Alexander Nevsky was one of the most powerful and influential political figures in 13th century Russia.
At the time, Russia was ravaged by the Golden Horde on one side, being effectively under the control of the Horde.
On the other side, Swedes and Germans were launching campaigns into Russia. Nevsky forged an alliance with the Horde and by essentially serving as their vassal, was able to defend Russia’s territorial integrity as well as its cultural identity. For this reason, Nevsky is also regarded as the most significant Russian hero.
Nevsky was eight years old when he was given as a hostage to the Golden Horde as part of the agreement between his older brother and the Horde. During his stay with the Horde, Nevsky became close to the ruling dynasty and forged lasting ties with it. He was eventually tasked with overlooking the Vladimir principality by the Horde. Later when Novgorod faced the threat of an invasion, it sought the help of Alexander Nevsky against the invaders.
In 1240, Swedes were advancing on Novgorod and other Russian territories. Alexander led an army and routed the Swedes, effectively blocking any invaders from the north of Rus. This was soon followed by a German threat to Novgorod in 1241 whereby Germans and Estonians advanced to invade the region. Alexander was summoned to defend the region once again. In the 1242 Battle of the Ice, he defeated the invaders successfully. The battle was a remarkable instance of medieval warfare in that Alexander was able to defeat the invaders who were mounted knights with a force that was primarily infantry.
By the time of the battles with the Germans and Swedes, Nevsky already enjoyed significant power and influence in Russia. He consolidated the security of the Russian territories in the North by forging ties with Norway and defeating Swedes in further conflicts. At the same time, he kept Russia aloof from overtures by the Catholic Church, a move that was considered vital in maintaining Russia’s east-oriented culture.
At the same time, he maintained close relations with the Golden Horde throughout his life. Defeating the Horde for a still-nascent Russia was virtually impossible, so the alliance helped Nevsky save Russia from any adventures and focused on consolidating the strength of Russian territories. He was finally elevated to the rank of Grand Prince of Vladimir, which was essentially the position of the ruler of Russia under the Horde.
Alexander Nevsky is considered a key figure in Russian history. He was vital in bringing together the scattered Russian territories under a consolidated control of a Russian and shielding them from any invaders. Due to his close alliance with the Horde, he was able to gain many favours for the Russians which in the long-term ultimately helped achieved the Russian autonomy. He was canonised as a saint in the 16th century and remained the most popular Russian hero.