The Grand Prince of Novgorod and Vladimir, Alexander Nevsky, was born in the family of the Grand Prince Yaroslav II of Russia (Yaroslav Vsevolodovich) and Princess Feodosia, daughter of Mstislav Mstislavich the Bold, on May 30 1220. His paternal grandfather was Vsevolod the Big Nest.
In 1228 Yaroslav II of Russia, the Grand Prince of Novgorod, came into conflict with Novgorodians and was forced to return to his patrimony - Pereyaslavl-Zalessky. Nevertheless in Novgorod he left his two children - Feodor and Alexander in charge of Boyars. After the death of Feodor in 1236, Alexander, being Yaroslav’s oldest heir, enthroned in Novgorod. In 1239 he married a Polotsk Princess - Alexandra Bryachislavna.
During the first years of his reign Alexander was occupied with consolidation of Novgorod. On the Shelon River he built several fortresses. The young prince won glory after the victory over Swedish unit in the mouth of the Izhora River in July 1240. Thus Swedish aggression on Novgorod and Pskov lands was stopped. After the battle the Prince was given the name of “Nevsky”. However, according to Russian sources of 14th c. several descendants of the Prince were also called “Nevsky”.
The Victory on the Neva River strengthened the political influence of Alexander, but at the same time worsened his relations with the Boyars. As a result of collision with Boyars the Prince would soon have to leave Novgorod for Pereyaslavl-Zalessky. Right then the Livonian Knights invaded Novgorod lands. In the spring 1241 Alexander gathered a powerful army and drove out the invaders from Koporye and Vodsk land, and then forced the Livonian unit from Pskov. Novgorodians attacked the territory of Livonian Order and began to devastate its settlements. Soon Alexander and his men faced the Livonian heavy cavalry led by the master of the Order, which forced Alexander’s units to the border of the Livonian Order, on the Lake Peipus. On April 5 1242 took place a decisive battle on the ice of Peipus lake, which entered the history as the “Battle of the Ice”. The German army suffered a crushing defeat. The Livonian Order was forced to make peace, according to it the Crusaders refused from any claims on Russian lands, and also transferred a part of Latgalia to Russians. In the history of military art this victory assumed a great significance: Russian infantry surrounded and defeated knights’ horse cavalry and foot knechts’ regiments long before the infantry in Western Europe learnt how to rout knights’ cavalry. The victory in this battle put Alexander Nevsky into the row with the best military leaders of that time.
Later Alexander Nevsky continued to strengthen the northwestern borders of Rus. In 1251 he sent an embassy to Norway, and as a result, the first peace treaty between Russia and Norway was signed. Alexander also led his army to Finland and successfully routed the Swedes, who made another attempt to block the Baltic Sea from the Russians.
Alexander concentrated his efforts on consolidation of the authority of the Grand Prince in the country. His political course prevented from Tatars devastating invasions against Rus. Several times he himself traveled to the Golden Horde, and managed to exempt Russians from fighting beside the Tatar army in its wars with other peoples. In 1262 during disorders in Suzdal towns darughachis (baskaki) were killed and Tatar merchants were driven out. In order to propitiate the Tatar Khan, the Prince set off with gifts to the Horde. He stayed there for the whole winter and summer, and only in the autumn the Russian Prince had an opportunity to return back to Vladimir. Returning from the Golden Horde, the Great Prince Alexander fell ill and on November 14 1263 he died in the city of Gorodets. He was buried in the city of Vladimir at the Church of the Nativity of the Holy Mother of God.
In 1280 in Vladimir Alexander Nevsky was honored as a saint, and later he was officially canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church.
In 1724 the Emperor Peter the Great founded the Alexander Nevsky Lavra in St. Petersburg, where later he ordered to transport relics of the saint Prince Alexander Nevsky. On May 21 (June 1) 1725 the Empress Catherine I introduced the Imperial Order of St. Alexander Nevsky — one of the highest decorations in the Russian Empire.
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