Lighthouses of Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan, a country of central Asia, was one of the constituent republics of the Soviet Union until 1991. At its western end, Turkmenistan borders the southeastern quadrant of the landlocked Caspian Sea (known as the Hazar Sea in the Turkmen language). The Caspian is often called the world's largest lake; although landlocked, it has a busy international trade.

The only port of any size is Türkmenbaşy (or Turkmenbashi, known as Krasnovodsk under Russian and Soviet rule). Accessible by air and also by ferry from Baku in Azerbaijan, Türkmenbaşy is the country's main point of contact with Europe.

The Turkmen language has been written in Arabic and Cyrillic scripts (and both versions are still in use) but since the fall of the Soviet Union a modified Latin script has been official. The Turkmen word for a lighthouse, maýak, is adopted from Russian. As in Turkish, ada is the word for an island and burun is a cape.

Aids to navigation in the country are presumably maintained by the transport ministry.

Special thanks to Michel Forand for his assistance in identifying and locating Turkmen lighthouses.

Since lighthouses on the Caspian are not included in international light lists not much is known about them. Further information, especially photos, would be welcome.

These lighthouses are also not on the ARLHS list, because the society does not even have a page for the country.

General Sources
World of Lighthouses - Turkmenistan
Photos by various photographers available from
Kuuli Mayak - Tarta
A Picasaweb album of photos of the lighthouses at Guvlymayak and Tarta, posted by Alejandro Moo.

Cheleken Light
Çeleken Light, Hazar, December 2006
Panoramio photo copyright MACTAK; used by permission

Hazar (Çeleken) Area Lighthouses
Ogurja Ada (Ostrov Ogurchinskiy)
1963. Active(?); light characteristic unknown. 31 m (102 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery. Lighthouse painted white, lantern black. A small photo is available (near the bottom of the page), but Google has only a fuzzy satellite view. The lighthouse is reported to be powered by a wind turbine. Ogurja is a 47 km (29 mi) long, sandy island oriented north to south and lying southwest of the Çeleken peninsula. Formerly a pirate hangout and then a leper colony, the island is now an uninhabited nature reserve. Located at the southern tip of the island. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown.
Dervish Ýarymada (Polusostrov Dervish, Dervish Peninsula)
Date unknown. Believed to be inactive. Approx. 10 m (33 ft) brick tower with gallery. No photo available; Wikimapia has a page for the site (called "Dead Lighthouse") and Google has a satellite view. Located on the Dervish Peninsula, a sand spit projecting southward from Çeleken, about 25 km (15 mi) south of the Çeleken lighthouse. Site status unknown.
* Çeleken (Cheleken)
1965. Active; a weak continuous white light is shown. Approx. 40 m (131 ft) round concrete tower with lantern and double gallery. Lighthouse painted white, lantern red. Keeper's house and other light station buildings. A photo is at the top of this page, Wikimapia has several photos, a 2009 photo is available, Rejep Kurbanov has a distant view, and Google has a satellite view. Arent van der Veen reported in 2012 that the light is too weak to be useful for navigation. We don't know the height of this lighthouse, but it must be more than 30 m (98 ft). Prior to the 1930s, Çeleken was an island, as seen in a historic map; the falling level of the Caspian Sea joined it to the mainland. Located on a prominent cape on the south side of the bay of Kizyl-Su or Krasnovodsk, about 3 km (2 mi) northwest of the city of Çeleken. Site apparently open, tower closed.

Türkmenbaşy (Krasnovodsk) Area Lighthouses
Kyzyl-Su (Türkmenbaşy, Krasnovodsk, Bekovicha)
1956. Active(?); light characteristic unknown. 29 m (95 ft) round or octagonal tower with lantern and gallery. No photo available, but Google has a good satellite view of the station. Kyzyl-Su is the original name of Krasnovodsk, now called Türkmenbaşy. The city is built on a bay (Kyzyl-Su or Krasnovodsk Bay) that is partially enclosed by a chain of barrier islands, and the light station is built at one of the highest points in this barrier. The light apparently serves as a landfall light, since it doesn't mark an entrance through the barrier. It replaced a pair of small range lighthouses built in 1908. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown.
* Türkmenbaşy (Range Rear?)
Date unknown. Active; light characteristic unknown. Approx. 30 m (98 ft) square pyramidal skeletal tower, painted red. The upper portion of the tower carries a trapezoidal slatted daymark. A photo is available (in the last row of photos), and Bing has a satellite view. The function of this light is not clear, but most likely it is the rear light of a range guiding vessels into the harbor. Located across the street from the football stadium in Türkmenbaşy. Site open, tower closed.
** Tarta
1963. Inactive. Approx. 17 m (56 ft) hexagonal stone tower with gallery, mounted on a square stone base. The tower was probably painted white originally, but little paint remains. Oleg Storozhenko's photo is at right, but Google has only a fuzzy satellite view of the location. Storozhenko reports that the tower is abandoned. Located at Tarta Burun, a cape about 20 km (13 mi) west of Türkmenbaşy. Site open; tower open.
Guvlymayak (Guwly Mayak, Kuuli Mayak) (1)
1897. Inactive since 1953. Approx. 40 m (131 ft) square pyramidal cast iron skeletal tower with lantern, gallery, and central cylinder; the central cylinder rises from a square 1-story equipment room. Alex Mukh has a good 2008 photo, another photo shows both lighthouses, and Bing has a satellite view. Guvlymayak means "Swan Lighthouse." This historic lighthouse is probably in very poor condition. Located on a promontory about 40 km (25 mi) north of Türkmenbaşy. Site open, tower closed.
Guvlymayak (Guwly Mayak, Kuuli Mayak) (2)
1953 (station established 1897). Active(?); light characteristic unknown. Approx. 40 m (131 ft) round concrete tower with lantern and gallery. A good 2008 photo is available, another photo shows both lighthouses, and Bing has a satellite view. Located adjacent to the historic lighthouse. Site open, tower closed.

Garabogaz (Bekdaş) Area Lighthouse
Kara-Ada (Karaada, Bekdaş, Bekdash)
1955. Active(?); focal plane 49 m (161 ft); two white flashes every 13 s. 29 m (95 ft) round cylindrical masonry tower with lantern and gallery. A portfolio of photos is available, Oleg Guchgeldiyev has posted a good view, and Google has a fine satellite view of this historic light station. The lighthouse was reported inactive in 2006. Kara Ada is a small island about 2.5 km (1.5 mi) southwest of Bekdaş near the northwestern corner of Turkmenistan. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown; there must be a distant view from shore.
Tarta Light
Tarta Light, Türkmenbaşy, June 2007
photo copyright Oleg Storozhenko; used by permission

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Notable faux lighthouses:

Adjoining pages: North: Kazakhstan | West: Northern Iran

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Posted April 28, 2008. Checked and revised July 26, 2014. Lighthouses: 9. Site copyright 2014 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.