Alexander Nevsky

For other uses, see Alexander Nevsky (disambiguation).
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Monument in Saint Petersburg

Saint Alexander Nevsky Template:Audio (Александр Ярославич Невский in Russian) (May 30, 1220?–November 14, 1263) was the greatest leader of medieval Russia who helped to preserve its unique Orthodox identity during the time of incessant attacks from the West and the East.


Great victories

Born in Pereslavl-Zalessky, Alexander was the fourth son of Prince Yaroslav Vsevolodovich and seemed to have but a little chance of claiming the golden throne of Vladimir. In 1236, however, he was summoned by the Novgorodians to become their military leader (or prince) and defend their northwest lands from Swedish and German invaders. After the Swedish army had landed at the confluence of rivers Izhora and Neva, Alexander and his small army suddenly attacked the Swedes on July 15, 1240 and completely destroyed them. The Neva battle of 1240 saved Russia from a full-scale enemy invasion from the North. As a result of this battle, 19-year-old Alexander was given the name of Nevsky (which means of Neva). This victory strengthened Nevskys political influence, but at the same time it also worsened his relations with the boyars. Soon enough, Alexander had to leave Novgorod because of this conflict.

After Russia had been invaded by the Teutonic Knights, the Novgorod authorities sent for Alexander Nevsky. In spring of 1241 he returned from his exile, gathered an army in no time, and drove out the invaders from Russian cities. Many Russian historians consider the sieges of Koporye and Pskov as an example of a sophisticated military art of seizing fortresses. Alexander and his men stood up against the Teutonic cavalry led by the Magister of the Order, Hermann, brother of Albert of Buxhoeveden, the Catholic Christianizer of Livonia. Nevsky faced the enemy on the ice of the Chudskoye Lake and crushed the Teutonic Knights during the Battle on Lake Peipus on April 5, 1242. The German attempts to invade Russia were effectively stopped for many centuries to come.

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Alexander was baptized at this cathedral, dating from 1152.

Alexanders victory was a significant event in the history of the Middle Ages. Russian foot soldiers had surrounded and defeated an army of knights, mounted on horseback and clad in thick armor, long before they learned how foot soldiers could prevail over mounted knights in Western Europe. Nevsky's great victory against the Teutonic Order apparently involved only a few knights killed rather than hundreds claimed by the Russian chroniclers; decisive medieval and early modern battles were won and lost with small forces to modern eyes. The cultural value of the victory greatly outshone its strategic value, at the time and ever since.

Wise politician

After the Teutonic invasion, Nevsky continued to strengthen Russias Northwest. He sent his envoys to Norway and, as a result, they signed a first peace treaty between Rus and Norway in 1251. Alexander led his army to Finland and successfully routed the Swedes, who had made another attempt to block the Baltic Sea from the Russians in 1256.

Nevsky proved to be a cautious and far-sighted politician. He dismissed Papal curias attempts to cause war between Russia and the Golden Horde, because he understood the uselessness of such war with Tatars at that time. Historians seem to be unsure about Alexanders behavior when in came to his relations with Mongols.

Probably he understood that the Roman Catholic assault presented a more tangible threat to Russian national identity than paying a tribute to the Khan, who didn't care about Russian religion and culture. It could also be that he intentionally kept Russia as a vassal to the Mongols in order to preserve his own status and count on the befriended Horde in case someone dared to challenge his authority (he forced the citizens of Novgorod to pay tribute to them). Nevsky tried to strengthen his princely authority at the expense of the boyars and at the same time suppress any anti-feudal uprisings in the country (Novgorod uprising of 1259).

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The German invasion of the USSR in 1941 reestablished Alexander Nevsky as a major symbol of Russian patriotism.

According to the most plausible version, Alexanders intentions were to prevent Russia from ruinous invasions of the enormous Mongol army. He is known to have gone to the Horde himself and achieved success in exempting Russians from fighting beside the Tatar army in its wars with other peoples.

Alexander's legacy

Thanks to his friendship with the Grand Khan, Alexander was installed as the Grand Prince of Vladimir (i.e., the supreme Russian ruler) in 1252. A decade later, Alexander died in a town of Gorodets-on-the-Volga on his way back from Kublai Khan's capital Karakorum, otherwise known as Xanadu. He was buried in Vladimir and canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1547.

In the late 13th century, they compiled a chronicle called Alexander Nevskys Life (Житие Александра Невского), in which he is depicted as an ideal prince-soldier and defender of Russia. By order of Peter the Great, Nevskys remains were transported to the Alexander Nevsky Monastery in Petersburg where they remain to this day. On May 21, 1725, the Tsar introduced the Order of Alexander Nevsky as one of the highest military decorations. During the Great Patriotic War (July 29, 1942) the Soviet Order of Alexander Nevsky was introduced to revive the memory of Alexander's struggle with the Germans.

Sergei Eisenstein made one of his greatest movies, Alexander Nevsky, about that prince and his victory over the Teutonic Knights. Music for the film was written by Sergei Prokofiev, who also reworked the score into a concert cantata. Alexander's phrase from the movie, "Whoever will come to us with a sword, from a sword will perish," has become a slogan of Russian patriots.

See also

Preceded by:Grand Prince of Novgorod and VladimirSucceeded by:
Andrei IIDaniel

Template:Livedbg:Александър Невски de:Alexander Jaroslawitsch Newski fr:Alexandre Nevski it:Alexander Nevsky nl:Alexander Nevski ja:アレクサンドル・ネフスキー pl:Aleksander Newski ru:Александр Невский fi:Aleksanteri Nevski


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