VLADIVOSTOK, April 23 (RAPSI) – Customs officials on the Russian far east island of Sakhalin have confiscated several glossy booklets from a Japanese tourist containing maps showing the disputed Kuril Islands as Japanese territory, the Far Eastern Customs Department said on Tuesday.
The booklets were classified as “propaganda material” after evaluation by Russian officials, because, they said, they inaccurately represent the state border between Russia and Japan.
Under Russian law, it is illegal to bring goods of this kind through the borders of the Customs Union (a free trade space consisting of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia).
A chain of islands stretching from Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula to Japan’s Hokkaido Island, the Kurils, known in Japan as the Northern Territories, have been the subject of a territorial dispute between the two nations for over a century.
Initially, Russia and Japan agreed that the islands were divided between them, by the Treaty of Shimoda of 1855.
In 1875, under the Treaty of St. Petersburg, Russia gave up all claims to the islands in exchange for Japan dropping claims to Sakhalin.
Then in 1905, after Japan defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War, the Treaty of Portsmouth saw the southern half of Sakhalin island also granted to Japan.
The Soviet Union took control of the Kuril islands (and southern Sakhalin) at the end of World War II, but Japan never recognized the USSR’s jurisdiction over the Kurils.
The issue of the islands’ status continues to blight Russian-Japanese relations. A visit by then President Minister Medvedev to the islands in 2010, the first by a Russian leader, sparked outraged protests from Japanese politicians.