Little Bits of History

April 5

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 5, 2017

1242: The Battle on the Ice takes place. The Novgorod Republic was a large kingdom in what is today parts of Finland and Russia. They were partnered with the Grand Duchy of Vladimir (now part of Russia) and the Pskov Republic, also part of Russia today. They were led by Alexander Nevsky, who at the time of the battle was just 20 years old. He was Prince of Novgorod and eventually also the Grand Prince of both Kiev and Vladimir. He is considered to be one of the key people of medieval Rus history and rose to legendary status due to his many military victories.

They were fighting against the Livonian Order of Teutonic Knights who were aligned with the Holy Roman Empire and the Catholic Church via the Pope. They were a religious order who wished to bring their faith to the pagans and Eastern Orthodox Christians. They were waging a crusade against these non-believers rather than taking their battle to the Muslims in the Holy Land. They were aided in their quest by the Bishopric of Dorpat and the Kingdom of Denmark. They were led by Hermann of Dorpat, a Prince-Bishop of his domain.

On this day, a battle was fought on Lake Peipus. The lake has a surface area (today) of 1,373 square miles and is the fifth largest lake in Europe. It is the largest transboundary lake in Europe and is part of the border between present-day Estonia and Russia. The lake’s average depth is 23 feet with a maximum depth of 50 feet. It was frozen over on this day and became the battleground for the confrontation, thus the name of the battle. Nevsky brought about 5,000 troops to battle against a force about half the size led by the Knights and Hermann. The battle was famous enough to make its way into both the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle, a history of Livonia (modern Estonia and Latvia) covering over 150 years and the Novgorod First Chronicle, a history of Novgorod covering over 450 years.

The Novgorod forces were victorious. Although it is unknown how many were lost, the Livonians recorded 20 knights killed and 6 captured while the Novgorod reported 400 Germans (westerners) killed and “countless” Estonians killed. The victory was so decisive the Crusaders opted to end their campaigns against the Orthodox Novgorod Republic as well as other Slavic territories for the next 100 years. This halt of Teutonic forces established the divide between Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Catholicism at the Narva River and Lake Peipus. Alexander Nevsky was canonized a saint by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1574.

The Strength of a sword is measured by the arm that wields it!

We have a saying: it’s better to die for your country than to leave it.

If you can’t fight on foreign soil, you have no right to fight on your own!

I haven’t come to Novgorod as a lover, but as a military commander! – all from Alexander Nevsky, in the movie of the same name

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