November 15, 2000

Alexander Nevsky


Alexander Nevsky

Aleksandre Yaroslavich was born in Vladimir and died in Gorodets. He was the prince of Novgorod {1236-52}, of Kiev {1246-52} and grand prince of Vladimir {1252-63}. He was the son of Yaroslav II, grand prince of Vladimir and a member of the Rurik Dynasty . At age ca. sixteen, Aleksandre was appointed prince of Novgorod. This was little more than a military commission. Three years later, he married the daughter of the prince of Polotsk.

In 1240, Sweden invaded Russia, attempting to block her access to the Baltic Sea. Aleksandre defeated the Swedes at the juncture of the Izhora and Neva Rivers. This victory gained him the nickname Nevsky, or of the Neva. Having defended his people well, Aleksandre took upon himself to become involved in local affairs. Historically, the people of Novgorod did not welcome such intervention into their city's life from the princes. They expelled the young prince in ca. 1241.

The Roman pontiff at the time was Gregory IX . He insisted that the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania ) be "Christianized." The region of Kiev Rus had been associated with the Byzantine Church of Constantinople since 988. This was due to the actions of another Rurik, Vladimir I. In response to the pope's request, the Tuetonic Knights invaded Russia. Novgorod, lacking military leadership, begged Aleksandre to return. In 1242, Aleksandre defeated the Tuetonic Knights in ,what is known as, the massacre on the ice, on the channel between Peipus and Pskov Lakes. He continued to fight the Swedes, stopping altogether their efforts to establish a foothold in Russia.

Meanwhile, the Mongols had invaded and conquered much of the politically fragmented eastern region of Russia. Aleksandre's father, the prince of Yaroslav, agreed to submit to the Mongol rulers. He was murdered in September 1246 when he returned home from a meeting with the Great Khan in Mongolia. This created a battle between his sons, Aleksandre and Andrew, the younger. By Russian protocol, the elder, Aleksandre, should have automatically become the Grand Prince. However, the decision lay with the Great Khan who appointed Andrew grand prince of Vladimir and Aleksandre, prince of Kiev, the center of modern Ukraine.

Andrew wasted little time before he began comspiring against the Mongols. This caused extreme hardship for the Russian people. Aleksandre reported the comspiracy to Khan Batu who deployed an army to dispose of Andrew, making Aleksandre the grand prince. Aleksandre allowed the Mongols to take a census of Russia and to tax the people. By doing so, he was able to rebuild Russia's cities and churches and to govern his people directly. When various towns revolted against the Mongol yoke, Aleksandre would travel to Mongolia to plead for their deliverance from reprisal. He succeeded in protecting his people and achieved exemption from the Mongol desire to draft Russian men into their army which was at war with Iran.

Thanks to Aleksandre's efforts, the Russian Orthodox Church enjoyed Mongol protection and a tax-free status. Aleksandre protected the Church against aggression from the Baltic princes who, with the backing of Rome, conspired against the Mongols. It may seem, on the surface, that Aleksandre sold out to the Mongols. In reality, his actions and intervention on behalf of his people, greatly improved the common mans' quality of life. The alternative would have been what happened after Aleksandre's death in 1263. Russia basically fell apart and turned into a collection of feuding states and principalities with no central power or unifying purpose.

Aleksandre managed to maintain the Russian way of life, religious freedom and averted much potential bloodshed. For these reasons, the Russian Orthodox Church canonized Alesksandre Nevsky in 1547. His feast days are November 23rd and August 30th. In 1725, the Order of Aleksandre Nevsky was formed by Empress Catherine I , as an award for superior military service. The Order was re-established by the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, in 1942, to honor Soviet Commanders in WWII (medal).

In the early 1700's, Peter the Great of Russia {Tsar; 1721-1725}, established the Alexander Nevsky Lavra {monastery} in St. Petersburg to honor of the saint and his 1240 victory over the Swedes. This is the home of the city's central church, the Holy Trinity Cathedral. Such notables as Dostoevsky, Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky are buried in the monastery cemetery.

Like this post? Get a weekly email digest + member-only deals

Some of Our Books

White Magic

White Magic

The thirteen tales in this volume – all written by Russian émigrés, writers who fled their native country in the early twentieth century – contain a fair dose of magic and mysticism, of terror and the supernatural. There are Petersburg revenants, grief-stricken avengers, Lithuanian vampires, flying skeletons, murders and duels, and even a ghostly Edgar Allen Poe.
Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

A book that dares to explore the humanity of priests and pilgrims, saints and sinners, Faith & Humor has been both a runaway bestseller in Russia and the focus of heated controversy – as often happens when a thoughtful writer takes on sacred cows. The stories, aphorisms, anecdotes, dialogues and adventures in this volume comprise an encyclopedia of modern Russian Orthodoxy, and thereby of Russian life.
The Little Humpbacked Horse

The Little Humpbacked Horse

A beloved Russian classic about a resourceful Russian peasant, Vanya, and his miracle-working horse, who together undergo various trials, exploits and adventures at the whim of a laughable tsar, told in rich, narrative poetry.
The Moscow Eccentric

The Moscow Eccentric

Advance reviewers are calling this new translation "a coup" and "a remarkable achievement." This rediscovered gem of a novel by one of Russia's finest writers explores some of the thorniest issues of the early twentieth century.
Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod is a mid-sized provincial city that exists only in Russian metaphorical space. It has its roots in Gogol, and Ilf and Petrov, and is a place far from Moscow, but close to Russian hearts. It is a place of mystery and normality, of provincial innocence and Black Earth wisdom. Strange, inexplicable things happen in Stargorod. So do good things. And bad things. A lot like life everywhere, one might say. Only with a heavy dose of vodka, longing and mystery.
The Little Golden Calf

The Little Golden Calf

Our edition of The Little Golden Calf, one of the greatest Russian satires ever, is the first new translation of this classic novel in nearly fifty years. It is also the first unabridged, uncensored English translation ever, and is 100% true to the original 1931 serial publication in the Russian journal 30 Dnei. Anne O. Fisher’s translation is copiously annotated, and includes an introduction by Alexandra Ilf, the daughter of one of the book’s two co-authors.
Marooned in Moscow

Marooned in Moscow

This gripping autobiography plays out against the backdrop of Russia's bloody Civil War, and was one of the first Western eyewitness accounts of life in post-revolutionary Russia. Marooned in Moscow provides a fascinating account of one woman's entry into war-torn Russia in early 1920, first-person impressions of many in the top Soviet leadership, and accounts of the author's increasingly dangerous work as a journalist and spy, to say nothing of her work on behalf of prisoners, her two arrests, and her eventual ten-month-long imprisonment, including in the infamous Lubyanka prison. It is a veritable encyclopedia of life in Russia in the early 1920s.
Fish: A History of One Migration

Fish: A History of One Migration

This mesmerizing novel from one of Russia’s most important modern authors traces the life journey of a selfless Russian everywoman. In the wake of the Soviet breakup, inexorable forces drag Vera across the breadth of the Russian empire. Facing a relentless onslaught of human and social trials, she swims against the current of life, countering adversity and pain with compassion and hope, in many ways personifying Mother Russia’s torment and resilience amid the Soviet disintegration.
The Samovar Murders

The Samovar Murders

The murder of a poet is always more than a murder. When a famous writer is brutally stabbed on the campus of Moscow’s Lumumba University, the son of a recently deposed African president confesses, and the case assumes political implications that no one wants any part of.
The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

This exciting new trilogy by a Russian author – who has been compared to Orhan Pamuk and Umberto Eco – vividly recreates a lost world, yet its passions and characters are entirely relevant to the present day. Full of mystery, memorable characters, and non-stop adventure, The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas is a must read for lovers of historical fiction and international thrillers.  
Murder at the Dacha

Murder at the Dacha

Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matyushkin has a problem. Several, actually. Not the least of them is the fact that a powerful Soviet boss has been murdered, and Matyushkin's surly commander has given him an unreasonably short time frame to close the case.

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Latest Posts

Our Contacts

Russian Life
73 Main Street, Suite 402
Montpelier VT 05602

802-223-4955