- 29 Nov 2019 04:26
The history of the Kuril Islands is a little more complicated. Originally the Ainu lived there, the same people who populated Japan's far north and northern island Hokkaido. Then the Tang dynasty began expanding and exercised some level of tributary control over the Kuril Islands since they were closer to the mainland continent (easier for armies to cross into) and farther away from the Japanese Empire. But the Chinese Empire only probably exercised nominal control, since even to China they were also rather remote and not really worth taking.
The Empire of Japan actually did not really control the islands that long, relatively speaking, on a historical scale. The Japanese began exercising some informal control on record as far back as 1811. By 1855, it was recognized that the northern Kuril Islands would be Russian territory and the island of Sakhalin would be a place where both Russians and Japanese could live. In 1875 there was a treaty where Russia got Sakhalin and Japan got the Kuril Islands. After 1905 and the Russo-Japanese war going badly for Russia, the Japanese Empire basically got full control, but then things did not go so well for Japan as a result of the second world war.
These were traditionally very undeveloped islands, and the surrounding empires did not really exercise direct control. The islands were seen as more valuable for their territorial waters and whaling. Development did not really begin until 1869 under the Meiji Era (Japan). Most of the new population on those islands came from Japan.