Pride Of Ownership

In a bid to regain the Kurile Islands, Japan dangles an economic lure, but Moscow is stymied by nationalists who cling to every last Soviet outpost

The main town on the Kurile island of Iturup might be any down-and-out frontier settlement in the former Soviet Union. Kurilsk's rutted streets run through neighborhoods of ramshackle houses with outdoor plumbing; the few shops offer only a sparse selection of goods at intimidating prices. The biggest employer, a crumbling fish-processing plant, is several weeks behind in paying wages. Vasily Sadovsky, Kurilsk's vice mayor, confirms the obvious: "Things have been getting worse here for 10 years. Nothing works, not even the streetlights. No one has the initiative to find new bulbs for them."

Now many of the Russians living on the...

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