Alexander Nevsky was one of Medieval Russia's great national heroes, a Prince who fought for the republic of Novgorod, defending Orthodox Russia against attacks from the Catholic west, mainly in the shape of the Teutonic Knights. At the same time he allied himself with the Mongols, who were far too powerful to take on directly, and also not a direct threat to the Orthodox way of life.
The issue begins with an overview of Alexander's life and the unusual organisation of the Republic of Novgorod (in the north-west of modern Russia).
We then move on to the earliest source for his life, which is found in the Second Pskovian Chronicle. This takes the form of the life of a saint, but with more military and political detail than you would get in most of those. This article looks at the nature of Russian historical writing, and how the life of Alexander fits into that tradition.
Next comes a look at the fortified communities of Medieval Russia, the 'gorods'. This includes an interesting section on how archaeological remains can be misleading. Many of these structures were once believed to consist of a bank and ditch, with a wooden frame within the bank. More recent research suggests that these were actually wooden walls filled with earth. When the wooden structure was destroyed by fire the earth collapsed to form a bank, which also protected the lower part of the wooden walls from the fire.
We then move onto the short-lived Livonian Sword Brother, one of the least disciplined and least effective crusading orders, following them from their formation to their virtual destruction in battle, takeover by the Teutonic Knights and the defeat of the survivors by Alexander.
Next comes a look at that battle - the Battle of Lake Peipus, fought on a frozen lake. This saw Alexander Nevsky defeat a rather badly led army of the Teutonic Knights, which included most of the surviving Sword Brothers, destroying what was left of their power within the order.
Finally on the main theme we look at events after the death of Alexander, when internal warfare threatened Novgorod, ending with the drawn battle of Wesenberg, another clash between the Teutonic Knights and their Russian neighbours.
Away from the main theme we have an interesting article on Saladin's differing attitudes to prisoners, the drawn battle of Montlhéry of 1465, fought between Louis XI of France and an army led by the future Charles the Bold of Burgundy, and finally an examination of the 7th century poem Y Gododdin and its value for military history.
Controversial Hero: The reign of Alexander Nevsky
Prince amongst princes: The Second Pskovian Chronicle
Country of 'gorods': Russian medieval fortresses
Riga's iron fist: The Livonian Sword Brethren
The Teutonic Order kept at bay: The Battle of Lake Peipus
After Alexander: The Battle of Wesenberg
Hangmen or gentlemen?: Saladin's Christian hostages and prisoners
Claiming victory: The battle of Montlhéry
Y Gododdin: Poetry and warfare in early medieval Britain
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