese inhabitants were expelled to mainland Japan. In 1956 the two countries agreed to restore diplomatic relations, but the peace treaty, as of 2017[update], has not been concluded due to the disputed status of Iturup and some other nearby islands.
A Soviet Anti-Air Defense (PVO) airfield, Burevestnik (English: storm-petrel), is located on the island and was until 1993 home for a number of Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 fighter jets. In 1968, Seaboard World Airlines Flight 253A was intercepted over the Kurils and forced to land at Burevestnik with 214 American troops bound for Vietnam. An older airfield, Vetrovoe, exists on the eastern part of the island and may have been used primarily by Japanese forces during World War II.
A new international airport, Iturup Airport, was opened in 2014, 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) east of Kurilsk. It was the first airport built from scratch in Russia's post-Soviet history. It has a 2.3 kilometres (1.4 mi) long and 42 metres (138 ft) wide runway and can receive Antonov An-74-200 aircraft. It also has a military use. The Burevestnik military airfield 60 kilometres (37 mi) to the south, in the past received civilian aircraft as well, but was often closed because of fog. Burevestnik is now a reserve airfield for the new airport. On February 2, 2018, PBS NewsHour reported that Russia announced it is sending fighter planes to Iturup.
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