Saint Alexander Nevsky (Алекса́ндр Яросла́вич Не́вский in Russian; transliteration: Aleksandr Yaroslavich Nevskij) (30 May 1220 – 14 November 1263) was the Grand Prince of Novgorod and Vladimir during some of the most trying times in the city's history. Commonly regarded as the key figure of medieval Rus, Alexander was the grandson of Vsevolod the Big Nest and rose to legendary status on account of his military victories over the German and Swedish invaders while employing collaborationist policies towards the powerful Golden Horde.
From Tales of the Life and Courage of the Pious and Great Prince Alexander found in the Second Pskovian Chronicle, circa 1260–1280, comes one of the first known references to the Great Prince:
"By the will of God, prince Alexander was born from the charitable, people-loving, and meek the Great Prince Yaroslav, and his mother was Theodosia. As it was told by the prophet Isaiah: 'Thus sayeth the Lord: I appoint the princes because they are sacred and I direct them.' "... He was taller than others and his voice reached the people as a trumpet, and his face was like the face of Joseph, whom the Egyptian Pharaoh placed as next to the king after him of Egypt. His power was a part of the power of Samson and God gave him the wisdom of Solomon ... this Prince Alexander: he used to defeat but was never defeated ..."
Born in Pereslavl-Zalessky, Alexander was the fourth son of Prince Yaroslav Vsevolodovich and seemed to have no chance of claiming the throne of Vladimir. In 1236, however, he was summoned by the Novgorodians to become kniaz' (or prince) of Novgord and, as their military leader, to defend their northwest lands from Swedish and German invaders. After the Swedish army had landed at the confluence of the rivers Izhora and Neva, Alexander and his small army suddenly attacked the Swedes on 15 July 1240 and defeated them. The Neva battle of 1240 saved Rus' from a full-scale enemy invasion from the North. Because of this battle, 19-year-old Alexander was given the name of "Nevsky" (which means of Neva). This victory, coming just a year after the disastrous Mongol invasion of Rus, strengthened Nevsky’s political influence, but at the same time it worsened his relations with the boyars. He would soon have to leave Novgorod because of this conflict.
After Pskov had been invaded by the crusading Livonian Knights, the Novgorod authorities sent for Alexander. In spring of 1241 he returned from his exile, gathered an army, and drove out the invaders. Alexander and his men faced the Livonian heavy cavalry led by the master of the Order, Hermann, brother of Albert of Buxhoeveden. Nevsky faced the enemy on the ice of the Lake Peipus and defeated the Livonian branch of the Teutonic Knights during the Battle of the Ice on 5 April 1242.
Alexander’s victory was a significant event in the history of the Middle Ages. Foot soldiers of Novgorod had surrounded and defeated an army of knights, mounted on horseback and clad in thick armour, long before Western Europeans learned how foot soldiers could prevail over mounted knights. Nevsky's great victory against the Livonian Brothers apparently involved only a few knights killed rather than hundreds claimed by the Russian chroniclers; decisive medieval and early modern battles were won and lost by smaller margins than is seen in contemporary conflicts. Strategic considerations aside, Alexander's victory was an important milestone in the development of Muscovite Russia.
Image & text:wikipedia.com
Prokofiev wrote a marvelous score for the 1938 Eisensten film "ALEXANDER NEVSKY." It is frequently performed as a stand-alone Choral/Orchestral Cantata. It is a thrilling, significant, and powerful piece of music.