Alexander | Prince Alexander Nevsky

  • Orthodox Remembrance Day: November 14, November 23, August 30
  • Name means: the soldier (from Greek)
  • Prince of Novgorod, Grand Duke of Kiev and Vladimir-Suzdal, miracle worker
  • Born around 1220 in Vladimir, Russia
  • Died on November 14, 1263 in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia

Alexander Nevsky was a legendary 13th century Russian prince who led his people to several military victories against foreign invaders, most notably the Teutonic Knights and the Lithuanians. Despite his successes, Alexander’s reign was not without turmoil, as he was expelled from his own city due to internal divisions among the people. However, he quickly returned when the Teutonic Knights took Pskov and threatened Novgorod. In an epic showdown on the frozen Lake Peipus, Alexander emerged victorious, securing Novgorod’s safety. He then went on to push back the Lithuanians in 1245.

In 1246, Alexander, along with the other Russian princes, was summoned to pay homage to the Tartar ruler in the Golden Horde, a Mongolian custom that required a specific pagan rite. Alexander, a devout Christian, refused to perform the rite, knowing that it could result in his death. Despite his defiance, he was spared from harm and even received the khan’s hospitality, impressing him with his courage and exploits. This loyalty to his faith would be tested again during his reign when he rejected attempts by the Catholic Church to convert the Orthodox Russians to the Roman faith.

In 1252, Andrew, Prince of Vladimir, rose against the Tartars and allied with Sweden, leading to a brutal retaliation against Russia. Alexander traveled to the Golden Horde and was able to prevent the worst of the violence, even buying back many prisoners with government money. For his efforts, he was given dominion over all of Russia, and he often returned to the khan to intercede on behalf of his people, who were struggling under a heavy tax burden.

Alexander faced another major threat in 1256 when the Swedes, Danes, Finns, and Teutonic Knights launched a crusade against him. Despite being vastly outnumbered, Alexander led his troops to victory, even occupying Finland. However, his victories came at a great cost, as he was forced to pay additional tribute payments to the Mongols, who were using Russians to fight their campaign against Persia. Exhausted and ill from his journey, Alexander died on November 14, 1263, on his way back from the Golden Horde. His relics were found intact in 1380, and in 1721 Peter the Great had them brought to Saint Petersburg, where they were placed in the main church of the Lavra and he was declared the patron saint of Russia.