Japan’s plan to resolve a 70-year-old row with Russia is failing

Dec 14, 2017

How the Russians remember 1945

RUSSIAN sounds familiar to Yoi Hasegawa, an 85-year-old resident of Nemuro, a small port on the north-eastern tip of Japan. She still remembers a few words from when she was 13, and lived on the nearby island of Etorofu. Japan had just surrendered to the Allies, ending the second world war, but Stalin, who had only declared war on Japan seven days before its capitulation, was eager to seize territory Roosevelt and Churchill had promised to the Soviet Union. He sent troops to occupy the southern Kuril Islands, which Russia had acknowledged as Japanese territory in 1855. Two years later, after Ms Hasegawa had picked up a little Russian, he deported the Kurils’ Japanese inhabitants. The resulting territorial dispute mars Russo-Japanese relations to this day.

Like his predecessors, Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, would dearly like to reclaim the Northern Territories, as Japan calls the southern Kurils (see map). But Vladimir Putin,...

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