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Alexander Nevsky is a truly legendary figure. 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, he was born a year later. It is known that from an early age, Alexander was prepared for reign. The boy was taught writing, counting, military affairs. In 1233, after the death of his brother Theodore, Alexander became the senior heir. And in 1236 he took the title of Prince of Veliky Novgorod.
Alexander Nevsky went down in history as the defender of the Russian land. He successfully fought with the Swedes, remembered for the Battle of the Neva and the Battle of the Ice. The prince was forced to engage in diplomacy, serving the Mongol-Tatars. In those years, Lithuania also encroached upon Russia. It is believed that the prince did not lose a single battle, defending himself against powerful enemies. The canonical image has always been supported by the tsarist authorities, and by the Soviet and Orthodox churches.
However, today historians gradually come to the conclusion that the image of Alexander is not so unambiguous. What he really was, we will try to understand by analyzing the main myths about Alexander Nevsky.
The prince betrayed Russia to the Tatars. This myth deprives the historical hero of his traditional patriotism. How could the defender of Russia cooperate with the Tatars? In fact, Alexander Nevsky was far from the first Russian prince and not the last who was forced to cooperate with them in order to strengthen his power. In the late 1240s, Mongol-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 keep peace in his native lands. And the confrontation with strong Catholic countries demanded a powerful ally, which was Batu Khan. Prince Alexander had to engage in delicate diplomacy, negotiating simultaneously with the Horde and with the wayward cities of Novgorod and Pskov. But this was the only way to subjugate the northwestern lands of Russia, securing the Motherland from the invasion of the invaders-Swedes and Germans. Thanks to the authoritative support of Batu, order reigned within the very ancient Russian state.
There are no traces of Alexander Nevsky's victories in Western history. Historians try to belittle the role of the prince, claiming that for Western Europe all his victories were insignificant. Allegedly, Catholic countries did not threaten Russia especially seriously, so his successes are exaggerated. The historian Danilevsky, citing the Swedish "Chronicle of Eric" as a source, notes that the Battle of the Neva is not described there at all. But this document described everything that happened in the region in the XIII century. But the best Russian scientist in the field of the history of the Baltic region, Igor Shaskolsky, debunks this myth. He argues that in medieval Sweden until the XIV century there was no history at all in the form in which it was present in Russian annals or Western European chronicles. Alexander Nevsky successfully fought against Lithuanian, Swedish and German feudal lords. So, in 1245, the Novgorod army under his command defeated the Lithuanian prince Mindovga, who attacked Torzhok and Bezhetsk. Already with the forces of his retinue, the prince chased the remnants of the enemy army, and at Usvyat he defeated another detachment of Lithuanians. According to the available data, Alexander Nevsky carried out 12 military operations without suffering a single defeat.
The Battle on the Ice was a petty battle. In the "Elder Livonian Rhymed Chronicle" only 20 knights who died during the legendary battle are said. This allowed the myth of the minor scale of the battle to be born. But historians note that the chronicle does not take into account losses among Danish mercenaries, Baltic tribes, and militias. All of them took part in the battle, and the latter so generally constituted the basis of the army. So the scale of the battle on Lake Peipsi was still rather big.
The Battle of the Neva and the Battle of the Ice were significant battles for the history of Russia. In 1240, a battle took place on the Neva River, where the Swedes confronted Alexander Yaroslavovich. For this victory, the prince received his nickname. It seems that this battle was supposed to be grandiose and noted in the chronicles. In fact, only two sources mention him - the Laurentian and Novgorod Chronicles. It is said that two enemy ships were destroyed, while the 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 found only in passing, he does not look like a hero. The life of the saint later retold that story, adding details to it. Even in those years, the Swedes were plunged into internecine wars, they were clearly not up to a large-scale invasion. Most likely, the "great" battles were border skirmishes, which Prince Alexander himself exaggerated for the sake of his political weight.
Alexander Nevsky was not involved in the overthrow of his brother. In 1252, Batu sent a punitive detachment under the command of Nevryu to overthrow the Vladimir prince Andrei Yaroslavovich, brother of Alexander Nevsky. There is a widespread point of view that Andrei Yaroslavovich refused to go to the Horde, but there is no evidence that there was such a challenge. But there are stories about Alexander's trip to the Don to see Batu's son, Sartak. Allegedly, the prince complained about his brother, who took the place of the grand duke contrary to his father's will and paid tribute poorly. It is believed that the Tatars, who are not particularly versed in the intricacies of the intrigues of the Russian rulers, could not independently decide to expel the influential Prince Andrei Yaroslavovich. It is believed that Alexander Nevsky himself was Nevryuem, because the Neva sounded in common Mongolian, like Nevra. In addition, the name of the enigmatic commander-punisher is not found anywhere else in history. In 1255, the son of Alexander Nevsky, Vasily, was expelled from Novgorod. His uncle, Yaroslav Yaroslavovich, took his place. Historians consider this event not accidental. The brother of Alexander Nevsky could tell the Novgorodians the whole truth about the usurpation of power. It is no coincidence that the "Novgorod First Chronicle" refers to the crime of the cross of Alexander Nevsky.
Alexander Nevsky fiercely 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 indirectly confirmed by the "Novgorod First Chronicle". It can be read there that Alexander treated the bishops with respect and listened to them. But not everyone agrees with this point of view. It is quite reasonable to ask why Alexander Nevsky did not unite with Christian Catholics against the horde, preferring friendship with an ideologically alien East over an alliance with the West? The annals say that in 1246 Alexander was going to go to Batu, asking for the blessing 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 statement about the defender of the faith, it is worth mentioning the fact that under the Tatars in Russia new churches were massively built, while the Catholics destroyed any manifestations of Orthodoxy.
Alexander Nevsky was constantly at enmity with the West. The chronicles contain many stories about the battles of the prince with the Swedes, Teutons, Lithuanians and Livonians. But Alexander Nevsky's foreign policy consisted not only of constant enmity with the West. He constantly tried to find a compromise in difficult relations with neighbors. In fact, Alexander Nevsky signed several peace treaties with the West. So, in 1253 he made peace with the Germans, and in 1262 not only peace was signed with Lithuania, but also a trade agreement. Thanks to Alexander Nevsky, peace has finally come to the west of Russia. True, these peace treaties were not easy for the prince. The Teutons did not like the rapprochement between Russia and Norway. Peace negotiations could have been disrupted in 1253, but then Alexander's army defeated the crusaders near Narva. But in 1254, the "Delimitation Letter" saw the light, which was the result of the rapprochement of Norway and Russia.
Friendship of the prince with the East became the basis for future despotism, so Russia turned to the Asian path of development. As already mentioned, all Russian princes were forced to be friends with the Horde. Alexander Nevsky followed the natural and only correct path from the point of view of preserving the state. And Russia never became an Asian country either. This can already be said with certainty, looking back. The destiny of our country is to be equally European and Asian. And Orthodoxy is equidistant from Catholicism, Islam and Buddhism.
Alexander Nevsky was Batu's adopted son and named brother of his son Sartak. If Alexander was really born in 1220, then at the time of his journey to the Horde he was 18 years old. But the Mongolian rite of fraternization involves cutting the hands, mixing blood with kumis and drinking a drink together. Such a procedure is carried out only in childhood or adolescence, and 16 years was considered already the age of an adult man. And according to other sources "fraternization" took place in general in 1251. And Sartak himself was born around 1229, taking into account the year of birth of his father, Batu, in 1209.
Alexander Nevsky defended Russia from the Tatars. The second half of the life of Alexander Nevsky was marked by a strong cooperation with the Tatars. They helped him maintain power by brutally suppressing uprisings and collecting tribute. Thanks to the Mongols, in 1252 Alexander received a label for a grand duke in Vladimir, overthrowing his brother Andrew. In 1257, together with the invaders, Nevsky came to Suzdal, organizing a poll census and ruthlessly destroying the rebels. And the next 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 educational at all, but to find out exactly how much rent must be paid. In 1259, the city was even surrounded by the Tatars with the help of Alexander Nevsky. And in 1262, the invaders suppressed by force the riot in Suzdal, which arose out of dissatisfaction with the collection of tribute. Personally, Alexander Nevsky suppressed riots in Rostov, Vladimir, Yaroslavl.
Alexander Nevsky died a natural death. In 1262, the rebels killed the Tatar tribute collectors. Then the enraged Khan Berke demanded that a military recruitment be carried out in Russia, preparing for the next war. Alexander Nevsky went to the Horde to appease the ruler. But there the prince fell ill and died in 1263, being originally buried in Vladimir. However, there is an interesting analogy. In 1246, returning from the Horde, the Great Vladimir Prince Yaroslav Vsevolodovich died. Historians today 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, another prince, Vasily Yaroslavovich, died. A series of such cases suggests the idea 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, a prince killed in this way cannot be declared a saint.