The Battle of the Neva

15 July 1240

On July 15, 1240 at the confluence of Izhora and Neva rivers took place a battle between Novgorod volunteer corps under the commandment of Prince Alexander Yaroslavich and Swedish army.

In the summer of 1240 on the Neva, at the mouth of Izhora River, appeared the ships of Swedish troops which included Swedes, Norwegians, representatives of Finnish tribes, all commanded by duke Birger jarl. Seizure of Neva River mouth and the town of Ladoga opened the access to the governance over the most important part of the trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks. Having disembarked, the Swedes and their allies set their tents and marquees at the confluence of Izahora and Neva.

Having received the news on the enemy’s apparition, Novgorod Prince Alexander Yaroslavich decided to take a sudden attack against him. There was no time for gathering an army, so Alexander did now wait for the armed forces sent by his father Yaroslav and for warriors from Novgorod lands. He chose to take field against Swedes with his own armed force, having strengthened it only by Novgorod volunteer troops.

Before the campaign the warriors gathered in front of St. Sophia cathedral according to custom, where they were blessed by archbishop Spiridon. Then Alexander came in front of his small force and said: “There are not many of us here, the enemy is strong, but the God is not with force, He is with truth, so follow your Prince”.

Thus, after the blessing, the Russian armed force took field. A young prince directed his force down the Volkhov River toward the Lake of Ladoga where he was joined by a force of Ladoga citizens.

The Swedish camp, set up at Izhora mouth, was not guarded because the Swedes had no idea about the approaching Russian army. On July 15 at 11 a.m. Novgorod people attacked suddenly the Swedes. A stubborn struggle lasted until night. Russian cavalry pounced upon the center of the Swedish camp while the infantry attacked the flank situated along the bank and seized three ships. During the battle it was the force of Alexander which took up the initiative. Prince himself, according to chronicles, “left a seal on the face of Birger”. The rest of the defeated Swedish army ran away on the survived ships. Novgorod people lost only 20 men.

After the battle Prince Alexander Yaroslavich was named Nevsky for his generalship and courage. 

The victory in the Battle of the Neva had a great military and political meaning. Russian army did not let Swedes to cut Novgorod off the sea and occupy the banks of Neva and the Gulf of Finland. Having repulsed the Swedish attack from North, the Russian army prevented possible cooperation of Swedish and German conquerors.

Lit.: Кирпичников А. Н. Две великих битвы Александра Невского // Александр Невский и история России. Материалы научно-практической конференции. Новгород, 1996; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL: http://www.bibliotekar.ru/rusNevskiy/2.htm; Кирпичников А. Н. Невская битва 1240 года и её тактические особенности // Князь Александр Невский и его эпоха. Исследования и материалы. СПб., 1995. С. 24—30; Повесть о житии и о храбрости благоверного и великого князя Александра // Памятники литературы Древней Руси. XIII век. М., 1981. С. 426—439; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL: http://hronos.km.ru/dokum/nevski_zh.html.

Based on the Presidential Library’s materials:

Alexander Nevsky (1221–1263): [digital collection];

Information technologies and church: ‘Alexander Nevsky, the national ideal of Russia // News. 12 September;

Society and Church: Relics of Alexander Nevsky will be transferred from Russia to Serbia and Montenegro // News. 24 March;

The united Russian army wins the Battle of Rakovor // On this day. 18 February 1268;

770 years ago took place the Battle on Lake Peipus (Battle of the Ice) // On this day. 5 April 1242;

The Order of St. Alexander Nevsky established // On this day. 1 June 1725/