HOW THE KURIL ISLANDS WERE EXPLORED
The discovery of a new land in international right is considered to be the recognition of territories which were earlier unknown to the civilized world.
In that meaning the priority of Kuril Islands’ discovering belongs to Russian pioneers. Early in 1639 the group Cossacks under command of Pentecostal Moskvin I. U. landed Okhotsk sea, for the first time saw from natives about bearded people – “Ainu” who lived “to the right side” that is on the islands. Four years later information about Ainu came from the head secretary of Cossacks Vasilii Polyakov who also landed Okhotsk Sea. Cossack from the group of Polyakov Mikula Timofeev testified that bearded people called Russians as brothers. One can concede that Russians had already discovered Kuril Islands and contacted Ainu directly in1640-1641.
Thus Dutch, German and Nordic chronic and maps testifies about first settlements on Kuril Islands of the day. Japans never lived there as origins. Inter alia material evidences of being Russians on Kunashire Island, the most southern Island of Big Kuril String, were find out by Dutch sailor Martin Harryts de Frees, who went on expedition to Japan and south Kuril Islands. There is notification in logbook of his ship about T-shaped pole fixed in the ground near the bottom of volcano Tyatya (Kunashire Island) which were usually fixed in Arctic Ocean by Russian sailors.
In 1649 Cossacks under the command of Fedot A. Popov, one of organizers of Semen I. Deghnev’s expeditions, visited Kuril Islands, particularly Shumshu Island.
In 1660th Yakut cossack Mikhail Yakovlevich Staduhin sailed along Kuril Islands. And some historians do consider him to be the pioneer of the Kuril Islands in 1654.
Noteworthy that European merchantmen and missionaries began to visit Japan since the middle of the 16th century. But strictly speaking Japan was unknown in Europe, and about ocean to the north and northeast Europeans knew almost nothing. There was a legend that there stood some rich islands discovered by Spaniards in 1584.
Remarkable is the fact that there was not a European sailor or cartographer of that time attributing Kuril Islands to Japan. Moreover, Dutch sailor Martin Harryts de Frees who set off to Japan for expedition in 1643 considered Hokkaido Island to be the part of Asia instead of Japan.
It is recognized all over the world that the Kuril Islands appeared on geographical maps in its nowadays state thanks to Russian explorers.
The first official expedition to Kuril Islands was organized by the order of Peter the Great. In 1721 the expedition was headed by geodesists Evreionov and Lughin. They sailed along the islands and mapped them, after that Evreionov gave the map and expedition report to Peter the Great personally.
After that in 1739 Shpanberg’s expedition was organized. It gave the Kuril Islands its Russian names. Eventually, in the middle of 18th century Cossack’s settlements appeared on Kunashire Island. Bringing Ainu under Russian citizenship, Russians founded winterings, settlements and taught them to use guns, cattle breading and farming. Many of Ainu were converted to Orthodoxy by their will, they also studied grammar.
“Irkutsk Map Vicegerency”, that consisted of 4 districts separated in 17 counties, absolutely testifies that all of Kuril Islands were already the territory of Russian Empire in the time of Katherine II. On the map of 1796 all of the islands, including the four southern claimed by Japan, were noted as the territory of Russian Empire.
Later that time the Kuril Islands mapped by Russians were confirmed by French sailor Laperuso in his expedition. Thus the fact of discovering and familiarization of the Kuril Islands is off doubts.
Nowadays the Kuril Islands is inalienable part of Russia. No one questions Russia as the pioneers of the Kuril Islands.
The end of this short excurse in history of two neighboring countries, Russia and Japan, there will be a quotation of famous scientist V.N. Elizariev: “Remaking the world map (in international publication), which up to the present moment has the inscription near the Kuril Islands: occupied by USSR, now Russia, is an ungrateful doing.”