Soldiers’ Remains Found on Kuril Islands

A new discovery has recently been made on the Kuril Islands. On the island of Shumshu, archaeologists working for the Defense Ministry have found the remains of soldiers who fought for Japan and the Soviet Union during the Second World War. Although the discovery itself is recent, it has been approximately seventy years since these two armies fought against one another in a major battle on the Kuril Islands.

Over the course of the Defense Ministry’s excavation, fifteen bodies have been found in total. Five of these bodies are of Japanese descent, while the other ten sets of remains are all soldiers who fought for the Soviet Union. The Soviet remains have now been placed in the custody of the municipal administration. The northern majority of the Kuril Islands is under Russian jurisdiction, so the government will ensure that these soldiers receive a proper burial. Japan also holds claim to the southernmost island territories, so the Japanese remains will soon be relocated to receive their own proper burial ceremony.

These remains were not the only discovery made on Shumshu. The Defense Ministry also discovered a fighter jet that was built by the Americans and operated by the Soviets, as well as two Japanese trains and a Ka-Mi amphibious tank. The Kuril Islands were the site of one of the last battles to take place during the Second World War, and it is likely this battle during which the aforementioned vehicles were lost. Other refuse from the battle can still be found on Shumshu, such as bunkers and pillar boxes, The Moscow Times reports.

The island of Shumshu is mostly uninhabited, which accounts for the large quantity of refuse from the Second World War that has been left intact for the past seventy years. The battle between the Russians and the Japanese echoes into today, as the Kuril Islands are currently the site of a territorial dispute between the two nations. This dispute does not center on Shumshu, but rather on the southern Kurils, to which Japan has laid claims of ownership. This dispute has been ongoing, and has in fact impeded the ability of Russia and Japan to reach an agreement regarding a formal peace treaty.

The Defense Ministry’s excavation in the Kuril Islands began the second week of September and lasted until nearly the end of the month. In that time, they were only able to discover the fifteen bodies mentioned above. While it is still possible that more remains are left to be discovered in the Kuril Islands, their excavation at Shumshu is complete for the time being.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE