He lived a life of piety and service.
We have written before in Global Orthodox about the Orthodox tradition of warrior saints, in particular in the Russian tradition. This popular saint lived only a few short centuries ago and much is known about his life and times.
Fyodor Fyodorovich Ushakov was born in 1745 to a humble family of the minor nobility near Rybinsk, Yaroslavl Oblast, Russia. His father had served in the Imperial Guards, but the family were still not registered in the Registry of Nobility. It was not until 1798 that Ushakov, then a Vice Admiral, would request and be granted a coat of arms and recognition for his family.
Like his father before him, young Fyodor chose a military career. He joined the Russian Navy in St. Petersburg in 1761. He first saw real action in 1768 during the Russo-Turkish War. Later, he commanded Catherine II’s personal yacht, and defended Russian shipping from British Royal Navy overreach during the American Revolutionary War and the subsequent Anglo-French War.
After the conquest of Crimea from the Tartars, he oversaw the construction of the Sevastopol Naval Base and docks in Kherson, names that are once again on the tips of many tongues. During the second Russo-Turkish War, he attained great victories at Fidonisi (1788), Kerch Strait (1790), Tendra (1790), and Cape Kaliakra (1791).
Interestingly, he was later promoted to full admiral and put at the head of a combined Russo-Turkish fleet to lay waste to French holdings in the Mediterranean during the War of the Second Coalition against France.
In spite of the fact that in the course of 43 naval battles under his command he did not lose a single ship and never lost a battle, when Tsar Alexander I took the throne, Ushakov fell out of favor and his many great accomplishments were brushed over. He resigned in 1807 and entered the Sanaksar Monastery in Temnikov. He died age 72 in 1817.
He was well known for his new and innovative naval tactics which always brought him victory as well as his firm faith:
After each victory he ordered a service in church to thank the Lord for yet another victory granted him. Even Ushakov's ships bore names of the Saints—"Saint Pyotr", "Saint Pavel", "The Nativity of the Mother of God", etc. According to the witness of contemporaries, despite an extremely busy schedule Ushakov daily went to the church services and never undertook any activity of importance without first attending the Liturgy.
After his death his legend only grew, and even the atheist USSR created medals and military decorations named after the famous seafarer, and two films about him were made in the 1950s.
Declared a Saint by the Russian Orthodox Church in 2001, Admiral Saint Ushakov is now patron of the Navy and Nuclear Strategic Bombers.