Alexander Nevsky – a figure truly legendary. Alexander was the second son of Prince Yaroslav Vsevolodovich, the ruler of Vladimir. Most often, the year of birth of the future legend is called 1220, according to other sources it was born a year later. It is known that from the early years of Alexander was preparing for the reign. The boy was taught a letter, an account, a military case. In 1233, after the death of his brother Fyodor, Alexander became a senior heir. And from 1236 he took the title of Prince Veliky Novgorod.
In history, Alexander Nevsky entered, as the defender of the Russian land. He successfully fought with the Swedes, remembering the Battle of Neva and the Battle of Ice. The prince was forced to engage in diplomacy, serving Mongol-Tatars. In those years, Lithuania also attempted against Russia. It is believed that the prince did not lose a single battle, defending himself against powerful enemies. The canonical image was always supported by the tsarist government, the Soviet and the Orthodox Church.
However, today historians are gradually coming to the fact that the image of Alexander is not so unambiguous. There are many contradictions in his biography, we are presented with beautiful legends and myths about him, which sometimes do not have any relation to reality. In some chronicles, Alexander Nevsky appears as an ambitious and cruel man. Gumilev also describes the prince as a true creator of the Russian-Horde Union. What it was in reality, we will try to understand, having analyzed the basic myths about Alexander Nevsky.
Prince sent Russia to the Tatars.
This myth deprives the historical hero of his traditional patriotism. How could a defender of Russia cooperate with the Tatars? In fact, Alexander Nevsky was by no means the first Russian prince and not the last, who had to cooperate with them to strengthen his power. In the late 1240’s Mongolian-Tatar troops reached the borders of Western Europe. Prince Alexander Yaroslavovich could try to resist the hordes of conquerors and doom Russia to ruin or save the world in their native lands. Yes, and confrontation with strong Catholic countries required a powerful ally, which became Khan Baty. Prince Alexander had to engage in fine diplomacy, agreeing at the same time with the Horde, and with the capricious cities of Novgorod and Pskov. But only this way it was possible to subjugate the northwestern lands of Russia, protecting the homeland from the invasion of the invaders-Swedes and Germans. Thanks to the authoritative support of Batu, and within the most ancient Russian state, order reigned.
There are no traces of Alexander Nevsky’s victories in Western history.
Historians try to belittle the role of the prince, stating that for Western Europe all his victories were insignificant. Allegedly, the Catholic countries did not seriously threaten Russia, so its successes are exaggerated. Historian Danilevsky, pointing out the Swedish “Eric’s Chronicle” as a source, notes that the Nevskaya battle is not described there at all. But this document described everything that is happening in the region in the 13th century. But the best Russian scientist in the history of the Baltic region, Igor Shaskolsky, discredits this myth. He argues that in medieval Sweden until the XIV century there was no history in the form in which it was present in Russian annals or Western European chronicles. Against Lithuanian, Swedish and German feudal lords Alexander Nevsky successfully fought. Thus, in 1245 the Novgorod army under his command won the Lithuanian prince Mindovgu, who attacked Torzhok and Bezhetsk. Already with the strength of his squad the prince chased after the remnants of enemy troops, and under Usvyatom defeated another detachment of Lithuanians. According to the reports, Alexander Nevsky conducted 12 military operations without suffering a single defeat.
The battle of the ice was a shallow battle.
In the “Older Livonian Rhymed Chronicle” it is said only about 20 dead in the course of the legendary battle of knights. This allowed birth of a myth about the small scale of the battle. But historians note that the chronicle does not take into account losses among Danish mercenaries, Baltic tribes, militiamen.All of them participated in the battle, and the latter in general formed the basis of the army. So the scale of the battle on Lake Peipsi was nevertheless rather big.
The Battle of Neva and the Battle of the Ice were significant for the history of Russia battles.
In 1240 a battle took place on the Neva River, where the Swedes confronted Alexander Yaroslavovich. For this victory the prince also received his nickname. It seems that this battle was to be grandiose and noted in the chronicles. In fact, only two sources are mentioned about it – the Laurentian and Novgorod Chronicles. It is said that two enemy ships were destroyed, while Russian soldiers themselves killed 20 people. In the Norwegian and Swedish chronicles, there is no mention of the battle at all. For contemporaries, the Battle of the Ice was an even less significant event than the Battle of the Neva. At the same time in the annals the name of Alexander Nevsky is met only briefly, he does not look like a hero. The life of the saint later retold that history, supplementing it with details. And in those years, the Swedes were immersed in internecine wars, they were clearly not up to a massive invasion. Most likely, the “great” battles were borderline skirmishes, which Prince Alexander himself exaggerated for his political weight.
Alexander Nevsky is not involved in the overthrow of his brother.
In 1252, Batu sent a punitive detachment under the command of Nevryuya to overthrow the Vladimir prince Andrei Yaroslavovich, brother of Alexander Nevsky. A widespread view is that Andrei Yaroslavovich refused to go to the Horde, but there is no evidence that such a challenge was. But there are stories about Alexander’s trip to the Don to the son of Batu, Sartak. Ostensibly the prince complained about his brother, who took the place of the Grand Duke in defiance of his father’s will and badly paid tribute. It is believed that the Tatars, not particularly versed in the intricacies of intrigues of Russian rulers, could not independently decide on the expulsion of the influential Prince Andrei Yaroslavovich. There is an opinion that Nevryu was himself Alexander Nevsky, because the Neva sounded on the common-Mongolian, like Nev. In addition, the name of the mysterious warlord-punisher is nowhere else found in history. In 1255 the son of Alexander Nevsky, Vasily, was expelled from Novgorod. In his place came his uncle, Yaroslav Yaroslavovich. Historians believe this event is not accidental. Brother Alexander Nevsky could tell the Novgorodians the whole truth about the usurpation of power. It is no coincidence in the “Novgorod First Chronicle” refers to the cross-crime of Alexander Nevsky.
Alexander Nevsky furiously defended Orthodoxy.
In the modern view, the prince acts as a defender of the faith, who did not allow the destruction of Orthodoxy in Russia. This is confirmed indirectly by the “Novgorod First Chronicle”. There you can read that Alexander respected the bishops, listened to them. But not everyone agrees with this point of view. Quite reasonably asked are questions why Alexander Nevsky did not unite with Catholic Christians against the horde, preferring an alliance with the West to a friendship with an ideologically alien East? In the annals it is said that in 1246 Alexander was going to go to Batu, asking for the blessings of the church. However, historians believe that the Novgorod prince could not receive such a blessing from his archbishop Spiridon, who did not approve of friendship with the Tatars. Then Alexander was forced to go to the Rostov bishop Kirill, who was friends with his father Yaroslav. In defense of the claim about the defender of the faith, it is worth mentioning the fact that with Tatars in Russia new churches were massively built, while Catholics destroyed any manifestations of Orthodoxy.
Alexander Nevsky was constantly at odds with the West.
In the annals there are many stories about the prince’s battles with the Swedes, the Teutons, Lithuanians and Livonians. But Alexander Nevsky’s foreign policy consisted not only in constant hostility with the West. He constantly tried to find a compromise in complex relations with neighbors. In fact, Alexander Nevsky signed several peace treaties with the West.So, in 1253 he reconciled with the Germans, and in 1262 with Lithuania was not only signed the peace, but also an agreement on trade. Thanks to Alexander Nevsky in the west of Russia finally came calm. True, these peace treaties were given to the prince not easily. The Teutons did not like the rapprochement of Russia with Norway. Peace negotiations could be disrupted in 1253, but then the army of Alexander defeated the crusaders near Narva. But in 1254 the world saw the “Distinctive Letter”, which was the result of the rapprochement between Norway and Russia.
Prince’s friendship with the East became the basis for future despotism, so Russia turned to the Asian way of development.
As already mentioned, all the Russian princes were compelled to be friends with the Horde. Alexander Nevsky was following the natural and the only way from the point of view of preserving the state. And Russia has never become an Asian country. This can already be said with confidence, looking back. The fate of our country is to be equally European and Asian. And Orthodoxy is equidistant from Catholicism, from Islam and from Buddhism.
Alexander Nevsky was the adopted son of Batu and the named brother of his son Sartak.
If Alexander was born in 1220, at the time of his trip to the Horde he was 18 years old. But the Mongolian ritual of fraternization implies the incision of hands, the mixing of blood with koumiss and the joint drinking of the drink. This procedure is carried out only in childhood or adolescence, and 16 years was considered to be the age of an adult male. And according to other sources, “fraternization” occurred in general in 1251. And Sartak himself was born approximately in 1229, taking into account the year of his father’s birth, Batu, in 1209.
Alexander Nevsky defended Russia from the Tatars.
The second half of Alexander Nevsky’s life was marked by lasting cooperation with the Tatars. They helped him to retain power, severely suppressing uprisings and collecting tribute. Thanks to the Mongols, in 1252 Alexander received a label for the grand duke in Vladimir, having overthrown his brother Andrew. In 1257, together with the invaders, Nevsky came to Suzdal, having arranged a cushion census and ruthlessly destroying the rebels. And the following year, the prince tried in a similar way to make a census in Novgorod, which caused a riot. The essence of the census was not enlightening at all, but to find out exactly how much payment should be paid. In 1259 the city was even surrounded by Tatars with the help of Alexander Nevsky. And in 1262 the invaders suppressed a revolt in Suzdal, which arose on the basis of discontent with the collection of tribute. Personally, Alexander Nevsky suppressed riots in Rostov, Vladimir, Yaroslavl.
Alexander Nevsky died his death.
In 1262 rebels killed Tatar tribe collectors. Then the furious Khan Berke demanded to conduct a military recruitment in Russia, preparing for another war. Alexander Nevsky went to the Horde to appease the ruler. But there the prince fell ill and died in 1263, having been buried from the very beginning in Vladimir. However, there is an interesting analogy. In 1246, returning from the Horde, the Great Vladimir Prince Yaroslav Vsevolodovich died. Today, historians have no doubt that he was poisoned. In 1271 a similar fate awaited another prince Vladimir, Yaroslav Yaroslavovich. And in 1276, on the way from the Horde, the next prince died, Vasily Yaroslavovich. The sequence of such cases leads to the thought of poisoning. Most likely, the Tatars implicitly dealt with the guilty Russian rulers. And the fact of poisoning is hushed up because according to the canons of the Russian Orthodox Church the prince thus killed can not be declared a saint.