Alexander Nevsky

(St. Alexander)

Picture and Hyperlink - New Nevsky monument.

Alexander Yaroslavich was born around 1220 at Pereslavl Zalessky (150km NE of Moscow) and was the second of three sons of Yaroslav Vsevolodovich, the devout orthodox Grand Prince of the medieval Russian state of Vladimir.

The noble family into which he was born contributed greatly to the fiefdom they controlled, with the local cathedral and monastery being well supported. A simple chapel was also connected to their lakeside home by a wooden arcade and this environment was destined to influence Alexander's path through life.


In 1236 when Alexander's father moved up the nation's hierarchy to become Grand Prince of Kiev, Alexander took over as Fief of Novgorod. This was in essence a military commission. From the relatively tender age of 16 yrs, he ruled over this feudal republic with a divine sense of fairness taken from his pious Christian roots and his daily reading of the Testaments.
Mongols invading this northern part of Russia caused him to combine fighting with ruling, yet he still managed to live a wholesome life and married the daughter of the Prince of Polotsk in 1239. However he sacrificed much of his time for the good of the people.
Alexander's direct reign over this troubled area lasted until 1252 when he succeeded his brother Andrew as Prince of Vladimir, although he continued to control justice in Novgorod through his son, Vassily. In 1255 Alexander took up arms again to quell a rebellion against Vassily.
It was particularly as an unselfish defender of the material and spiritual inheritance for his country and its people, that has rendered his name immortal, plus his victorious resistance to the Swedes, Lithuanians and Teutonic Knights. Also subsequently, when he became The Grand Prince, by establishing an acceptable modus vivendi with the Mongolian overlords.
His victorious battle against the invading Swedish army on the banks of the Neva river at its junction with the Izhora, earned him the nickname of Nevsky (meaning of the Neva), which became the name history remembers him by. Just over a year later in 1242 saw Nevsky gain greater fame in another battle, by leading the Russian army to victory against the invading steel clad German Teutons at Lake Chudskoye.
By his faith, Alexander disliked war and political unrest so he strove for collaboration with the mighty Mongols. The Tartars themselves were profoundly impressed by the conduct of a man who had become the Grand Prince of Russia and whose reputation went before him. He still had to use great diplomacy to dissuade these warlords to leave his country in peace.
It is recorded that moments before his demise in 1263 Alexander gave up his princely rank and donned the habit of a monk. In 1381 he was canonized by Cyprian, metropolitan of Kiev and All Russia. This coincided with his enhanced elevation to imperial favour when Dmitri Donskoy defeated the Tartars. This Prince of Moscow saw that the raising of his ancestor to the altars strengthened his own political prestige and power.

Five centuries after his death, following Peter the Great's own victory against the Swedes, Peter arranged for St. Alexander's remains to be transported to his new capital of St. Petersburg where they lie today, in the monastery that bears his name. Shortly after the death of Peter the Great in 1725, his wife Catherine I of Russia instituted the Order of Alexander Nevsky. Although abolished in 1917, it was revived by the Soviet government in 1942. During and after the Second World War Alexander Nevsky became a symbol of Russian resistance to German invasion. The Russian Orthodox Church financed an armoured division called 'Alexander Nevski'

A tribute immortalizing this remarkable man, is the new monument in the center of the traffic island at Ploschad Alexander Nevskogo, which is just outside the entrance to the Lavra where his remains are buried. This statue was unveiled in May 2002.

Recognition that Nevsky is Russia’s greatest ever hero comes in a poll conducted by one of its country’s biggest TV stations, Rossiya. Over 50 million people voted by text, phone, or on the Internet during a six month period and the result was announced in late December 2008.

Click on the image at the top of the page to see a photo of the new Nevsky monument.

A Nevsky icon
A Nevsky cameo
The first Alexander Nevsky medal, prior to 1816
The Order of Alexander Nevsky medal, as issued from 1942
Saint Alexander Nevsky icon
Icon medallion of Nevsky c1890
Order of Alexander Nevsky, prior to 1816
Later Order of Nevsky est. 1942


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