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Alexander of Neva (1220?–1263)

  1. Kyle Hofmeister

Published Online: 25 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470670606.wbecc0024

The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

How to Cite

Hofmeister, K. 2011. Alexander of Neva (1220?–1263). The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 NOV 2011


Alexander Yaroslavich Nevsky was a Russian ruler and an Eastern Orthodox saint, remembered by the Russian people for his military accomplishments and diplomacy, and by the Orthodox Church as a pious Christian ruler. Born in Pereiaslavl-Zaleski, Russia, to Prince Yaroslav, Alexander Nevsky became the Prince of Novgorod in 1236 and then the Grand Prince of Suzdal-Vladimir in 1252. As the young Prince of Novgorod, Alexander achieved great repute by successfully defending the city against the threat of invasion from the west by the Swedes, who had set up camp on the banks of the Neva River. It is from this victory that Alexander received his epithet, “Nevsky” or “of the Neva.” In 1242, he once again defended Novgorod from invaders from the west by defeating the army of the knights of the Teutonic Order on the frozen Lake Peipus, which Russian tradition remembers as a brilliant success, though this may be somewhat exaggerated. Alexander's rise to the ruling throne of medieval Russia occurred near the beginning of a 200-year Mongol/Tartar occupation. In 1252, the Khan's army marched on the city of Vladimir in response to a threat of opposition from Grand Prince Andrei (Alexander's older brother), who was seeking alliance from the European states in order to stage a resistance. After the initial defeat of Andrei, Alexander traveled to the Golden Horde in hopes of preventing further military action on Vladimir, and upon his arrival, Alexander was appointed Grand Prince. During his tenure as Grand Prince, the natives of several Russian cities revolted against the Mongol tax collectors and census takers. But Alexander, refusing to solicit help from the western European powers whom he saw threatening the Orthodox Church, opposed these uprisings in favor of compliance with the occupancy. The decision to accommodate the Mongol regime was unenthusiastically received by the people of his day. However, Alexander's diplomacy with the Golden Horde is remembered with great reverence by the Orthodox Church, whose autonomy was tolerated under the “Mongol yoke,” while alliance with the Swedes and Teutonic knights of the Catholic West would likely have resulted in assimilation to Rome. On November 14, 1263, returning from a final diplomatic mission to the Mongol horde, Alexander Nevsky died in the town of Gorodets, after taking the monastic schema under the name Alexei.


  • Alexander of Neva (1220?–1263);
  • Russian ruler, Eastern Orthodox saint;
  • “Nevsky” or “of the Neva”;
  • “Mongol yoke”;
  • Alexander's policy of alliance, the Golden Horde;
  • standard, for later princes of Russia