Shiryaevo tunnels

Vladimir Smirnov/TASS
There are several ways to get here. One is to drive from Samara through Togliatti across the dam of the Zhiguli Hydroelectric Power Station, through the town of Zhigulevsk, and then through the villages of Aleksandrovka, Bakhilovo, Zolnoe, Solnechnaya Poliana and Bogatyr. Shiryaevo can also be reached from Samara by river ferry or hydrofoil.

The approach to Shiryaevo has a view of Popova Mountain, home to Shiryaevo’s famous artificial cave-mines. They consist of seven separate labyrinths of criss-crossing galleries, up to 300 metres long each. Today, it is truly an underground city with tunnel galleries big enough to fit a double-decker bus in. Make sure you go with an experienced guide and carry a torch with you as it is quite easy to get lost.

In the 19th century, limestone and building-stone began to be mined at Shiryaevo. The first limestone factory was built here by a merchant named Georgy Vanushin in 1897. All that is left of the factory today is the remains of a lime kiln by Popova Mountain.
The mines have remained largely unchanged since 1950–1957, when the Zhiguli hydroelectric power station was built.

The limestone mined at Shiryaevo was composed of nearly 100% calcium carbonate, making it the best limestone mined in the USSR. Nowadays, however, limestone is not mined by the trenchless method and Shiryaevo’s mines have been quiet and chilly for many years.