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The Battle on the Ice 1242 AD

The Battle on the Ice 1242 AD


This video is sponsored by Vikings: War of Clans. If you loved the top PC strategy games of the 90’s, you should definitely take a look at Vikings War of Clans. It’s a great time to start, as it just went through a massive update, with new RPG elements and a new hero. Choose your own playstyle: build an impregnable city by raising your economy, use your diplomatic skills, or just gather with friends to play together. Check it out now and see why over 12 million players are addicted to it. Support the channel today by download Vikings from the links below in the description and get your initial protection shield for free and our special bonus of 200 gold for a fast start to success! It’s the first half of the 13th century. The lands of medieval Livonia are being conquered by the Sword Brethren, a catholic military order sanctioned by the Pope. Its main goal, at least officially, was to spread Christianity among the indigenous Baltic and Finnic tribes, who collectively formed one of the last pagan bastions wedged between the rising powers of the Catholic and Orthodox churches. In 1225 a papal legate arrived to settle the power issues between the Sword Brethren, local bishops and participating nobility from Denmark and Germany. Livonia was divided into several feudal principalities serving as direct subjects to the Holy See and jointly named Terra Mariana, the land of Mary. Thus, the first phase of the Livonian Crusade came to an end. The Catholic military actions in the Baltic never enjoyed the prestige of the Middle Eastern Crusades but was comparably every bit as cruel and ruthless, as many pagan tribes of Livonia withstood forced Christianisation efforts for many years. Threatened by the Catholic sword to betray their traditional beliefs in favour of the new faith, they often chose to fight the invaders instead. The eastern Baltic wasn’t a particularly peaceful area, even before the first Christianisation attempts were made. Indigenous clans raided each other for slaves, while the stronger ones even plundered the lands of their Russian and Scandinavian neighbours. These warlike societies were further hardened and militarised by defying the Christian invaders since the late 12th century. The rough and swampy Livonian woodlands encouraged ambushes and the usage of hit and run tactics by the indigenous tribes, as it was their only hope to stand a chance against the usually heavy armoured and well-disciplined Sword Brethren. In 1236 a papal bull was issued, declaring a crusade against the Lithuanian tribes inhabiting the lands south of the Daugava river. The Sword Brethren were reinforced by a party of so called “seasonal crusaders” from northern Germany and, in September, the joint force entered the lands of Samogitian tribes. Upon making contact with an enemy raiding party at a swampy river crossing, the Master of the Sword Brethren, being pressured by proud and overconfident German knights who refused to fight on foot, set camp for the night in this unsuitable place. This proved to be a huge mistake. The next morning, they were surrounded by the main Samogitian army, and while the Sword Brethren fought bravely, it was a crushing defeat. The abrupt end of the Lithuanian campaign, was also the end of the existence of the Sword Brethren as a separate order. More than half of the sworn brothers were killed, together with their commander, Grand Master Volkwin. Following the disastrous battle south of the Daugava, the remnants of the order were incorporated into the more renowned Teutonic Knights, operating to the south, and became its northern branch, named the Livonian Order. The territory of Livonia had undergone major political reorganisation, sealed by papal legate William of Modena, but it still remained a heavily militarized region. This gradually became a major concern for the Russian principalities to the East, particularly the Novgorod Republic, the strongest state of northern Russia. It’s core city, Novgorod the Great, was a thriving trade centre, moving such goods as furs, walrus ivory and dried fish. The Bishop of Novgorod was the head of the city, though only nominally. In truth, it was ruled by the town council. Despite its wealthy status, Novgorod could hardly defend itself from a serious outside threat with its own militia. Thus, whenever needed, a prince, known as a knyaz was invited to lead the city’s own force, also strengthening it with his own private army. There was no clear consensus among the Russian states on how to address the Catholic expansion within the Eastern Baltic region. Some nobility of Novgorod wanted to come to terms with the newcomers, while the others favoured a more aggressive stance, assisted by the princely Vsevolodovich dynasty. Although it seemed that both sides avoided an open conflict, in 1234 Prince Yaroslav lead a Novgorodian raiding party west and sacked the city of Dorpat, which was regarded as territory owned by Novgorod prior to the arrival of the Catholic military orders. Yet this raid was just one, inconclusive attack, and the borders remained untouched. Yaroslav moved his retinue to Kiev, instating his sixteen years old son – Alexander, as the new Prince of Novgorod. It was quite a challenge for the young knyaz, but Alexander quickly proved to be an able politician, swiftly balancing between various groups of interest in Novgorod. He was well aware of his own capabilities, and when the Mongol hordes ravaged the vast Russian interior in 1237, he submitted to the invaders before they were even able to reach Novgorod. This act was quite unusual, as other principalities often chose to fight the Mongols, which resulted in the devastation of their domains. Although on this occasion the Golden Horde eventually omitted Novgorod, from then on the eastern threat became Alexander’s major concern. But let’s get back to the western theatre and affairs in Livonia. Just as the Mongols devastated the cities of southern Russia, Pope Gregory IX called for a crusade against the Orthodox “schismatics”, encouraged by the divisions within the Novgorodian ruling class. The Pope’s official reasoning was that the Eastern Church did little to convert Baltic pagans, he also hoped that a common enemy would unify the squabbling crusaders of the Eastern Baltic area. It took some time for the papal legate to get things going, but in the summer of the year 1240 the first advance into Novgorodian territory had been made. The Swedish army under Thomas, Bishop of Finland, sailed up the Neva river. It’s not clear whether the Swedish bishop acted in cooperation with other allies, but his attack was easily repulsed by Alexander, who ambushed the camping Swedes and dealt them a considerable blow, forcing an uncoordinated retreat. Most likely this wasn’t a full scale invasion, but nonetheless Alexander used this victory wisely, and was soon hailed as Alexander Nevsky, enjoying immense popularity among the Novgorodian townsfolk. Yet his unexpected success made him new enemies, and soon, after a quarrel with the city’s merchants, he ostensibly left Novgorod, taking all his troops and family. Clearly, this time business won over politics. Anyway, this wasn’t by any means an end to Novgorod’s problems. Just months later, the Livonian Order raided deep into Novgorodian territory north of Lake Peipus, seizing the town of Koporye and plundering Tesov, just 50 kilometres from Novgorod. The town council wasn’t really prepared for this unexpected attack. Moreover, the Livonian Order installed a permanent garrison in Koporye, and soon began construction of a stone castle. Apparently, their plans were far more ambitious than just the mere plundering of Russian territory. Novgorod realised the danger and asked for Alexander to return, abandoning their demands which had led to their previous quarrel. Grand Prince Yaroslav initially offered the help of his younger son, Andrey, but Novgorodians insisted on Alexander. Eventually, both Vsevolodovich brothers were sent back to the north-west, but all this politics took time, during which the Livonian Order didn’t stay idle. With help of Danish and German nobility from Livonia, they performed another attack, this time south of the Lake Peipus. The Izborsk stronghold fell, and subsequently, the tiny garrison of Pskov was overwhelmed, and the town was taken. Crusader confidence was high, they doubted that Novgorod was able to acquire a sufficient army to actually oppose the invaders. One of the bishops even messaged the Pope with a request to grant him authority over Russian lands yet to be conquered. Meanwhile, Alexander finally arrived in Novgorod with his troops, strung up those who dared to drive him out of the city a year earlier and prepared an organised defence. His return though, coincided with another Mongol attack. It was a deadly threat to both belligerents, as Alexander couldn’t be sure of the Mongol intentions, as their previous agreements were rather brief and of little importance. Luckily, the Mongols avoided Novgorod and the north in general, wreaking havoc in central Europe instead, so Alexander could plan his steps uninterrupted. He performed his first counter-attack in autumn of the year 1241, taking the newly built Koporye castle by surprise. Early the next year he was ready to reclaim the town of Pskov, and did it swiftly enough, so the stationed nearby garrison at Izborsk could not intervene in time. While Alexander limited his actions to Novgorod territory over the previous year, this time he passed by the Izborsk stronghold and ravaged the lands to the south of city of Dorpat as an act of vengeance. While Novgorodian troops were busy pillaging, the Livonian Order hastily assembled an army able to repell the enemy, commanded by Bishop Hermann of Dorpat. They struck one of Alexander’s unexpecting units south-east of the city in a first move. Novgorodian survivors of the ambush rejoined with their prince and Alexander learned that the Livonian Order had gathered enough troops to pose a serious threat to his goals. We don’t know much about Alexander’s exact plans, but upon learning that the enemy was tracing him, he made use of his superior scouts and marched north, along the lake, seeking a suitable spot to defend. Upon reaching the narrow crossing around the sound connecting Lakes Pskov and Peipus, he decided to march through it and began deployment on the eastern shore. Both flanks were occupied by Alexander’s and Andrey’s druzhina, the princes’ mounted retinue and the most valuable of all Novgorodian troops. The centre comprised predominantly of the city’s militia, supplemented by the princes’ own footmen. On the right side, Alexander placed a small unit of horse archers, of unknown origin, but most likely from the Kipchak or Cuman region. The total number of his troops probably counted a little more than 5,000 men. Soon, Bishop Hermann of Dorpat arrived on the battlefield. A hurried mobilisation directly affected the Bishop’s numbers, as he lead no more than 2,500 soldiers to the battle. Still, he had several hundred heavily armoured mounted knights of Danish and German origin positioned in the centre, assisted by no more than one hundred Livonian Brothers on their right. A couple of units of regular militia infantry covered the left flank, whilst the second line was comprised of lightly armoured Estionian allied tribesmen held in the reserve. Hermann was aware of his inferior numbers, but also knew the value of a devastating heavy cavalry charge which, under favourable conditions, was able to rout entire units in a matter of minutes. The battle started, when the bulk of Hermann’s host was halfway through the sound. He commanded the charge of heavy cavalry, hoping to use the momentum to break Alexander’s centre. Charging in a wedge formation, mounted knights struck the terrified Novgorodian militia, dealing massive initial casualties. Melee fighting commenced, and while Herman’s infantry joined the fight, it quickly became clear, that Alexander’s centre had yet to break, despite sustaining considerable damage. This was the time for the Novgorodian prince to take an active part in the battle. He sent horse archers to disrupt the enemy lines, while his own retinue, along with his brothers, advanced on both flanks, performing a pincer movement in an attempt to envelop Hermann’s troops. When the Estonian auxiliary infantry realized, that the Bishop’s battle plan was too optimistic, they began to waver, and upon a brief engagement with the enemy, they gradually fled the battlefield. Alexander’s retinue finished their envelopment and the slaughter began. Some Livonian brothers and other knights managed to break through the encirclement and retreat, but many fell, including Bishop Hermann. The casualties were probably quite similar on both sides, but Alexander’s army was considerably bigger and well-motivated, so while the infantry in the centre endured the heavy cavalry charge he could take advantage of his resources and overwhelm the inferior numbers of the enemy. The peace negotiations that followed restored the former borders, as Alexander was focused on defending his own territory rather than conquering the west. The Livonian Order was considerably weakened, and soon had to face multiple native rebellions throughout the Eastern Baltic. The Christianisation process of the indigenous people took many more lives and lasted for another sixty years. The Battle of the Lake Peipus boosted Alexander’s popularity and became probably his most notable achievement, enabling him to retain his position as Prince of Novgorod and eventually lead the Russian principalities through the difficult times of the Mongol Invasions. His political and military abilities lead him to be hailed as national hero and one of the most recognized figures in Russian history.

100 thoughts on “The Battle on the Ice 1242 AD

  1. It saddens me that Christianity was taken hostage, controlled, and almost completely killed by the Catholicism… Now, most of the world knows only the paganist version of Christ, and not the living breathing God few others know.

  2. Typical papists, tasked with converting pagans and preventing their slave raids, but instead they just go around attacking other Christians for not believing in their Pope.

  3. Orthodox never attacked the west…. I wonder wtf is wrong with the Catholic Church that they dared to attack us…

  4. I wouldn't be surprised if those Estonian infantrymen were hoping for that bishop to die. They probably would have put a knife to his back themselves, if they could have. Christians were an occupying force after all. A cruel one at that.

  5. Why do you think that Novgorod militia was anarmored, when in the Southern and Western (and later also in Bohemia) the towns fielded well-equipped a heavy-armored infantry? Also, that "Pecheneg or Kypchak" horse archer could have been Mongols, as Alexandr was in very friendly terms with them.

  6. Oh yes those peaceful pagans who were only prone to "plundering" their neighbours but bad Christians for invading them in response. But I guess because the Christians weren't just there to rape, loot, enslave and steal things and people then leave, then they were obviously the bad guys. Did you also forget that the Vikings, for example, would torture Christians to death in the most horrific conceivable ways if they refused to renounce or defame Christ? Do you think those plundering pagans were live-and-let-live liberals or something?

  7. The Novgorod army had heavier armor than the German knights. Russian troops is a copy of the army of the Byzantine Empire. A prince’s squad is a cataphract.
    The number of troops of the Order was given incorrectly, Estonian mercenaries alone were about 5,000, they differed little from the forces of the Livonian Order.

  8. European crusaders NEVER EXISTED. Its a myth made by historians.

    I truth christianity was brought to Europe by mongol conquest.

  9. @BazBattles Did crusaders left anyone (non cristians) alive after they attacked cities at palestine or present day turkey??unless they had "kissed the sword of god".
    How was this anyway "less brutal" than this one?

  10. Little mistake:
    When Teutonic Knights captured Koporye they built a wooden castle there. The stone castle was built later by russians.

  11. Hi..
    Please create a Didgori battle 50 000 georgians against 400 000 turkey..

    It was a great fight 1125 AC

  12. start your video with an add that evades addblockers and very few are going to watch. thumbs down.

  13. Let's ~1000 years forward from that battle, present day. Baltic states are now catholic, and pose a threat to present day Russia by having NATO's PRO system. This is where Alexander failed, he was not far sighted enough, he should have Christianized baltic states and made them Orthodox.

  14. I knew nothing about this battle except for the music by Prokofiev and the 1938 movie by Eisenstein. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKZPgGbUuX0 Great video!

  15. At 1242 Lithuania was more civilized then “few lithuanian tribes”, there already were esteblished nobility in Lithuania at that time.

  16. This channel is like Game of Thrones on steroids. History of Europe is fascinating and still shamefully undiscovered by many.

  17. Interesting fact, Alexander and Andrey both travelled to Mongolia under the invitation of Guyuk Khan and were awarded princedoms.

  18. Good for the Estonian auxiliaries to get out of there in time.
    Imagine entering a battle with half of your forces composed of people you are violently trying to subjugate.

  19. Even the advert was good! Enjyed this slice of history immensely,only recently coming to realize how much history of this area is never taught or pointed out to us in the uk etc, which is a damn shame.

  20. The unknown cavalry could be mongols from the golden horde under his prince Shartak, close friend of Nevsky. I have studied the battle and i presume it !! Shartak was the son of the Sain Khan Batu. And he may be let 4,000 raiders.

  21. 11:54. It's not "druZina". It pronounce as "druZHina". So it's ZH sound, not Z sound. The word itself means "brother in arms". Therefore dont really need to be used in English. Though as a Russian I appreciate the attempt =)

  22. Never say "Russian Principality" … Principality of Rus existed in those days.

    Russia and Rus – quite different historical and territorial formations.

    You have better study the history

  23. The charge of the teutonic knights in the old Eisenstein movie is quite a thing to behold. And the bombastic music by esteemed Prokofiev makes it all the better. Nice to get a broader picture of events and the runup though.

  24. Did anyone else notice the music in this was from total war Attila? Some previous videos used music from Rome total war as well, very nostalgic

  25. It is good to see that Russian propaganda still has some friends.
    As you rightly say at the end: Alexander Nevski became one of the greatest Russian heroes. Except that at that moment in time, nobody spoke about Russia. There was no Republic anywhere near.
    It is interesting to see that the Slavic narrative about the crusades in the Baltics is taking more and more space in public opinion.
    Western civilization was brought to the Baltics was brought by the crusaders and the Hansa, but that is maybe not interesting enough.

  26. Sorry Baz but this whole blow-by-blow of the battle was made up in the 19th century by people who based their idea of warfare on Napoleonic battles they were familiar with. In fact, there was probably little to no infantry fighting, no complex maneuvers or ambushes, and no crossing of lake by ice (the battle took place too late in the spring). Just a mounted engagement between a few hundred armored horsemen on each side, probably with little tactics other than frontal charge. It was an important victory for Nevsky and affected regional politics for decades to come, but the actual re-construction of the battle you quote is an ancient and incorrect interpretation

  27. The Mongols are like a force of nature, everyone praying that they don't roll through while they perform their petty squabbles.

  28. No infantry. No germans knights. 600-800 men by Livonian side, 1200-1500 by Russifn, all are horsemen – that is modern Russian historical view. Not Great Battle – only Border fight. Propaganda by Ivan the Terrible (XVI cent) and Peter the Great (XVIII cent.) – for Russian conquest of Baltic 🙂 Losses: 20 brotherth-knights killed and 6 take to prison, all losses – 400 men. Small skirmish 🙂

  29. Численность и тактику войск отлично разбирает военный историк Клим Жуков. По его объективным данным у ливонцев вряд ли было более 1000 чел, а у новгородцев и суздальцев 1500 чел. Пехоты в бою не было вообще, за исключением не комбатантов.
    The number and tactics of the troops perfectly understands the military historian Klim Zhukov. According to the objective data of the Livonians was hardly more than 1,000 people, and the people of Novgorod and Suzdal 1500 people. Infantry in battle did not exist, except non-combatants.

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