Lighthouses of Russia: Kuril Islands

The Kuril Islands are a chain of 56 volcanic islands 1300 km (800 mi) long, stretching from the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido to the tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula and separating the Sea of Okhotsk from the open Pacific Ocean. The islands are thinly populated, having about 19,000 citizens. Sakhalin and the Kurils together form an oblast (province) of the Russian Federation.

The history of the Kurils is complex, reflecting a lengthy struggle between Russia and Japan to control these northern territories. In 1855, the two nations agreed in the Treaty of Shimoda that the border between them should fall between the islands of Iturup and Urup. In 1875, in the Treaty of St. Petersburg, Russia gave Japan control of all of the Kurils in return for Russian control of Sakhalin.

During World War II, in the Yalta Agreement of 1943, the Allied Powers agreed that following the war Japan should cede all of the Kurils to the Soviet Union. In the last days of the war, in 1945, Soviet troops occupied the Kurils. In the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco, a defeated Japan renounced its claims to Sakhalin and the Kurils. However, an independent Japan subsequently declared that this renunciation does not apply to the southern Kurils that were recognized as Japanese back in 1855. The Soviet Union offered to return the southernmost Kurils, Shikotan and the Habomai Islands, if Japan would drop its claims to the rest of the chain, but Japan refused, maintaining its claim to Kunashir and Iturup as well. This dispute continues.

Curly braces {} enclose the former Japanese names of some of the lighthouses. The Kurils are called the Chishima Islands in Japan.

The Russian word for a lighthouse is mayak (маяк). Mys (мыс) is a cape, and ostrov (остров) is an island. Russian lighthouses are maintained and operated by the Russian Navy, although some of them have civilian keepers.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. Admiralty numbers are from volume M of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals. U.S. NGA List numbers are from Publication 112.

General Sources
World of Lighthouses - Far East of Russia
Photos by various photographers available from Lightphotos.net
Mys Kurbatova Light
Mys Kurbatova Light, Shumshu, summer 2007
photo by a Russian Navy hydrographic expedition, posted by KurilsTour.ru

Severo-Kurilsky District (Northern Kuril Islands) Lighthouses

Shumshu Lighthouses
Note: Shumshu is the northeasternmost of the Kuril Islands; its northern tip is 11 km (7 mi) across the First Kuril Strait from Cape Lopatka, the southern tip of Kamchatka. The relatively low-lying island has no permanent population today, but it was heavily fortified by Japan during World War II.
Kurbatova (Mys Kurbatova) {Kokutanzaki, Kokutan Saki}
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 61 m (200 ft); red light, 3 s on, 4.5 s off. 15 m (49 ft) hexagonal concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted red. A recent closeup and a wider view show that the light station has become quite dilapidated. Another closeup photo is at the top of this page, and Wikimedia has a prewar photo of what was then a Japanese lighthouse, but Google has only a very distant satellite view of the cape. The station was strafed by U.S.planes in February 1945. The keepers at this station are now the only residents of Shumshu Island. Located at the northeastern tip of Shumshu, marking the First Kuril Strait between the islands and the Kamchatka Peninsula. Site status unknown. ARLHS ASR-040; Admiralty M8041; NGA 0316.
Chibuynyy (Mys Chibuynyy) {Imai Saki}
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 105 m (344 ft); white light, 1.5 s on, 4.5 s off. 10 m (33 ft) octagonal cylindrical concrete tower, painted with red and white horizontal bands. Keeper's house and other station buildings. Nikita Gerasimov has a photo, a larger version of the Lightphotos photo is available, and Bing has a satellite view. Located at the western tip of Shumshu, marking the entrance to the narrow Second Kuril Strait leading to Severo-Kurilsk, the largest settlement of the island chain. Site status unknown. ARLHS ASR-021; Admiralty M8042; NGA 0320.

Atlasova Lighthouse
Atlasova
Date unknown. Inactive. Approx. 6 m (20 ft) square cylindrical concrete tower, painted with black and white horizontal bands. Sophie Atkinson's photo is at right, Andy Wolff has a distant view, and Bing has a satellite view. Atlasova is a volcanic island northwest of Paramushir. The volcano, Alaid, is prone to violent eruptions, the most recent being in 1981. A Soviet-era fishing village on the southeastern coast of the island has been abandoned, probably since the 1981 eruption at least. Located on the beach near the ruins of the village dock. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed.

Paramushir Lighthouses
Note: Paramushir is the largest of the northern Kurils, covering a little more than 2000 square kilometers (780 square miles). Severo-Kurilsk, a town with about 2600 residents, is the administrative center of the northern Kurils.
Opornyy (Severo-Kurilsk) Range Front
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 43 m (141 ft); continuous red light. 8 m (26 ft) octagonal cylindrical concrete tower. Lighthouse (originally, at least) painted white with a red and white daymark on the range line. A photo of the two range lights is available, and Google has a satellite view. This is the entrance range for Severo-Kurilsk, a fishing village near the northeastern end of Paramushir. Founded as Kashiwabara, this was formerly the northernmost Japanese base in the Kurils. Site status unknown. Admiralty M8044; NGA 0322.

Atlasova Light, Atlasova, August 2007
Flickr photo copyright Sophie Atkinson; used by permission
Opornyy (Severo-Kurilsk) Range Rear
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 78 m (256 ft); continuous red light. 8 m (26 ft) octagonal cylindrical concrete tower. Lighthouse originally painted white with a red and white daymark on the range line. A photo is available showing nearly all the paint worn off. A photo of the two range lights is also available, and Google has a satellite view. Located 240 m (260 yd) south of the front light. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty M8044.1; NGA 0322.1.
Mys Levashova
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 78 m (256 ft); white flash every 5 s. 8 m (26 ft) octagonal cylindrical concrete tower, painted with black and white horizontal bands. No photo available, but Google has a satellite view. Located on a promontory on the east side of Paramushir. Site status unknown. Admiralty M8043.
Mys Kokina
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 82 m (269 ft); white flash every 4 s. Approx. 8 m (26 ft) octagonal cylindrical concrete tower. No photo available, but Bing has a satellite view. Located on heights above a promontory on the southeast east side of Paramushir. Site status unknown. Admiralty M8045; NGA 323.
Vasilyeva (Mys Vasilyeva)
Date unknown (Japanese). Active; focal plane 38 m (125 ft); white light, 1.5 s on, 4.5 s off, 3 s on, 6 s off. 24 m (79 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery. Tower painted white, lantern red. A.K. Klitin's 2004 photo is at right, Andrey Filonov has a 2012 photo, and Bing has a satellite view of the station. This lighthouse was rebuilt after Japanese troops made a partially-successful effort to blow it up near the end of World War II; some of the debris from this effort is seen in the photo. Located at the southern tip of Paramushir. Site status unknown. ARLHS ASR-070; Admiralty M8046; NGA 0324.
Mys Kapustnyy
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 32 m (105 ft); red flash every 4 s. 12 m (39 ft) octagonal concrete tower, painted with red and white horizontal bands. Google has only a very distant satellite view of the cape. Located at the southwestern tip of Paramushir. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty M8047; NGA 0326.

Onekotan Lighthouse
Mys Lisiy (Onekotan)
Date unknown. Active(?); focal plane 57 m (187 ft); white flash every 2.5 s. 8 m (26 ft) octagonal cylindrical concrete tower, painted white. No photo available, but Bing has a satellite view. Located on a cape on the southeast coast of the island of Onekotan, an uninhabited volcanic island south or Paramushir. Site status unknown. Admiralty M8047.5.

Matua Lighthouse
Ostrov Toporkovyy (Toporkov) (2)
Date unknown. Reported extinguished; focal plane 80 m (262 ft); white flash every 5 s. 8 m (26 ft) octagonal cylindrical concrete tower. Lighthouse painted red with a white horizontal band. Sophie Atkinson has a foggy photo, and Bing has a satellite view. NGA lists a small metal tower. Toporkov is a small island off the east coast of the larger island of Matua (Matsuwa), the location of the very active Sarychev volcano. Located on the highest point of the island. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty M8048; NGA 0340.
Vasilyeva Light
Mys Vasilyeva Light Station, Paramushir, 2004
photo by A.K. Klitin, originally published by SakhTravels.narod.ru
republished under Creative Commons by Wikimapia.com

Kurilsky District (Central Kuril Islands) Lighthouses

Simushir Lighthouses
Note: Simushir is a large but uninhabited island at the center of the Kuril chain. The island is 59 km (37 mi) long, but only about 13 km (8 mi) wide.
Mys Sukhina
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 125 m (410 ft); white flash every 12 s. 17 m (56 ft) octagonal cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted with red and white horizontal bands. No photo available, but Google has a satellite view. This station appears deserted and may be inactive. Located on the southeast side of Simushir. Site status unknown. Admiralty M8049.5; NGA 0346.
Vodopadnyy (Simushir)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 66 m (217 ft); white flash every 3 s. 8 m (26 ft) octagonal cylindrical concrete tower, painted white. Adjoining keeper's house in ruins. No photo available, but Google has a satellite view. This station appears deserted and may be inactive. Located on the north side of the southwestern end of Simushir. Site status unknown. Admiralty M8049; NGA 0344.

Urup Lighthouses

Note: Urup, like Simushir, is an uninhabited volcanic island, 120 km (75 mi) long and 20 km (12.5 mi) wide. The island was the location of Soviet military bases until the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Mys Chyeryepakha (Mys Cherepakha, Novokuril'skiy)
Date unknown. Active (?); focal plane 33 m (108 ft); white flash every 5 s. 10 m (33 ft) octagonal cylindrical concrete tower, painted red with a white horizontal band. Google has a satellite view. The light appears to be abandoned. Located on a promontory on the north side of Urup. Site status unknown. Admiralty M8050.5; NGA 0349.
Urup (Mys Kastrikum)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 51 m (167 ft); white light, 4.5 s on, 3 s off. 23 m (75 ft) round cylindrical red concrete block tower with lantern and gallery. A 2004 photo is at right, a view of the station is available, and Google has a satellite view. Located at the extreme northeast tip of Urup. Site status unknown. ARLHS ASR-031; Admiralty M8050; NGA 0348.
Van-der-Linda (Mys Van-der-Linda) {Nobunotsu Misaki}
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 112 m (367 ft); white light, 4.5 s on, 7.5 s off. 14 m (46 ft) octagonal concrete tower, painted black with a white horizontal band. Bing has a satellite view. Located at the extreme southwestern tip of Urup. Site status unknown. ARLHS ASR-069; Admiralty M8051; NGA 0352.
Mys Kastrikum Light
Mys Kastrikum Light, Urop, April 2004
photo by John-Smith copyright Sakh.com;
reproduction allowed with interactive attribution

Iturup Lighthouses
Note: Iturup and the other southern Kuril Islands are claimed by Japan in its continuing dispute with Russia. Called Etorofu by Japanese, Iturup is about 200 km (125 mi) long and up to 27 km (17 mi) wide. The town of Kurilsk, on the west coast of the island, is the administrative center for the central Kurils and has a population of about 7500.
Mys Breskens
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 63 m (207 ft); white flash every 3 s. 8 m (26 ft) octagonal cylindrical concrete tower, painted with black and white horizontal bands. At highest magnification (click on the photo) the lighthouse can be seen in Valera Ponkratenko's view of the cape. Google has a satellite view. Located at the tip of the Chirip Peninsula on the north coast of Iturup. Site status unknown. Admiralty M8051.5; NGA 0354.
Burevestnik (Mys Burevestnik) {Uenshiri Misaki}
Date unknown. Active; focal plane unknown; white flash every 4 s. No description or photo available. Jon Turk, an American sea kayaker, reported (no longer online) on his visit to the keepers at this remote lighthouse in 1999. Unfortunately, he did not describe the lighthouse. Google has a satellite view of a building that may have a lantern mounted at one end. NGA also lists an undescribed light at Mys Breskins on the northwest side of the same island. Located on a promontory sheltering the only protected cove on the southeast side of the island of Iturup (Etorofu). Site status unknown. ARLHS ASR-128; Admiralty M8053; NGA 0356.

Yuzhno-Kurilsky District (Southern Kuril Islands) Lighthouses

Kunashir Lighthouses
Note: Kunashir (Kunashiri in Japanese) is the southernmost island of the main Kuril chain; it is separated from the Japanese island of Hokkaidō by the narrow Nemuro Strait. The island is about 120 km (95 mi) long and up to 30 km (19 mi) wide. It has a population of about 7500, mostly in the town of Yuzhno-Kurilsk, the administrative center for the district.
Lovtsova (Mys Lovtsova) {Atoiya Misaki}
Date unknown. Active(?); focal plane 71 m (233 ft); white light, 3 s on, 3 s off. 32 m (105 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted (originally, at least) with red and white horizontal bands. A photo is at right, Salech Hcelas has a 2011 photo, a distant view from the sea is available, and in a photo of the end of the island the lighthouse is visible in the distance at highest resolution. Google has a satellite view. Located on the northeastern tip of Kunashir. Site status unknown. ARLHS ASR-044; Admiralty M8058; NGA 0364.
* Yuzhno-Kurilsk (Mys Kuril'skiy)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 11 m (36 ft); white flash every 6 s. Approx. 9 m (30 ft) rectangular concrete block building with gallery and a short post light on the roof. Lighthouse originally painted black with a white horizontal band, although little or no paint remains. The lighthouse is on the right in Kirill Koptev's moonlight view, and Google has an indistinct satellite view. Located on a spit sheltering the harbor of Yuzhno-Kurilsk, the principal town of Kunashir, on the southeast side of the island. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty M8059; NGA 0366.
Veslovskiy (Mys Veslo)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 14 m (46 ft); white light, 2 s on, 5 s off. 12 m (39 ft) octagonal wooden tower, painted with black and white horizontal bands. Fog bell (12 strokes every 60 s). The lighthouse is at the right of Maksim Antipov's panoramic view, and Bing has a satellite view. This lighthouse marks the eastern entrance of the Nemuro Strait between Kunashir and Hokkaido. Located at the southernmost tip of Kunashir, about 20 km (13 mi) northeast of the Japanese coast. Site status unknown. Admiralty M8060; NGA 0368.
Lovtsova Light
Mys Lovtsova Light, Kunashir, November 2012
photo by Sakhalin Chapter, Russian Geographic Society

Shikotan Lighthouses
Note: Shikotan is an island south of Iturup and southeast of Kunashir. The rugged island is about 32 km (20 mi) long and 10 km (6 mi) wide; it has two small settlements and a population of roughly 2000.
Malokurilskoye (Malokurilskiy)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane unknown; white flash every 5 s. Approx. 12 m (39 ft) square cylindrical concrete tower with gallery and a small lantern. Lighthouse painted black with a white horizontal band; the lantern is red. Michail Volman has a distant photo (click on the photo for higher resolution), and Google has a satellite view. Malokurilskoye is a village of about 1100 residents on the north side of Shikotan. Located on a steep promontory on the west side of the harbor entrance of Malokurilskoye. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty M8054.6; NGA 0379.
Shikotan (Mys Krab, Shpanberga)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 65 m (213 ft); white flash every 10 s. 19 m (62 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery, attached to a concrete keeper's house. Lighthouse painted white, lantern dome red. A closeup, a second photo and a third photo are available, as well as a photo taken inside the lantern, and Bing has a satellite view. This station is in poor condition and may not be active. Located on the northeastern tip of Shikotan. Site status unknown. Admiralty M8054; NGA 0372.
Devyatyy {Kamo Shima}
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 65 m (213 ft); white flash every 4 s. 8 m (26 ft) square cylindrical concrete tower, painted white. No photo available, but Google has a satellite view. Located on an island at the entrance to a protected bay on the south coast of Shikotan. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. Admiralty M8054.2; NGA 0376.5.

Habomai Islands Lighthouses
Note: The Habomai Islands are a group of small islands between Shikotan and Cape Nosappu, the northeastern tip of the Japanese island of Hokkaidō. The islands are uninhabited except for Russian border guard posts.
Polonskogo {Taraka Shima}
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 29 m (95 ft); white light, 1.5 s on, 4.5 s off. 12 m (39 ft) round concrete tower, painted with red and white horizontal bands. No photo available, but Google has a good satellite view. Located on the southeastern tip of Polonskogo, the northernmost of the Habomai islands about 45 km (28 mi) off the northeastern tip of Hokkaido. Site and tower closed. Admiralty M8056; NGA 0384.
Ostrov Zelenyy {Kokorozashi Hatsu Shima}
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 24 m (79 ft); white flash every 7.5 s. 12 m (39 ft) round concrete tower, painted with black and white horizontal bands. No photo available, but Google has a satellite view. Located at the eastern tip of Zelenyy, the island between Yuriy and Polonskogo. Site status unknown. Admiralty M8056.5; NGA 0385.
Ostrov Yuriy {Isami Ryū Shima}
Date unknown. Inactive; listed with focal plane 24 m (79 ft); white flash every 5 s. 12 m (39 ft) round concrete tower, painted with black and white horizontal bands. A closeup photo is available (fourth photo, about 1/4 the way down the page), Sergey Bunduky has a photo, Wikimapia has a view from the sea, and Google has a satellite view. Located on a promontory on the north coast of Yuriy, one of the of the Habomai islands about 25 km (15 mi) off the northeastern tip of Hokkaido. Site and tower closed. Admiralty M8057; NGA 0386.
Bolotnyy (Mys Bolotnyy)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 22 m (72 ft); one long white flash every 6 s. 12 m (39 ft) round concrete tower, painted white. No closeup photo available, but Google has a satellite view. Located on the northeastern tip of Ostrov Tanfil'eva (Suishou Shima), southernmost of the Habomai Islands. Site and tower closed. Admiralty M8057.8.
Zorkiy (Mys Zorkiy, Cape Sharp)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 12 m (39 ft); red flash every 3 s. 12 m (39 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower, painted with red and white horizontal bands. Maksim Antipin's photo is at right, and Google has a good satellite view. Located on the southern tip of Ostrov Tanfil'eva (Suishou Shima), about 7 km (4.5 mi) from Cape Nosappu, the northeastern tip of Hokkaido. Site and tower closed. Admiralty M8057.6.
Mys Zorkiy Light
Mys Zorkiy Light, Tanfil'eva, August 2011
Panoramio photo copyright Maksim Antipin; used by permission

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Notable faux lighthouses:

Adjoining pages: North: Kamchatka and Magadan | South: Eastern Hokkaidō | West: Sakhalin

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Posted May 8, 2006. Checked and revised December 21, 2013. Lighthouses: 29. Site copyright 2013 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.