Alexander Yaroslavich Nevsky – Grand Prince
Alexander Yaroslavich was prince of Novgorod, grand prince of Vladimir, grand prince of Kiev, and progenitor of the princes of Moscow. He was named Nevsky, after his victory over the Swedes on the Neva in 1240. He made his mark in history as one of Russia’s best-known Christian military commanders.
Alexander Yaroslavich was born on May 30, 1220. He was the grandson of Vsevolod Yurevich Big Nest and son of Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise. Between the years 1228 and 1233 he and his elder brother, Fyodor, ruled Novgorod. In 1233 Fyodor died and Alexander’s younger brother Andrei helped him to expand Novgorod’s lands.
In 1236 he became prince of Novgorod and in 1239 he married Polotsk Princess Alexandra Bryachislavna.
In 1240 the Swedes marched against Novgorod, Alexander and a small force confronted the enemy at the river Neva and defeated them. A year later the Germans seized Pskov and threatened Novgorod’s commerce. On April 5, 1242, Alexander defeated them in the famous “battle on the ice” on the frozen Lake Chud. As a result, the Knights and the Novgorodians concluded peace the next year.
Nevsky’s father died in 1246. Three years later, in 1249, Alexander became the grand prince of Kiev and of all Rus.
In 1252, his brother Andrei rebelled against the Golden Horde and the khan sent a punitive force against him. The Tatars drove him out of Vladimir. Nevsky was a subservient vassal and the khan let him centralize his control over the other towns of Suzdalia.
In 1262 Nevsky fell ill and died at Gorodets on the Volga on November 14, 1263.
The church canonized him during the reign of Tsar Ivan IV (the Terrible). In 1724 Peter I founded a monastery in St. Petersburg in honor of his great compatriot (now the Alexander Nevsky Lavra).
In 1725 Empress Catherine I established the Order of Alexander Nevsky – one of the highest awards of Russia that existed until 1917.
During the Great Patriotic War in 1942 the Soviet Order of Alexander Nevsky was established, which was awarded to commanders who showed personal courage and ensured the successful actions of their units.