If Crimea ‘historically’ belongs to Russia, these other regions ‘historically’ don’t.
The rise and fall of empires, two World Wars and the collapse of the Soviet Union mean the map of Europe has been redrawn more times than Russian President Vladimir Putin has posed shirtless. And anyone who claims they owned anywhere first would, if they were being entirely honest, probably have to admit that someone else got there before them.
That was Putin’s logic for the Russian annexation of Crimea. It used to be ours. Therefore it always was, therefore it still is.
Well, by the same token, several other countries could take bites out of Russia. The world’s largest country didn’t start off that way. Just like every other empire, it invaded, conquered, negotiated and seized the lands it now calls its own.
Some of those lands are fiercely disputed to this day, some are the subjects of uneasy settlements, and some have long ago been relinquished to Russia’s unchallenged control. But here’s a list of the most important Russian territories that other countries could, if they chose, try to claim back.
1. The Kuril Islands: Claimed by Japan
The Kuril Islands lie like stepping stones between northern Japan and southeast Russia — but far from linking the two countries, they divide them. Around a century and a half ago, Japan and Russia signed a treaty establishing Japanese ownership of the four southernmost islands, and Russian ownership of everything further north. But after World War II, Russia claimed the entire island chain and deported its southern residents to Japan. Tokyo has never relinquished its claim to these four islands, which it calls the Northern Territories, nor has Moscow ever agreed to hand them back. The two governments have held sporadic negotiations over the issue for more than 60 years, as yet with no result. So thorny is the question, in fact, that Japan and Russia have not yet signed a peace treaty putting a formal end to World War II.
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