Russian filmmaker Ilya Averbakh originally studied toward a medical degree at the First Leningrad Medical Institute. Following graduation in 1958, Averbakh worked as a physician until the early '60s, when he successfully completed a special screenwriting course in Moscow. He subsequently returned to his native Leningrad to take another course in film direction offered by Lenfilm Studios. There he studied under Grigory Kozintsev until graduating in 1967. That year, Averbakh co-directed the feature film Lichnaya Zhizn Kuzyaeva Valentina/The Private Life of Valentin Kuzyaev with Igor Maslennikov (1967). The following year, he directed his first feature, Stepen Riska/The Level of Risk, an exploration of the trials experienced by physicians. These and Averbakh's subsequent films had a heavy focus on ethical matters.