|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--
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
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.
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
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
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
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ministries by donating now!
Website updated 22 October