Lighthouses of Russia: Volga and Don

Russia has an extensive network of inland waterways. The Volga River, Europe's longest river, forms the backbone of this system as it drains southward into the landlocked Caspian Sea. The lower portion of the river is connected to the Don River and the Black Sea by the Volga-Don Canal, while the Volga-Baltic Waterway connects the upper part of the river to St. Petersburg (via Lakes Onega and Ladoga) and to the White Sea and Arctic Ocean (via Lake Onega and the White Sea-Baltic Sea Canal). In addition, the Moscow Canal connects the river to the Moscow River and the national capital.

During the Soviet era, a series of large dams and hydroelectric generating plants were built on the Volga. Each dam has large double locks for ships, and lighthouses were built at some of the lock entrances. These lighthouses had a navigational purpose, but they were also for show, since the dams were promoted as triumphs of Soviet engineering.

In the Soviet Union, all lighthouses were closed to foreign visitors. Since the breakup of the Soviet empire, conditions have become much more free, and many of the lighthouses listed on this page are accessible to visitors.

Since aids to navigation on these waterways are not listed on international light lists, we have very little information about them. More information certainly would be welcomed. Aids to navigation on the inland waterways are presumably maintained by the River Transport division of the Maritime Board.

The Russian word for a lighthouse is mayak (маяк); mys (мыс) is a cape and ostrov (остров) is an island.

General Sources
Russische Leuchttürme auf historischen Postkarten
Historic postcard images posted by Klaus Huelse.
World of Lighthouses - Russian Inland Waterways
Photos available from Lightphotos.net.

Bol'shoy Volzhskiy Light
Bol'shoy Volzhskiy Light, Dubna, July 2008
Panoramio Creative Commons photo by Andrey Zakharov

Moskva Oblast (Moscow River and Dubna Locks) Lighthouses

Note: The Moscow Canal was built with prison labor in 1932-37. The waterway is 128 km (80 mi) long, extending from Tushino near Moscow to Dubna on the upper Volga.
Moscow City Lighthouses
Moskva Shluzy
Date unknown. Active (?). Approx. 12 m (39 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower. The light is (or was) probably shown through a rectangular opening near the top of the tower. Kolya Kalashnikov has a photo and a closeup, and Google has a satellite view. Shluzy ("gateway") is the name given by Google to an island in the Moscow River on the south side of Moscow. The lighthouse carries or carried a directional light guiding vessels headed downstream to a lock gate just north of the tower. Located at the west end of the island. Site status unknown.
* Alye Parusa (Scarlet Sails) Yacht Club
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 22 m (72 ft); light characteristic unknown. Approx. 23 m (75 ft) round brick (?) tower with lantern and gallery. The tower is white with narrow red horizontal bands. Lantern painted black. A photo and a sunset photo are available, and Google has a satellite view. Located on the east side of the Moscow River just below the Stroginskiy boulevard bridge in the Shchukino district of northwest Moscow. Site open, tower status unknown. Owner/site manager: Yaht-Klub Alye Parusa.

Dubna Area Lighthouses
Note: The Dubna Dam on the upper Volga, completed in 1937, created the large Ivankovo Reservoir, known informally as the Moscow Sea (Moskovskoe More). The Moscow Canal and Volga Waterway have a joint entrance at the south end of the dam, about 1 km (0.6 mi) west of the Dubna Lock on the Volga.
* Bol'shoy Volzhskiy (Great Volga)
Date unknown (1937?). Inactive. 20 m (66 ft) octagonal stone tower with gallery, mounted on a square stone base. The lighthouse is unpainted. Andrey Zakharov's photo is at the top of this page, Lightphotos.net has a photo by Alexandr Melnikov, a 2004 photo, a closeup, and a distant view are available, and Google has a satellite view. This lighthouse was the rear range light for vessels crossing the Ivankova Reservoir; the Mal'yy Volzhskiy light (next entry) is the front light. Located on the east side of the Moscow Canal about 700 m (0.4 mi) south of the entrance. Site open, tower closed.
* Mal'yy Volzhskiy (Little Volga)
Date unknown (1937?). Inactive. Approx. 6 m (20 ft) square masonry tower. A photo and a second photo are available, and Google has a satellite view. Located at the end of an earthen jetty on the west side of the entrance to the Moscow Canal and Volga waterway from the Ivankovo Reservoir. Site apparently open, tower closed.
Dubna Lock Upper Entrance South
Date unknown (1937?). Active (?). Approx. 7 m (23 ft) hexagonal tower mounted on a large square concrete base. A view from the water is available; note the top of the Great Volga tower in the distance. Google has a satellite view. This lighthouse stands at the end of the south jetty at the junction of the Moscow Canal and Volga waterway. May be accessible only by boat. Site status unknown.
* Dubna Lock Upper Entrance North
Date unknown (1937?). Active (?). Approx. 7 m (23 ft) octagonal tower mounted on a large square concrete base. Andrey Zakharov's photo is at right, and Google has a satellite view. The tower appears to carry a daymark panel on the side facing the lake. This lighthouse stands at the end of the north jetty at the entrance to the Moscow Canal and Volga waterway from the Ivankovo Reservoir, near the Dubna Dam. Site apparently open, tower closed.
* Dubna Lock Lower Entrance
Date unknown (1937?). Inactive. Ruined octagonal tower mounted on a large square brick base. A closeup photo is available, and Google has a satellite view. This light is a twin of the Upper Entrance North Light. Located on the south side of the Volga Waterway about 1 km (0.6 mi) east (below) the Dubna Lock.
Dubna North Light
Dubna Lock Upper Entrance North Light, August 2009
Panoramio Creative Commons photo by Andrey Zakharov

Volga River Lighthouses

Nizhny Novgorod Oblast Lighthouses
Note: Completed in 1957, the Gorky Dam continues to bear the Soviet-era name of the city of Nizhny Novgorod, which is located about 50 km (30 mi) downstream from the dam. The dam is actually at the city of Gorodets. Two locks are required for ships to bypass the dam.
Gorodets (Gorky, Nizhny Novgorod) Locks Upper Entrance North
1957. Inactive. 10 m (33 ft) square concrete tower, wider at the top, with a lantern/observation room. Tower painted white, observation room brown. A panoramic photo showing both upper entrance lights is available, also a distant view from the north shore, and Google has a satellite view. Located at the end of the north mole sheltering the locks, at the city of Gorodets. Accessible only by boat (the mole is detached from shore). Site status unknown.
Gorodets (Gorky, Nizhny Novgorod) Locks Upper Entrance South
1957. Inactive. 10 m (33 ft) square concrete tower, wider at the top, with a lantern/observation room. Tower painted white, observation room brown. Andrew Kiselev's photo is at right, Lightphotos.net has a photo by Dmitry Shchukin, a panoramic photo showing both upper entrance lights is available, and Google has a good satellite view. Located at the end of the south mole sheltering the locks, at the city of Gorodets. This mole does not appear to be walkable. Site status unknown.
* Gorodets (Gorky, Nizhny Novgorod) Locks Lower Entrance
1957. Inactive. 10 m (33 ft) square concrete tower, wider at the top, with a lantern/observation room. Tower painted white, observation room brown. A closeup photo is available, a distant photo and another distant photo are available, and Google has a satellite view. Located on the west side of the entrance to the channel leading to the locks. This site appears to be accessible. Site probably open, tower closed.
Gorodets Locks Upper Entrance South Light
Gorodets Locks Upper Entrance South Light, May 2010
Picasaweb Creative Commons photo by Andrew Kiselev

Samara Oblast Lighthouses
Note: The Kuybyshev Dam, completed in 1957, pools the largest reservoir in Europe, known informally as the Kuybyshev Sea. The dam is actually located between the cities of Zhigulovsk and Tol'yatti (Togliatti). The two pairs of locks are located on the north side of the river in Tol'yatti.
Zhiguli (Kuybyshev, Tol'yatti) Breakwater North
1957. Inactive. Approx. 15 m (49 ft) square white concrete tower. A photo is available, and Google has a fuzzy satellite view. The detached breakwater protects the upper entrance to the Kuybyshev Locks. Located at the north end of the breakwater. Accessible only by boat. Site probably open, tower closed.
Zhiguli (Kuybyshev, Tol'yatti) Breakwater South
1957. Inactive. Approx. 15 m (49 ft) square white concrete tower. Lightphotos.net has Konstantin Poddybnyy's photo; it shows that the light was moved to a post painted with black and white bands. A winter photo is also available, and Google has a fuzzy satellite view. Located at the south end of the breakwater. Accessible only by boat. Site probably open, tower closed.
* Zhiguli (Kuybyshev, Tol'yatti) Locks Upper Entrance
1957. Inactive. Approx. 17 m (56 ft) round unpainted tower with gallery, upper half concrete and lower portion brick, mounted on a square 2-story red brick base. The caption of the closeup photo at right describes the lighthouse as nerabotajushhiy (unemployed). A photo is at right, Lightphotos.net has Dmitry Shchukin's photo, another photo and a third photo are available, and Google has an indistinct satellite view. Located at the end of the mole sheltering the lock entrance at Tol'yatti. Accessible by walking the mole; there are also excellent views from shore and from ships navigating the river. Site open, tower closed.

Saratov Oblast Lighthouse
* Balakovo Locks Upper Entrance
Late 1960s. Active (?). Round cylindrical tower mounted on a square concrete base. The tower also carries a square daymark panel. A photo is available, and Google has a satellite view. Completed in the late 1960s, the Saratov Dam is the last of the great hydroelectric projects on the river. The locks are not at the dam, but on a side channel of the river. The lighthouse is at the end of the mole on the north side of the entrance to this channel, on the north side of the city of Balakovo. Accessible by walking the mole (the adjoining area appears to be a park). Site open, tower closed.
Tol'yatti Upper Entrance Light
Tol'yatti Locks Upper Entrance Light, January 2009
Panoramio photo copyright a0; permission requested

Volgograd Oblast Lighthouses
Note: The Volgograd Dam forms a huge reservoir north of the city of Volograd. Ordered by Stalin in 1950, it is one of the largest public works projects of the Soviet era. Completed in 1961, the dam is nearly 4 km (2.5 mi) long and has a height of 47 m (154 ft). As at all the dams on the Volga, the dam is equipped with double locks with a length of 290 m (950 ft).
Volgograd Locks Upper Entrance East
1960 (?). Inactive. Approx. 20 m (66 ft) round concrete tower with lantern. The lighthouse is unpainted; lantern is green metallic. Alexey Zakovyrin has a photo, a closeup photo is available (halfway down the page), and Google has a satellite view. The lighthouse is at the end of the east mole, one of two moles sheltering the lock basin at the southeastern corner of the reservoir. Site status unknown; there are excellent views from shore and from ships navigating the river.
Volgograd Locks Upper Entrance West
1960 (?). Inactive. Approx. 20 m (66 ft) round concrete tower with lantern. The lighthouse is unpainted; lantern is red metallic. A photo is at right, Andrey Horkin has a photo, and Google has a satellite view. The lighthouse is at the end of the west mole. Site status unknown; there are excellent views from shore and from ships navigating the river.
Volgograd Locks Lower Entrance
1960(?). Inactive. Approx. 12 m (39 ft) square skeletal tower mounted atop a round concrete tower. The lighthouse is unpainted; lantern is red metallic. A photo is available, Denis Dulina has a closeup of the top of the lighthouse, and Google has a satellite view. Located on the west side of the entrance to the canal leading to the locks on the downstream side of Volgograd Dam. Site status unknown; there are excellent views from shore and from ships navigating the river.
Volgograd Locks Upper Entrance West Light
Volgograd Locks Upper Entrance West Light, July 2006
Panoramio Creative Commons photo by Immelstorn

Volga-Don Waterway Lighthouses

Note: Completed in 1952, the Volga-Don Canal is 101 km (63 mi) long. It links the long Volga River waterway to the lower Don River, which flows into the Black Sea; in this way it provides a connection between and Mediterranean and Black Seas and the landlocked Caspian Sea. A large part of the waterway runs through the Tsimlyansk Reservoir, created by damming the Don River. The waterway has a design depth of 3.5 m (11.5 ft) and has 13 single-chamber locks.
Volgograd Oblast Lighthouses
* Volga-Don Canal East Entrance
1953 (R. Yakubov). Active (?). 26 m (85 ft) square concrete tower with a round, colonnaded chamber topped by a gallery. The lighthouse is unpainted concrete. The photo at right is from a Russian article on the canal, a closeup photo and a 2008 photo are available, Lightphotos.net has a photo, a Soviet postage stamp featured the lighthouse when it was completed in 1953, and Google has a satellite view. The tower was built to honor Volga sailors who fought to protect the city during the Russian Revolution in 1918-19 and during the epic Battle of Stalingrad in 1942-43 during World War II. Located at the tip of a forested peninsula on the south side of Volgograd and the west side of the entrance from the Volga to the Volga-Don Canal. Site open; it is not known if the tower is ever open.
* Chervlenoye
1953. Active (?). Approx. 7 m (23 ft) square unpainted concrete block tower. A closeup photo and a more distant view are available, and Google has a satellite view. Located on the south side of the canal at the junction with a creek at Chervlenoye, about 30 km (19 mi) east of the eastern entrance to the canal. Site open, tower closed.
Kalach-na-Donu Locks Lower Entrance
1953. Active (?). Approx. 18 m (59 ft) square concrete tower with a round, colonnaded chamber topped by a gallery. The lighthouse is unpainted concrete. A good photo, a closeup, and a view from the water are available, Lightphotos.net has Alexandr Melnikov's photo, and Google has a fuzzy satellite view. This tower marks the place where eastbound vessels leave the Tsimlyansk Reservoir and enter the canal to the Volga. Located at the end of the long north mole of the lower entrance channel to the locks, south of the town of Kalach-na-Donu. Site status unknown.

Rostov Oblast Lighthouses
Volgodonsk Breakwater North
1953. Active (?). Approx. 26 m (85 ft) square concrete tower with a round, colonnaded chamber topped by a gallery. The lighthouse is unpainted concrete. A winter photo is available, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Google has a fuzzy satellite view. Located at the north end of the detached breakwater sheltering the upper entrance to the locks of the Tsimlyansk Dam at Volgodonsk. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed.
Volgodonsk Breakwater South
1953. Active (?). Approx. 26 m (85 ft) square concrete tower with a round, colonnaded chamber topped by a gallery. The lighthouse is unpainted concrete. A distant view and a second view are available, and Google has a fuzzy satellite view. Located at the south end of the detached breakwater sheltering the upper entrance to the locks of the Tsimlyansk Dam at Volgodonsk. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed.

Volga-Don Canal East Entrance Light
photo copyright vetert.ru
non-commerical use permitted with attribution
Volgodonsk Locks Lower Entrance
1953. Inactive. Approx. 26 m (85 ft) square concrete tower with a round, colonnaded chamber topped by a gallery. The lighthouse is unpainted concrete. Ivan Zagaynov has a fine photo, another photo and a third photo are available, Lightphotos.net has Alexandr Melnikov's photo, and Google has a satellite view. Located on the north side of the lower entrance to the channel leading to the locks of the Tsimlyansk Dam at Volgodonsk. Site status unknown.

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Notable faux lighthouses:

Adjoining pages: North: Lake Onega | Southeast: Russia Caspian Sea | South: Russia Black Sea

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Posted February 26, 2007. Checked and revised August 11, 2014. Lighthouses: 23. Site copyright 2014 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.