Battle of the Neva

Battle of the Neva
Part of Swedish-Novgorodian Wars

Alexander Nevsky Fighting the Swedes, by Boris Chorikov
Date15 July 1240
ResultNovgorodian victory
Novgorod Republic
Supported by:
People of Ladoga
Kingdom of Sweden
Supported by:
Commanders and leaders
Alexander NevskyBishop Thomas

The Battle of the Neva (Russian: Невская битва, Nevskaya bitva, Swedish: slaget vid Neva, Finnish: Nevan taistelu) was fought between the Novgorod Republic and Karelians against Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish and Tavastian armies on the Neva River, near the settlement of Ust-Izhora, on 15 July 1240.

The purpose of the invasion was probably to gain control over the mouth of the Neva and the city of Ladoga and, hence, seize the most important part of the trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks, which had been under Novgorod's control for more than a hundred years. The battle was part of the medieval Swedish-Novgorodian Wars and continuum to Finnish-Novgorodian wars.

Russian sources

The existence of the battle is only known from Russian sources. The first source to mention the battle is the Novgorod First Chronicle from the 14th century.[1] According to the chronicle, on receiving the news of the advancing Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish and Tavastian fleets, the 20-year-old Prince Alexander Yaroslavich of Novgorod quickly moved his small army and local men to face the enemy before they had reached Lake Ladoga. The chronicle described the battle as follows:

Battle of the Neva contributed to Alexander's later sainthood.

"Swedes came with a great army, and Norwegians and Finns and Tavastians with ships in great numbers, Swedes with their prince and bishops, and they stayed on the Neva, at the mouth of the Izhora, willing to take Ladoga, and to put it short, Novgorod and all of its lands. But still protected the merciful, man-loving God us and sheltered us from the foreign people, and the word came to Novgorod that Swedes were sailing to Ladoga; but prince Alexander did not hesitate at all, but went against them with Novgorodians and people of Ladoga and overcame them with the help of Saint Sophia and through prayers of our lady, the Mother of God and Virgin Mary, 15 July, in the memory of Kirik and Ulita, on Sunday, (the same day that) the 630 holy fathers[2] held a meeting in Chalcedon; and there was a great gathering of the Swedes; and their leader called Spiridon[3] was killed there; but some claimed that even the bishop was slain;[4] and a great number of them fell; and when they had loaded two ships with the bodies of high-born men, they let them sail to the sea; but the others, that were unnumbered, they cast to a pit, that they buried, and many others were wounded; and that same night they fled, without waiting for the Monday light, with shame. Of Novgorodians there fell: Konstantin Lugotinitch, Yuryata Pinyashchinich, Namest Drochilo, Nesdylov son of Kozhevnik, but including the people of Ladoga 20 men or less, God knows. But prince Alexander came back home with Novgorodians and people of Ladoga, all well, protected by God and Saint Sophia and all the prayers of the holy men."

A 16th-century version of the battle gave plenty of additional details, expanding the conflict to biblical proportions, but otherwise following the earlier described developments.[5]

Prince Alexander Yaroslavich was nicknamed "Nevsky" (of Neva) for his first significant victory. Two years later, Alexander stalled an invasion of the Livonian Knights during the Battle on the Ice. Despite the victories, there were no Novgorodian advances further west to Finland or Estonia.