History in Persons. Russian Doctor Nikolai Aleksandrovich Ovchinnikov

  • Authors: Pavlov R.Y.1, Terskikh A.P.1
  • Affiliations:
    1. Voronezh State Medical University named after N.N. Burdenko
  • Pages: 144-146
  • URL: https://www.new.vestnik-surgery.com/index.php/2415-7805/article/view/8948

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The article is devoted to one of the outstanding doctors of the XX century, Nikolai Alexandrovich Ovchinnikov, who worked for many years as a surgeon, and then took priestly orders, then a schema under the name of his spiritual father, the Optina elder Nectary, and devoted himself to serving God. In his life, he followed two basic gospel commandments: love of God and love of neighbor.

Full Text

"The human soul, reaching out to God, is like grass breaking through asphalt on the way to the sun," — these are the words that can be described by Nikolai Alexandrovich Ovchinnikov. This man, like no other, was able to combine two important professions in his life: serving God and helping suffering people.

Nikolai Alexandrovich Ovchinnikov was born in the village of Khobotovo, then still Tambov province, on May 6, 1903. His mother worked as a teacher, and his father was a railway employee. The future hieroschemonk, remembering his childhood, said: "We grew up freely with village children. We spent all our free time running around the street."

In 1913, Nikolai Alexandrovich's mother was transferred to Kozlov (now Michurinsk). According to Ovchinnikov's memoirs, his mother often took him with her during trips to Optina Deserts. Nikolai really wanted to connect his life with Optina, but elder Nektary (the spiritual father of Ovchinnikov's mother) blessed him first to work in the world.

Already in 1923, Nikolai Alexandrovich entered the medical faculty of the main university of the country — Moscow State University. He was a regular of the Christian youth circle, where he met his future wife Maria Khokhlova, who was also a medical student. The couple got married in 1929 in the church of Prince Vladimir and then went to Tambov [2].

The city of Tambov is inextricably linked with the medical business of Nikolai Alexandrovich, because it was there that he first moved from theory to practice. [1]. Two key life events also took place here: the birth of George's son, who later became a doctor, as well as the refusal to vote for the execution of the chief doctor, whom the authorities accused of Trotskyism. It was after this event that Niklaj Alexandrovich was fired from his job and "handed over" the so—called "wolf passport" - a special document that testified to the unreliability of its owner. It was almost impossible to find a job with such a passport.

And so, after a whole series of difficult obstacles, Nikolai Ovchinnikov arrives in Voronezh, where he later meets Mother Feoktista. It was she who helped Nikolai Alexandrovich get a job. First, he was appointed head of the ambulance station, and then of the blood transfusion stations. In parallel, Ovchinnikov taught surgery at the VGMI. After the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War, the Ovchinnikov family fell into occupation. Nikolai Alexandrovich worked hard in the village of Chernyavka as a surgeon. In difficult conditions, which were very far from clean hospitals, with the dim light of a smoker, he performed operations one by one, sometimes 10 a day [2].

From a material point of view, Ovchinnikov lived very poorly and sparsely: he walked half-naked, half-naked, but always helped everyone in need with what he could. After the evacuation of all the prisoners who were with the Germans were shot, but Nikolai Alexandrovich was helped by the political instructor who was saved by himself and a huge number of letters of thanks.

After the war, Ovchinnikov was engaged in the restoration of the regional blood transfusion station. In 1947, shortcomings were found in its activities that greatly threatened the guilty. Nikolai Alexandrovich, as the head of this station, was arrested and innocently sentenced to as many as 10 years. However, even in such a situation, Ovchinnikov was not discouraged, but saw in it God's providence, a kind of test. The rest of the prisoners treated Nikolai Alexandrovich very well, because they understood that there was no grave guilt on him.

Here he continued to work as a doctor, participated in planting trees and flowers, thereby creating the missing comfort. It was at this time that he made the final decision to become a priest.

In March 1955, he was released early. In the same year, he moved to Tashkent, where he first became a deacon, and on June 11, 1955, he received the priesthood.

The unusual climate and crippled health did not allow Nikolai Alexandrovich to stay in Tashkent. In 1958, due to an aggravated eye disease, Father Nikolai was forced to move to the Lipetsk region, to the city of Yelets. In itself, this place is quite significant for the life of Nicholas, because it was here that his spiritual father Nectary was born and grew up.

Here Father Nicholas continues his life's work — serving God and helping people. He was a simple man, which is why everyone was drawn to him. People knew Father Nicholas as an extremely educated and erudite man.

According to the letters of Nikolai Alexandrovich, the government stopped the destruction of churches in Yelets. Largely due to this, Yelets remains to this day a living monument of culture and history of the state.

In addition to ordinary people, very prominent, well-known people of those years came to Nikolai: cultural figures, military, directors and cameramen. "Hurry up to do good!" is the most appropriate motto for Father Nicholas.

Soon, unfortunately, his eyesight deteriorated badly, and after a while he had a stroke, which forever chained him to the bed [1]. And despite all this, Father Nicholas supported the spirit of other people. He lived for another nine years.

On June 14, 1976, Fr. Nicholas became a monk, and two years later — a schema with the familiar name of Nectary.

Almost all of his descendants became doctors. "There are doctors as artisans, and he is a spiritual doctor, a doctor from God! It was warm from him," his closest relatives said about the priest.

On March 1, 1985, Father Nicholas passed away, the fortieth day of his death fell on the Bright Resurrection of Christ.

"Saying goodbye to life, I not only thank her for the joys, but also for the sufferings she gave me," he said.

During his lifetime, Father Nicholas healed people with the help of medical "earthly" means, as well as with the help of prayers, love and Church sacraments. And despite his death, he helps all people even now, it is enough just to turn to him mentally.

A.B. Avdeeva, a student of VSMU, said very well about the life of Father Nikolai: "The example of N.A. Ovchinnikov's life should be an inspiration for us. The profession of a doctor is to serve God through helping one's neighbor, alleviating the sufferings of the patient. Treatment is not only a medical manipulation, but a common cause in which there are no disputes, but there is prayer, an encouraging word, complicity. With his life, Father Nektary showed that the greatness of Russia is not in the brilliance of speeches, but in the feat of spiritual self-denial and service to the Lord" [3].


About the authors

Roman Yurievich Pavlov

Voronezh State Medical University named after N.N. Burdenko

Email: somethingdifferentgg@gmail.com
ORCID iD: 0009-0003-1047-6096

student of the 5th year of the Faculty of Pharmacy

Russian Federation, 10 Studentskays str., Voronezh, 394036, Russia

Anastasia Petrovna Terskikh

Voronezh State Medical University named after N.N. Burdenko

Author for correspondence.
Email: anastasia-prosvetova@yandex.ru
ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9990-4186

Candidate of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Associate Professor of the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Technology

Russian Federation, 10 Studentskays str., Voronezh, 394036, Russia


  1. Васильева, О. «Я ухожу, но буду очень близко…» / О. Васильева. – URL: https://itogi.lpgzt.ru/aticle/4580.htm (дата обращения 01.03.2023)
  2. Миронова, К. Родник оптинского духа для новой мыслящей России / К. Миронова // ПРАВОСЛАВНЫЙ КРЕСТ. – 2019. – № 5 (221). – URL: http://www.pkrest.ru/221/221-12.html (дата обращения 01.03.2023).
  3. Симанович, Н. Ф. Призвание / Н. Ф. Симанович / под ред. И. Э. Есауленко. – Воронеж : ВГМА, 2008. – С. 209-211.

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