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Miami Valley Episcopal Russian Network

MVERN’s Mission is to foster a partnership between St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Sablino, Russia, and the MVERN churches through cultural exchanges of  youth, adult laypersons, and clergy, and through financial and other forms of support.










MVERN - Who We Are
The Miami Valley Episcopal Russian Network (MVERN) of the Diocese of Southern Ohio is a unique ecumenical project among Episcopal and Orthodox Churches. Thirteen churches in southern Ohio, including 11 Episcopal churches and 2 Orthodox parishes--

Christ Episcopal Church
St. Andrew's Episcopal Church
St. Christopher's Episcopal Church
St. George's Episcopal Church
St. Margaret's Episcopal Church
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church
St. Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church

St. Paul's Episcopal Church
St. Francis Episcopal Church

Trinity Episcopal Church
St. James Episcopal Church
St. James Episcopal Church

-- have formed a partnership with St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, located in the village of Sablino, Russia, thirty miles south of St. Petersburg. Fr. Nikolai Aksenov, their rector, leads a remarkable ministry that encompasses the entire region, including a youth center, an orphanage, a school for developmentally disabled children, a hospital, and a large women’s prison. MVERN has contributed to expanding St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church and has donated more than $300,000 in humanitarian supplies and hard currency in support of Fr. Nikolai’s extensive outreach ministry.

Understanding that exchange trips can both broaden and enrich young lives, MVERN has taken 118 American youth to Russia on nine mission/pilgrimage trips since 1997. In addition, 29 Russian youth have journeyed from Sablino to Ohio on six separate trips where they stayed in the homes of Episcopal teens and developed personal relationships with American young people. More than 219 American adults, including laypersons and clergy, have traveled on ten trips to Russia with MVERN to see first-hand the work that is being done in Sablino. The most recent trip was in 2014; here is the brochure.

St. Nicholas Interior

 St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church

After the Bolsheviks dynamited the main church in the village of Sablino in 1938, the congregation of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church moved their worship services to a small chapel in the Sablino cemetery.  With financial help from MVERN, the chapel has been enlarged three times to accommodate the rapidly growing congregation. Fr. Nikolai Aksenov has been rector of this village church since 1981.


Fr. Nicholai

Father Nikolai

The son of a Russian Orthodox bishop, Fr. Nikolai Aksenov worked briefly as a railway engineer before graduating from St. Petersburg Theological Seminary. He was ordained in 1980 and has served as the rector of St. Nicholas Church in Sablino since 1981. He is married and the father of three sons: Vanya, the oldest son, and Misha, the second son, both graduated from the St. Petersburg Theological Seminary and each is now a Priest; Grisha, the youngest son, is at university studying business.

Dr. Igor Tolochin
 Dr. Igor Tolochin

Dr. Igor Tolochin serves as a vital link between MVERN and Russia. An accomplished linguist and an academic by profession, Igor is the Russian equivalent of the “Renaissance Man,” comfortably discussing music, art, history, literature, economics, and politics with quiet competence. Sharing his knowledge of all things Russian, Igor serves as guest lecturer and guide on the MVERN adult trips.

A Professor of English at St. Petersburg State University in Russia, Igor holds three degrees from this distinguished university, including the Ph.D.  However, meeting him for the first time, you would assume he is a polished and articulate young Oxford Don.  He has, in fact, both studied and taught at Oxford in addition to other distinguished academic institutions, including Dartmouth College, Bell College in Essex, England, and the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.  He also was awarded a coveted Visiting Scholar appointment at the prestigious Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., and is Vice-president for Europe and the NIS for the Foundation for International Professional Exchange (FIPE).

Sablino, Russia
 Sablino, Russia

The village of Sablino is approximately thirty miles south of St. Petersburg. The rising prosperity of Russia has reached neither Sablino nor hundreds of other villages throughout Russia where life has scarcely changed since the end of communism. Swept along for centuries by a series of repressive governments, most Russians live in what, by western standards, would be considered poverty.

The roads are generally unpaved, and the majority of the population of Sablino - approximately 5,000 - still lives in small wooden cottages, many devoid of central heating, running water, and reliable electric power.  The rural economy in villages like Sablino, already in decline before the collapse of communism, has continued to deteriorate.   Although a few residents of St. Petersburg are building summer homes or dachas near Sablino, unemployment is high and salaries remain low. 

More MVERN history is HERE


Help MVERN support Fr. Nikolai's ministries by donating now!

Website updated 22 October 2015