Lighthouses of Azerbaijan

One of the former Soviet republics, Azerbaijan faces the southwestern quadrant of the Caspian Sea, bordering Russia to the north and Iran to the south. In the central part of the country's coastline, the Abşeron (Apsheron) Peninsula projects about 60 km (37 mi) into the Caspian. The capital, Bakı (Baku), is located near the base of the peninsula on the south side. The city has a population of about two million and a large port that serves cross-Caspian shipments as well as cargos bound to or from Russia or the Mediterranean via the Volga and Don waterways.

The present territory of Azerbaijan was incorporated in the Russian Empire in 1828, so the historic lighthouses are of Russian heritage. The country has been independent since 1991.

Because the Caspian Sea is landlocked, its lights are not listed on international light lists. We are greatly indebted to Michel Forand, whose research located the information and many of the photo links presented on this page. We are still in need of "on the ground" information concerning the current condition, status, and activity of these lighthouses, so if you able to visit any of them please let me know whatever you find out. Current photos would also be very welcome!

The Azerbaijani word for a lighthouse is mayakı, plural mayakları; this is clearly adopted from the Russian word mayak. As in Turkish, ada or adası is an island and burun is a cape. The Azerbaijani language is written now in Latin rather than Cyrillic characters, but the Latin version of the alphabet also includes the Cyrillic short-a character ә. The Caspian Sea is known as the Xəzər dənizi (Hazar Sea) in Azerbaijani. Names of the lighthouses are given in Azerbaijani, with the Russian names in curly brackets {}.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights.

General Sources
Apsheron Mayaki
This Russian-language article has historical information on the lighthouses of Azerbaijan. Special thanks to Michel Forand for discovering this reference.
Our Baku - Lighthouses of Apsheron
Another Russian-language article has very useful historical information.
Azərbaycan mayakları (Lighthouses of Azerbaijan)
Index to lighthouse articles in the Azerbaijani edition of Wikipedia.
Lighthouses in Azerbaijan
Photos available from Wikimedia.

Apsheron Light
Abşeron (Artyom) Light, Gürgәn, January 2008
Panoramio photo copyright Krestin; used by permission

Abşeron Peninsula Lighthouses
* Amburan (Nardaran) {Mys Amburan}
1884. Active; light characteristic unknown. Approx. 10 m (33 ft) round cylindrical masonry tower attached to the seaward side of a 2-story masonry keeper's house. Our Baku's photo is at right, Azerbaijani Wikipedia has a small photo, the lighthouse appears on a postage stamp, and Bing has a satellite view. The building was restored in 1983, and it appears that the light was moved to a post atop the lantern. Historically the lighthouse showed a red sector light in addition to a white light, but we do not know if that is still the case. Nardaran, on the north shore of the Abşeron Peninsula, is a medieval religious center that has become a beach resort and a suburb of Bakı. Located atop a steep bluff about 650 m (0.4 mi) from the shore in Nardaran, about 25 km (15 mi) north of Bakı. Site status unknown, probably open; tower closed. ARLHS AZE-008.
* Şüvəlan (Shuvalan) {Shoulanskiy}
1907. Active; light characteristic unknown. Lantern mounted on the roof of a masonry life saving station built in 1874. Building painted white. Our Baku has a photo, Wikimapia has the same photo, and the lighthouse appears on a postage stamp, but it has not been located in Bing's satellite view. The lighthouse marks the northern entrance to the strait between the mainland and Pirallahı (Pirallakhi) Island; ships bound for Bakı use this strait to avoid a detour around the Bakı Archipelago. The Soviets renovated the station in 1935, installing a more powerful light. The building is in use as a residence for one or more military families. Located about 2.5 km (1.5 mi) south of the cape near the town of Şüvəlan (Shuvalan), on the north shore of the Abşeron Peninsula about 35 km (22 mi) east northeast of Bakı. Site status unknown, probably open; tower closed. ARLHS AZE-007.
* Abşeron (Artyom, "Danba") {Apsheron, Absheron}
1860. Active; white or red light depending on direction, pattern unknown. 25 m (82 ft) round, unpainted masonry tower with lantern and gallery. A large Fresnel lens is in use. A photo is at the top of this page, a 2009 photo and another photo are available, Sabit Tagayev has a 2011 photo, Our Baku has a closeup and a photo of the station, the lighthouse appears on a postage stamp, and Google has a satellite view. The lighthouse helps guide vessels through the narrow portion of the strait between the mainland and Pirallahı (Pirallakhi) Island (a bridge crosses the strait near this location today). Located near Gürgәn (Türkan) on the eastern end of the Abşeron Peninsula. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS AZE-006.
Amburan Light
Amburan Light, Nardaran, February 2011
Our Baku public domain photo
Çilov Adası (Jilov, Chilov) {Ostrov Zhiloy}
1881. Active; focal plane about 35 m (115 ft); light characteristic unknown. Approx. 30 m (98 ft) octagonal stone tower with lantern and gallery, rising through the center of a 2-story keepers house. Tower painted with red and yellow horizontal bands; lantern dome is black. Our Baku has the closeup also seen at right, a distant view, and a historic photo, and the lighthouse appears on a postage stamp, but BIng has only a distant satellite view of the area. Located on an island several miles northeast of Neft Daşları. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. ARLHS AZE-004.
Neft Daşları {Neftyanye Kamin}
Date unknown (recent). Active; focal plane about 50 m (164 ft); light characteristic unknown. Skeletal mast with gallery mounted atop a tall apartment building. Our Baku has a photo, but BIng has only a distant satellite view of the area. Neft Daşları (Oil Rocks) is an offshore town, built on platforms, serving a large producing oil field. SkyscraperCity.com has photos of this remarkable city-at-sea. Located 55 km (34 mi) offshore, to the south of Çilov Island. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. ARLHS AZE-005.
Böyük Zirə (Boyuk Zira, Bakı) {Ostrov Nargin} (2)
1958 (station established 1884). Active; focal plane about 40 m (131 ft); light characteristic unknown. Approx. 18 m (59 ft) octagonal tower with lantern and gallery. Lighthouse painted white, lantern room red. Azerbaijani Wikipedia has a photo, Dmitry Kozyrev has a view from the sea, the lighthouse appears on a postage stamp, and Bing has a satellite view. This light functions as the landfall light for Bakı. The original lighthouse was very similar in appearance to the present light; Soviet troops blew it up in 1941 so that German bombers could not use it as a landmark. Böyük Zirə (Nargin Island) is located in the entrance to Bakı's crescent-shaped harbor. The island served as a prisoner of war camp during both world wars, and it also had a small Soviet naval station. Nearly all these buildings have been demolished There are reports that a luxury resort is to be built on the island. Located near the center of the narrow island. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. ARLHS AZE-009.
*** Qız Qalası (Maiden Tower)
1858. Inactive since 1907. Ancient 35 m (115 ft) key-shaped stone tower. Araz Yusivoglu has posted a good photo, Keith Mellnick also has a good photo, Wikimedia has numerous photos, and the tower is centered in this Google satellite view. This is Bakı's best known landmark. No one knows for sure how the Maiden Tower got its name. It dates at least from the twelfth century, possibly from the ninth. Presumably intended as a fortress, the tower has had many uses over the years, including service at least occasionally as a lighthouse. In 1858 the Russians added a light to the historic tower, as seen in a 1900 photo. The light was removed in 1907 since the Nargin Island lighthouse (next entry) had made it unnecessary. Located about 150 m (165 yd) from the waterfront in Bakı. Site open, tower open daily.
Chilov Light
Çilov Adası Light, Neft Daşları, November 2009
Wikimapia/Our Baku public domain photo

South Coast Lighthouses
Səngi Muğan Adası (Sangi-Mugan) {Ostrov Svinoy} (1)
1891. Reactivated (inactive 1932-?); light characteristic unknown. 50 m (164 m) square pyramidal cast iron skeletal tower with lantern, gallery, and central cylinder. Our Baku has a small photo, and Google has a satellite view. This lighthouse was prefabricated in France. The island is the summit of a mud volcano, and the lighthouse was abandoned after being damaged by an eruption of the volcano, apparently in 1932. Azerbaijan is well known for the large number of mud volcanos associated with its extensive oil fields. According to the historical article, there is now a "new electronic beacon" on the island. Located on a small island about 65 km (40 mi) southwest of Bakı. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. ARLHS AZE-003.
Kura (Kurkosa) {Kurinskiy}
1911. Inactive since 1966. Approx. 33 m (108 ft) stone tower with lantern and gallery. Our Baku has a small photo, Wikimapia has the same photo, and Bing has a distant satellite view. According to Our Baku's historical account, there are two inactive lighthouses at or near the mouth of the Kura (Cyrus) River, roughly halfway between the Səngi Muğan and Lənkəran lighthouses. Located on the southeast coast of Kurkosa Island, which is offshore about 50 km (30 mi) south of the river's delta. We need more information concerning this station! Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. ARLHS AZE-010.
* Lənkəran (Lankaran, Lenkoren) {Lenkoranskiy}
1869. Active (?); white light, characteristic unknown. 30.5 m (100 ft) round brick tower centered on a large round building. Entire building painted white with a red roof. A photo is at right, Leonid Yaitsky's photo of the lighthouse in action is at right, Samir Axundov has a photo, Elshan Imamaliyev has a closeup, Our Baku has a photo, a 2007 photo is available, Russian Wikipedia has an article on the lighthouse, and Google has a satellite view. Except for Qız Qalası, this is Azerbaijan's best known lighthouse. The building was originally a prison, and apparently it was used for that purpose even in Soviet times. The light tower was added in 1869, and the building was restored in 1957. Lənkəran is the southernmost major town in Azerbaijan, located about 50 km (30 mi) north of the Iranian border. The lighthouse is on the north side of the city. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS AZE-001.
* Astara
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 25 m (82 ft); light characteristic unknown. Approx. 23 m (75 ft) square cylindrical skeletal tower with gallery and a small lantern. The front of the lighthouse carries a slatted daymark, painted white. Our Baku has a photo, and Google has a satellite view. Astara has no harbor facilities, so the only purpose of the light is to mark the Iranian frontier. Located about 250 m (820 ft) from the beach and 400 m (1/4 mi) north of the Aras River, which forms the border with Iran. Site apparently open, tower closed. ARLHS AZE-002.
Lankaran Light
Lənkəran (Lankaran) Light, March 2010
Flickr photo copyright Leonid Yaitsky; used by permission

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Notable faux lighthouses:

Adjoining pages: North: Russia: Caspian Sea | East: Northern Iran

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Posted March 12, 2007. Checked and revised July 17, 2013. Lighthouses: 11. Site copyright 2013 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.