The passenger ships built in Sormovo were often the best river vessels of their time. They carried millions of passengers and were loved by the people for their comfort, beauty and reliability


Krasnoye Sormovo


In 1911 two vessels of the same type were built at Sormovo shipyard by order of the Northern Shipping Company «Kotlas – Arkhangelsk – Murman» – «N.V. Gogol» and «General Kondratenko» (later renamed as «Alexander Zhelyabov»). The double-deck 380-horsepower vessels were equipped with the latest technology of the time.

Steamships were transferred to the place of service along Volga, Sheksna, Severno-Dvina system via Kubenskoe lake and along Sukhona. As the size of gateways on the Northern Dvina system were too small, the vessels had to be divided into three parts: fore, middle and aft. Steamships were reassembled in Mikhailovsky workshops of Northern Shipping Company in Velikiy Ustyug. During the tests carried out during the acceptance by the customers the steamboat with the cast-iron ballast had the speed of «up to 20 versts per hour on a calm water surface». Steamship could carry up to 700 passengers and consumed about 40 m3 of firewood per day.

Since 1911 the steamship operated on the Vologda - Arkhangelsk line. During the Civil War «Gogol» was used as a hospital vessel and military transport. In the autumn of 1919, it was disassembled and transported by railroad to Petrograd for repairs, which lasted two years, after which it returned to the Arkhangelsk – Vologda line.

In 1994–1996 «Zvezdochka» Shipyard carried out the reconstruction of the steamship. The historical appearance of the vessel was preserved, and all the interior spaces were re-equipped according to the modern requirements.

In 1998, by resolution of the Arkhangelsk Region Administration, the steamship «N.V. Gogol» was declared a historical monument of regional significance. In 2014 the long-living vessel was awarded the memorial sign «Maritime Heritage of Russia» and it still sails every year.


In the summer of 1914 cargo-passenger steamships «Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna» (after 1917 – «Spartak») and «Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna» («Volodarsky») made their first voyage from Nizhny Novgorod to Astrakhan.

For their luxurious interior decoration and comfortable conditions for the passengers the steamships, named after the daughters of Emperor Nicholas II, earned the title of floating palaces. At that time, they were the largest river steamships in the world.

Before the first navigation the steamship «Grand Duchess Olga Nikolayevna» hosted the famous Nizhny Novgorod photographer Maksim Dmitriev, who took pictures of the interiors of the saloons and cabins. «...The steamship represents the latest technology and the luxury that began to be introduced on motor ships to attract the upper-class public...

First class cabin – floor-to-ceiling windows, with columns made of natural polished Hungarian ash in between... all the finishing is in the style of Louis XVI...» – That’s what they wrote in Nizhny Novgorod newspapers in 1914.

They served for more than 70 years. «Spartak» - one of the most famous Russian river vessels – for many years operated on the routes Astrakhan – Gorky and Moscow – Rostov-on-Don. Its engine has never been overhauled. The steamer was 69 years old when it suddenly became a movie star - «Swallow» in Eldar Ryazanov’s film «Cruel Romance». «Volodarsky» also repeatedly starred in movies («The Road to Calvary” «The Enchanted Wanderer,» «Vassa»). Due to length of service» «Spartak» was decommissioned in 1991, «Volodarsky» was taken out of the fleet in 1989.


In 1934 the unique government service motor ship «Maksim Gorky» was built at Sormovsky shipyard, which was way ahead of the time with its tactical and technical qualities and beautiful finishing. It was created under the project of the Military and Technical Department of the Peoples’ Commissariat of Internal Affairs as a special purpose ship (personal motor ship of Stalin). The length of the ship was 68,8 m, the project speed – 30 km/hour.

Power plant of the submarine «Decembrist» was used for the new motor ship. More than 17 kinds of wood, including mahogany, chinara, Karelian birch, were used in the decoration of the motor vessel. «Maksim Gorky» has set a speed record for a river vessel – 35 km/hour.

In 2002-2003 it was decided to restore the ship. During the modernization process the interiors of the ship were almost completely preserved and restored. Today the «Maksim Gorky» motor ship cruises down the Moskva River.


In 1937 the «Krasnoye Sormovo» shipyard built four first-class passenger ships for the Moscow-Volga canal: «Joseph Stalin», «Klim Voroshilov», «Mikhail Kalinin» and «Vyacheslav Molotov». Their design and construction are a major achievement of the Sormovo shipbuilders. It was the first experience in the country of building welded ships of large capacity.

The rooms were finished with precious wood veneer and the furniture was made of walnut wood. The ship had a communications center, bank, telephone line, musical salon, and a cinema setup. There were 205 passengers on board. These beautiful and unusual ships became one of the symbols of the Moscow Canal. The characters of the prewar film «Volga-Volga» (with Lyubov Orlova in the leading role) are sailing along the canal to Moscow on the motorboat «Joseph Stalin».


The highest point of the passenger ship building at the yard were the diesel-electric vessels «Lenin» and «Soviet Union», developed by the design bureau of the yard and put into operation in 1958–1959. Sormovo Shipyard was the first in the country to master the construction of river three-deck vessels for the Volga. Designed for 440 passengers they combined the newest achievements of the domestic shipbuilding with wide application of automatic equipment. In terms of comfort for the passengers, «Lenin» was a real breakthrough. For several decades both diesel-electric ships were the flagships of the Volga River Shipping Company. For the creation of the diesel-electric ship «Soviet Union» plant Krasnoye Sormovo was awarded a diploma of the World Salon in Brussels in 1958 (there the model of the ship was demonstrated).


More than 60 years have passed since then. Only a few years ago «Krasnoye Sormov» was again entrusted to build a modern passenger cruise ship. The liner «Mustai Karim» of PV300 project was put into operation on August 3, 2020. Ships of this class have never been built – neither in Russia, nor at European shipyards (because of the peculiarities of European rivers, where the bridges are quite low).

British Royal Institution of Naval Architects (RINA) has added the passenger ship of PV300 project «Mustai Karim» built at Krasnoye Sormovo to the list of Significant Ships of 2020. Passenger cabins are located on the three upper tiers of the superstructure - 169 double standard cabins and two double suites. The air conditioning system provides for automatic temperature and humidity control, as well as individual regulation of these parameters in each cabin.   


Sormovo-built ships have often appeared on movie screens