Alexander Nevsky is remembered as a hero for protecting medieval Russia from invaders and negotiating with the Golden Horde.
Alexander Nevsky, also known as Alexander of the Neva and Alexander of Novgorod, was a 13th century grand prince known for military acumen and skills of negotiation.
Alexander Nevsky’s Rise to Prominence
Alexander Nevsky, as grand prince of Novgorod, made a name for himself by protecting the Russian city of Novgorod from attack. He successfully fended of the Teutonic Knights, who were bent on spreading Catholic Christianity. The grand prince gained his nickname “Nevsky” when he fought off another invading army – the Swedes – by attacking them as they landed on the banks of the Neva River in 1240.
The Golden Horde’s Respect for Alexander Nevsky
Alexander Nevsky was known to the Mongols as a great military leader even before he encountered them. He visited the the Mongols both in Sarai and Mongolia and was admired by the khan Batu. It was through talks with the Golden Horde that Alexander Nevsky prevented a Mongol raid on Novgorod. He convinced the people that resistance would only lead to bloodshed and paid tribute without complaint. He even threatened Novgorod itself with attack when it once refused to pay tribute; cooperation with the Mongols was imperative in order to keep the city from being sacked.
Alexander Nevsky’s Death
Alexander Nevsky spent his years as Grand Prince of Novgorod, then as Grand Prince of Vladimir, keeping the peace in Russia and protecting it from invading forces including Germans, Swedes, Finns, and Lithuanians. He visited the Golden Horde regularly, and it was on the return journey from one of these visits that Alexander Nevsky died at age 43. Historians chalk his death up to exhaustion from intervening on behalf of others who resisted invaders. His desire to prevent bloodshed and destruction of property, along with military know-how and political prowess, has made him a legend in Russia. When he died, the Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church announced that “the sun of Russia has set.”
The Legacy of Alexander Nevsky
Alexander Nevsky preceded the rise of Moscow. His youngest son, Daniel, inherited it. Then Moscow was hardly on the map, but it gradually grew in importance. The Metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox church moved his seat to Moscow, and Moscow became Russia’s holy city. Because the Golden Horde did not require the Church to pay tribute (religious leaders had only to pray for the khan), the Church was able to thrive despite the fact that the Russian princes acted as vassals of the khan.