The literary scholar Orest Tsekhnovitser was born in 1899 in Pskov (the Russian Empire) into a Jewish family. Both of his parents were dentists. In 1917, after finishing the Pskov Industrial School, he moved to Petrograd (present-day St. Petersburg), where he became a student at the Department of Physics and Mathematics at the University. He eventually settled in Novorossiysk, graduating from the Department of History and Philology of the local university in 1920.
Orest Tsekhnovitser was so inspired by the ideals of the 1917 Revolution that, after his graduation, he volunteered for the Red Army. He was assigned to the Propaganda Department of the Odessa Military Commissar, being later transferred to Moscow with a special assignment. A versatile and gifted man, Tsekhnovitser combined his propaganda work at the Moscow Recruitment Office with lecturing in the Department of Italian Literature at the Moscow Literary-Artistic Institute. He also worked as a consultant in the People's Commissariat of Justice.
In 1923, Orest Tsekhnovitser returned to Petrograd. He graduated from the Literary-Artistic Department of the university, becoming a certified literary scholar. In addition to that, Tsekhnovitser served as director of the industrial LITOs (literary sections of the Main Political-Educational Committee of the People's Commissariat for Education). In other words, he was responsible for the educational and propaganda work at the factories, implementing the official political line.
In the 1930s, Tsekhnovitser was a postgraduate student at the Department of New Russian Literature of the Academy of Sciences, combining scholarly work with teaching duties at a pilot school. At the Institute of Russian Literature (the present-day Pushkin House), he initially headed a section titled "Literature of the Era of Imperialism and Proletarian Revolution"; later, he served as manager of the manuscript department, and finally became chief archivist. In 1938, Orest Tsekhnovitser submitted his thesis. After being appointed professor, he lecture on Russian and Western literature in the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution at the University of Leningrad. Tsekhnovitser published extensively, and was a scholar of the works of several prominent Russian writers and journalists, including Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Fyodor Sologub.
In the very first days of the Soviet-German War, which began in late June 1941, Orest Tsekhnovitser volunteered for the fleet. He was dispatched to Tallinn, Estonia, which had been annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, and served as regimental commissar of the Political Department of the Baltic Fleet, actively engaging in propaganda work among the troops. Tsekhnovitser also produced propaganda aimed at the enemy, editing brochures, leaflets, and caricatures of Hitler and Goebbels. These materials were later airdropped on the German positions.
In late August 1941, Orest Tsekhnovitser sailed from the Port of Tallinn to Kronstadt aboard the ship Vironia. En route, the ship was first attacked from the air, then hit a mine and sank.
In May 1942, Orest Tsekhnovitser was posthumously awarded the Order of the Red Banner.