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Alexander Nevsky

Life time: about 1220 - 11.14.1263.

Russian statesman, military leader; Novgorod Prince (1236-1251); Vladimir Grand Duke from 1252. Son of prince Yaroslav Vsevolodovich.

He headed Russian armies, which defended north-western lands of Russia from seizure by Swedish and German feudal lords. After landing of Swedish armies at confluence of the Izhora and Neva rivers, Alexander Nevsky with a small retinue, having united with Ladoga people, on July 15, 1240 suddenly attacked Swedes and completely crushed their numerous armies, showing great courage in the battle. Neva fight of 1240 prevented threat of enemies invasion from the North. For this battle he was nicknamed "Nevsky". The victory strengthened Alexander's political influence, but at the same time aggravated his relations with nobility, as a result of which Nevsky was compelled to abandon Novgorod.

After the intrusion of German knights into Russia, Novgorod people sent their representatives to the commander. In spring of 1241, he came and quickly created army, which expelled aggressors from Russian cities (storm of Koporye and Pskov cities is an example of high military art of fortresses taking-over). Big Cavalry, led by grandmaster of order, stood against Alexander. It was completely defeated on April 5, 1242 on ice of Chudskoye lake. For the history of Middle Ages military art, the victory of Nevsky on Chudskoye lake had great value: Russian foot army had defeated knight Cavalry and groups of foot knights long before Western European infantry learned to defeat knights. The victory in this battle put Alexander in the line of greatest military leaders of the time. Aggression of German knights to Russia was stopped.

Nevsky continued to strengthen northwestern borders of Russia: setting up of embassy in Norway, which resulted in signing of the first peace agreement between Russia and Norway (1251); successful campaign in Finland against the Swedes, which had undertaken a new attempt to close the way to Baltic sea for Russians (1256). Nevsky showed himself as a cautious and far-seeing politician, he wrecked attempts by papal curia to cause war between Russia and the Golden Horde, for he understood uselessness of war with Tatars at that time. By skilful politics, Alexander Nevsky prevented ruinous invasions of Tatars into Russia. By negotiations with the Horde he cleared Russia from the duty to act as an army on the side of Tatar khans in their wars with other peoples. The Prince made many efforts to strengthen grand-duke's authority in the country to detriment of boyars' influence, at the same time he severely suppressed antifeudal insurrections, (e.g. revolt in Novgorod in 1259). He died in Gorodets on his way from the Golden Horde. The Russian church canonized him. At the end of the 13th century "Hagiography of Alexander Nevsky" was written, in which he was shown as the ideal prince - soldier, defender of Russian lands against enemies. By the order of Peter I, remains of the prince were transported to St. Petersburg. In pre-revolutionary Russia, an award in the name of Alexander Nevsky was founded on May 21, 1725. On July 29, 1942, a Soviet military award was founded to honour Alexander Nevsky.

Alexander Nevsky's name is one of the most victorious in the history of our country. It is not only victorious, but what is more important, perhaps, it is one of the brightest and loved by the Russian people. There are lots of heroes in Russian history, but our people remember almost nobody from them with such a warm feeling as they remember Alexander Nevsky. He worked much for Russian land with his sword and head - his contribution to foundation of the Russian state is invaluable. As a commander, he had full right to be called great, for he had not lost a single battle in his life; with small forces he had defeated the strongest enemies, and in the battles he combined military genius with personal courage. But there is something that makes him special: in that gloomy epoch of incessant internal wars, his sword never became stained with Russian blood, Alexander Nevsky's name is not stained by participation in a single intestine war. May be all that, imprinted subconsciously in the national memory, created him such a good reputation.

He was a great statesman too, for he could orientate himself in extremely difficult and complex conditions created by the Tatar invasion. He was the first on that true way, following which his successors and descendants - Moscow princes came to monarchy and victory over the Horde. And one must have special qualities of mind and spirit to go against the current and to choose this way - the way, which seemed to be so unsuccessful.

Characterizing Alexander Nevsky's epoch, historian Klyuchevsky says: 'Independent principality order was a cause of decline of patriotism and moral - civil feeling of Russian princes, it extinguished the idea of unity and integrity of Russian lands, of general national welfare. Was it possible from a selfish point of view to rise up to the idea of Russian land of Sacred Vladimir or Yaroslav the Wise?' Yes, it was not easy. Moreover, it was immensely hard. But Alexander Nevsky managed to rise above this self-centered psychology of princes and put the care about Russia and the Russian people above the care about family and local affairs. All these, combined with his historical victories, won him fadeless gratitude of descendants and undying glory.


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