October 2, 2019

Righteous Theodore Ushakov, Admiral of the Russian Naval Fleet (+ 1817)

St. Theodore Ushakov the Admiral (Feast Day - October 2)

Saint Theodore, one of Russia’s greatest naval heroes of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, was born on February 13, 1745 in the village of Burnakovo of the Yaroslavl province, and came from a rather poor but ancient noble family. His parents were called Theodore Ignatievich and Paraskeva Nikitichna, and they were deeply pious people.

Young Theodore was raised knowing that he was born in between two feast days of two great warriors who bore his name - Saints Theodore the Stratelates (Feb. 8) and Theodore the Tiro (Feb. 17), and that his uncle was Venerable Theodore (Ushakov) of Sanaxar Monastery, a monastic saint who lived from 1719 to 1791 and is commemorated on February 19th. These examples were deeply imprinted in the heart of the young man, and he preserved this throughout his life.

The naval cadet corps was located in St. Petersburg, on the corner of the Bolshaya Neva embankment and the 12th line of Vasilyevsky Island. In February 1761, Theodore Ushakov was enrolled there after completing his education. The future admiral, distinguished by his good schooling and good morality, diligently comprehended the sciences taught to him, showing a special inclination towards arithmetic, navigation and history, and five years later he successfully graduated from the Naval Corps, received an officer rank and was sworn in.

After graduating from the Naval Corps, Theodore Ushakov was sent to the Baltic Fleet. The North Seas are rarely calm, and for a young officer it was a good naval school. The first years of service in the Navy passed in intensive training under the guidance of experienced sailors. Thanks to his zeal, inquiring mind, zeal for business and high spiritual qualities, the young officer Theodor Ushakov successfully completed this first school of maritime practice and was transferred south to the Azov Flotilla.

At the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth century the state task was put forward of returning Russia to the Black Sea coast. In 1775, under Empress Catherine II, a decision was made to create a regular linear fleet in the Black Sea. In 1778, thirty miles above the mouth of the Dnieper, not far from the Glubokaya tract, the Admiralty was established, and the port and city of Kherson were founded. Work began on the construction of boathouses for ships, but due to great difficulties in delivering timber from the deep regions of Russia, construction was delayed. Things began to get better only with the arrival of officers and teams on ships under construction. In August 1783, the captain of the second rank Theodore Ushakov arrived in Kherson.

At the same time, a plague epidemic began in the city. In Kherson quarantine was established. At that time, it was believed that the plague spread through the air. To drive away the pestilence, fires were made in the streets, houses were fumigated, but the epidemic was intensifying. Despite the difficult military situation, requiring the continuation of the construction of ships, an order was given to completely stop work and all efforts to be sent to fight the plague. It was during this time that Theodore showed his great skills as a leader to fight the plague. For skillful actions and the efforts shown at the same time, Theodore Ushakov was promoted to captain of the first rank and awarded his first order of Saint Vladimir of the fourth degree.

On August 11, 1787, Turkey declared war on Russia. The Turkish fleet consisted of seventeen battleships and eight frigates, and the Russian squadron, whose vanguard was commanded by the captain of the brigadier rank, Theodore Ushakov, had only two battleships and ten frigates. On June 29, 1788, the opponents discovered each other and, being in mutual proximity, tried to take a favorable position and maintain the battle line. But on July 3 near the island of Fidonisi the battle became inevitable. The Turkish fleet with all the power of its line began to descend on Russian ships. And here Ushakov’s vanguard detachment, having used diligence and skill, added sail and with decisive maneuver deprived the ability of the Turkish fleet commander Eski-Hassan to embrace Russian ships and board them. At the same time, Ushakov cut off two advanced Turkish ships from the main forces. Those, in turn, having discovered their disastrous position, without waiting for any signal, rushed to flee with great haste. Eski-Hassan was forced to pursue his ships. The victory was for the Russian squadron.

This battle, although it did not have a significant impact on the affairs of the entire campaign, was noteworthy in another. For the first time in open battle, a small Russian fleet defeated superior enemy forces. At the forefront of the vanguard, Theodore Ushakov actually led the battle of the entire squadron, and his personal courage, skillful tactics, outstanding commander qualities and high spiritual character decided the battle in Russia's favor. Theodore Ushakov, having received the rank of rear admiral, was appointed in early 1790 as commander of the Black Sea Fleet.

The unvanquished Admiral was the terror of his country’s enemies, and the deliverer of those whom the barbarians had taken captive. He served during the Russo-Turkish War (1787—1791), and also joined the Turks to fight against the French. Although he fought many naval battles in the Black Sea and in the Mediterranean, he never lost a single one, and he was never wounded. In 1793, having been victorious in battles, and now a national hero, was awarded by Empress Catherine II the rank of vice admiral.

It was during his battles against the French that Saint Theodore visited the Greek island of Kerkyra (Corfu), since he was tasked to liberate the Ionian Islands from the intolerable yoke of the French atheists. While there he venerated the relics of Saint Spyridon (Dec. 12), and gave support and encouragement to the Orthodox Christians in that place to rise up against the French. This led to the liberation of the Ionian Islands. When the French garrison on the island of Zakynthos surrendered, Admiral Theodore went ashore to offer thanks before the relics of Saint Dionysios (Dec. 17). He was welcomed by the Greeks wherever he went with great joy as they bore the Russian flag to honor their liberators and threw flowers before their feet, kissing their hands in gratitude. The same took place in Kefallonia. For this victory, Emperor Paul I granted him his final award as admiral. On September 30, 1799 the Russian fleet liberated Bari from the French, and afterwards Admiral Theodore went and gave thanks before the relics of Saint Nicholas (Dec. 6). Greeks called him their "liberator and father."

Since his naval reforms were unpopular with his superiors, Saint Theodore was forced to retire in 1807 by Tsar Alexander I. Having neither wife nor children, the admiral settled in the town of Alekseevo near the Sanaxar Monastery, where he regularly attended services on Sundays and Feast Days. During Great Lent he would stay in the monastery, fasting with the monks and attending the services. Abbot Nathaniel of Sanaxar regarded Saint Theodore as “a neighbor and a significant patron” of the monastery. In addition to his generous gifts to the monastery, the admiral frequently gave alms to the poor and needy. He never sought earthly glory or riches, but spent his life in serving God and his neighbor.

Saint Theodore, after confessing his sins and receiving communion on October 1st, died on October 2, 1817 at the age of seventy-two, and left all his belongings to his nephews whom he loved as his own children. After navigating the sea of life with all its storms and struggles, he entered the calm harbor of eternal rest. He was buried at Sanaxar Monastery beside the church. In the 1930s the monastery was destroyed by the atheists and the place of Saint Theodore's burial was defiled. In 1944 a state commission was formed to find his relics, since he was a national hero, and they were discovered to be incorrupt. His grave and the monastery were under state authority after this and could not be harmed. The monastery was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1991, and Saint Theodore’s grave was found in 1994.

Saint Theodore was glorified by the Orthodox Church of Russia in 2004, and a reliquary in the shape of a naval vessel was made to enshrine his holy relics.

Saint Theodore is honored as a great military leader who defended Russia just as Saint Alexander Nevsky (November 23) and Saint Demetrius of the Don (May 19) did before him. One of the Russian Navy’s atomic cruisers has been named for him, and a movie has been made about his life and career. The composer Khachaturian has also written a musical piece called “Admiral Ushakov.”

Apolytikion in the First Tone
You were an invincible supreme commander of the Russian realm, destroying and setting at nought the malice of the Muslims, and seeking neither worldly glory or riches, you served God and your neighbor. Pray, O holy Theodore, that victory over the enemy be granted our army, that our homeland may abide in unshakeable piety, and that the children of Russia may be saved.