Kuril (or Kurile ) Islands, a group of Russian islands in the Pacific Ocean. They extend in a chain for 730 miles (1,175 km) from the Kamchatka Peninsula on the north to the Japanese island of Hokkaido on the south. The Kurils consist of about 30 main islands and numerous smaller ones, with a total area of about 6,000 square miles (15,540 km2). All the islands are of volcanic origin, and some have active volcanoes. The islands rise to as much as 7,674 feet (2,339 m) above sea level. The climate is cold and humid. Fishing and trapping for furs are the chief occupations.
Martin De Vries, a Dutchman, was the first Westerner to visit the islands, in 1634. In the 18th century, the Japanese settled on the southern islands of the group, and in the early 19th century, the Russians settled on the central and northern islands. In 1875 all the Kurils were ceded to Japan. During World War II, the islands were seized by the Soviet Union, becoming part of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. The Japanese consider the southernmost Kurils to be an integral part of Japan.