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Battle of Lake Peipus, 7 August 1703

Battle of Lake Peipus, 7 August 1703

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Battle of Lake Peipus, 7 August 1703

The action on Lake Peipus of 7 August 1703 was the second of three small boat actions that ended with the Russians in total control of the lake (Great Northern War). Lake Peipus lies on the border between Estonia and Russia and at the start of the Great Northern War formed part of the border between Russian and Sweden. On 7 August 1703 a Swedish fleet of thirteen small ships defeated a fleet of Russian boats, sinking twenty of the even smaller Russian vessels. After their defeat on 7 August the Russians retreated to Pskov to the south east of the lake. The Swedes maintained control of the lake for the rest of the year, before losing it in a third battle in 1704.

Top 10 Strangest Battles of the Middle Ages

Combat des Trente: an illumination in the Compillation des cronicques et ystoires des Bretons (1480), of Pierre Le Baud.

During the wars between the English and the French in the 14th century (this time over who would rule the Duchy of Brittany), two opposing commanders challenged each other to a battle. They agreed to each bring 30 men – knights and squires – to a pre-determined battlefield, and fight until one side was defeated. The French and English fought for several hours, while a crowd watched and refreshments were served. At one point they stopped the battle for a break and to allow the wounded to be treated. In the end, the French won the battle, after 9 English combatants were killed and the rest surrendered.

2. Battle of Zappolino – 15 November 1325

The only battle of the so-called ‘War of the Oaken Bucket’ – which started when soldiers from the Italian town of Modena snuck into the neighbouring city of Bologna, where they stole a bucket from the main city well. The Bolognese declared war on Modena after they refused to return the bucket. An army of 32000 men from Bologna marched on Modena, which was defended by a force of 7000, but after a fierce battle the Bolognese fled back to their city, with the Modenese chasing them the entire way. In another version of these events, it was during this battle that the bucket was taken and flaunted by Modena as a spoil of war. In any case, you can still see the bucket in Modena, hanging in the main bell tower of the city.

3. Battle of Lake Peipus – 5 April 1242

When Prince Alexander Nevsky of Novgorod was faced with an invasion from the Teutonic Knights in present-day Estonia, he chose for a battlefield the frozen Lake Peipus. The slippery surface made fighting difficult for the Teutonic Knights, and after several hours of fighting they were forced to retreat. However, the warmer spring weather had made the ice weak, and when the knights moved across the lake they crashed through, with hundreds of them drowning.

4. Battle of Beverhoutsveld – 3 May 1382

An army from the Belgium town of Ghent had marched on the nearby city of Bruges. The men of Bruges had just finished celebrated the annual Procession of the Holy Blood, an important religious holiday for the town, and many of them had been drinking heavily that day. The two forces lined up outside the city and, after a short battle, the army from Ghent was victorious and captured Bruges.

5. Battle of Fimreite – 15 June 1184

In this naval battle, Norway’s King Magnus Erlingsson brought 26 ships against a fleet of 14 vessels commanded by the challenger to his throne Sverre Sigurdsson. Sverre had his ships attack Magnus’ ships one at a time, forcing the enemy fighters to jump to their remaining ships. Eventually, Magnus’ ships became so overcrowded that they sunk. The Norwegian king went down with the last ship, and Sverre would go on to rule Norway for eighteen years.

6. Battle of Stirling Bridge – 11 September 1297

A Victorian depiction of the Battle of Stirling Bridge

The famous victory by the Scottish leader William Wallace can be seen as a comedy-of-errors by the English side. The English army began the attack and then withdrew because their commander, John de Warenne, had overslept and had not yet reached the battlefield. Once the English army got moving again, part of their force crossed over Stirling Bridge and then the Scottish army cut them off. Nearly the entire English vanguard were slaughtered while the rest of their army helplessly looked on. Afterwards the Scottish victors took the body of the English second-in-command, Hugh de Cressingham, and cut the skin into pieces so they could give it out as souvenirs for the men.

7. Battle of the Helgeå – 1026

In this battle the kings of Norway and Sweden allied with each other to face King Cnut of England and Denmark. Cnut brought his fleet up to the mouth of the Swedish river of Helgeå, where the Norwegians had built a dam upriver. When they learned that Cnut had come there, the Norwegians smashed open the dam, releasing a flood of waters which smashed into the Danish ships. However, Cnut’s flagship was able to survive and fend off the attacks from the Swedes and Norwegians.

8. Battle of Covadonga – Either 718 or 722

After an Islamic army had conquered most of Iberia in 711, a Visigothic nobleman named Pelagius led the resistance to the Umayyad Caliphate from the mountains of Asturias. When a Muslim army came into the mountains to track down Pelagius and his men (one source calls the group nothing more than ‘thirty wild donkeys’), the Christian soldiers surprised them from caves and the mountain slopes and defeated the attackers. Christian sources claim that tens of thousands of Muslims were killed, while Moorish accounts state that fight was just a small skirmish.

9. Battle of Crecy – 26 August 1346

The most unusual thing about this battle – a major victory by the English against the French during the Hundred Years War – was when John of Bohemia, King of Bohemia, entered the battle on the French side, despite being blind. During the fighting he told his companions: “Sirs, ye are my men, my companions and friends in this journey: I require you bring me so far forward, that I may strike one stroke with my sword.” They all tied their horses together and rode against the English line. The next day the bodies of the king and his men were all found together.

10. Battle of Bremule – 20 August 1119

This battle, between Henry I of England and Louis VI the Fat of France is unusual in how few people were killed in it. The chronicler Orderic Vitalis explains, “I have been told that in the battle of the two kings, in which about nine hundred knights were engaged, only three were killed. They were all clad in mail and spared each other on both sides, out of fear of God and fellowship in arms they were more concerned to capture than to kill the fugitives. As Christian soldiers they did not thirst for the blood of their brothers, but rejoiced in a just victory given by God, for the good of holy Church and the peace of the faithful.”

Thank-you to Kelly DeVries and Dana Cushing for their suggestions!

15 The Anglo-Zanzibar War - Short But Not So Sweet

The Anglo-Zanzibar War started on August 27, 1896, after the death of the pro-British Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini and the following succession of Sultan Khalid bin Barghash. who had not fulfilled all the requirements for stepping into the leadership role next, so the Brits sent him an ultimatum, demanding that he stand down and leave the palace. In response, Khalid called up his guards and barricaded himself inside the palace, resulting in a war that killed 500 of the Sultan’s men and injured only one British sailor.

The entire thing lasted only 38 minutes, making it the shortest war in history. In 1916, Khalid was finally captured and taken to Saint Helena for exile he was later allowed to return to his home in East Africa, where he died in 1927.

Battle [ edit | edit source ]

On April 5, 1242. Alexander, intending to fight in a place of his own choosing, retreated in an attempt to draw the often over-confident Crusaders onto the frozen lake. The crusader forces likely numbered around 2600, including 800 Danish and German knights, 100 Teutonic knights, 300 Danes, 400 Germans and 1000 Estonian infantry. Ώ] The Russians fielded around 5,000 men: Alexander and his brother Andrei's bodyguards (druzhina), totalling around 1,000, plus 2000 militia of Novgorod, 1400 Finno-Ugrian tribesman and 600 horse archers. Ώ]

The Teutonic knights and crusaders charged across the lake and reached the enemy, but were held up by the infantry of the Novgorod militia. This caused the momentum of the crusader attack to slow. The battle was fierce, with the allied Russians fighting the Teutonic and crusader troops on the frozen surface of the lake. A little after two hours of close quarters fighting, Alexander ordered the left and right wings of his army (including cavalry) to enter the battle. The cavalry included some Mongol horse archers. The Teutonic and crusader troops by that time were exhausted from the constant struggle on the slippery surface of the frozen lake. The Crusaders started to retreat in disarray deeper onto the ice, and the appearance of the fresh Novgorod cavalry made them retreat in panic.

It is commonly said that "the Teutonic knights and crusaders attempted to rally and regroup at the far side of the lake, however, the thin ice began to give way and cracked under the weight of their heavy armour, and many knights and crusaders drowned" but Donald Ostrowski in "Alexander Nevskii’s "Battle on the Ice": The Creation of a Legend" contends that the part about the ice breaking and people drowning was a relatively recent embellishment to the original historical story. He cites a large number of scholars who have written about the battle, Karamzin, Solovev, Petrushevskii, Khitrov, Platonov, Grekov, Vernadsky, Razin, Myakotin, Pashuto, Fennell and Kirpichnikov, none of whom mention the ice breaking up or anyone drowning when discussing the battle on the ice. After analysing all the sources Ostrowski concludes that the part about ice breaking and drowning appeared first in the 1938 film Alexander Nevsky by Sergei Eisenstein.

Guest Post by Marko Bosscher: April 5, 1272: Alexander Nevsky defeated at the Battle of Lake Peipus

Lake Peipus is unusually shallow for it’s size and is frozen throughout winter, thawing out only at the end of April. The lake thus formed a solid surface for the combatants that 5th of April, but the heavily armoured mounted Teutonic Knights were at a disadvantage when having to charge across the ice. Although the knights drew up in wedge formation Hermann called of the assault when he saw the strength of the Russian position, deciding instead to go around it to find a better approach.

Seeing the Teutonic forces move towards the east bank of the lake Alexander sent out his own cavalry in an attempt to provoke Hermann into an attack. The lighter Russian cavalry was swift enough, even on the ice, to freely harass the Estonian infantry that made up the bulk of Hermann’s force. But rather than being goaded into a frontal assault on the Russian position Hermann lined up his infantry in a defensive position, while sending most of his knights to the shore to move around the enemy position.

What was intended by Hermann to be a temporary position, to hold of the harassing cavalry in anticipation of an assault on Alexander’s position, would become the focal point of the battle. Alexander seeing the opportunity to attack the outnumbered Teutonic forces, and worried about the knights working his flank moved his troops on the ice as well. Leaving behind only a token force to delay the knights moving against them. The battle soon developed into a furious melee as the remaining knights prevented the Russian cavalry from outflanking the Teutonic troops.

Alexander’s ploy failed however when the Teutonic Knights returned, having heard the sounds of battle carried on the wind (a `Zeichen Gottes` according to the knights own chronicler). The knights unexpectedly fell on the left flank of the army of Novgorod and panic swept across the battleline, quickly turning into a full rout. Only Alexander and the ‘druzhina’ (the “fellowship” or retinue, numbering a thousand of the best warriors) held and tried to fight their way back to their original position.

Badly outnumbered they never made it off the ice, Alexander fell among many of his men and the remainder surrendered after being completely encircled. The Teutons then marched South to take Pskov, which they had lost to Alexander the previous year. After receiving further reinforcement from the Livonian Order Hermann marched on Novgorod itself in the summer. It seemed that history would repeat itself as on the approach to Novgorod a Russian army marched to meet the Teutonic forces and oppose them in battle. But this Novgorod had not had the time to recover from it’s losses, the Battle of Lake Peipus had not only cost the Republic most of it’s seasoned warriors but also it’s most capable military leader. The army of Novgorod was swept aside by the invading knights.

But even before Hermann reached the city walls of Novgorod he was met by envoys of the Council of Nobles, and they made a fantastic offer. The republic of Novgorod would submit to the Teutonic Order on the condition that the Republic would continue to exist and maintain it’s current structure. It was a offer that Hermann could hardly refuse, but being a devout Catholic he could not allow Novgorod to remain Orthodox. He sent the envoy back with the message that he would only accept if Novgorod would only elect Catholic Princes, and marched on to lay siege to Novgorod.

Upon reaching the city Hermann found the gates open and messengers proclaiming himself the newly elected Prince of Novgorod. It was a devious political move as it effectively ended the war, but left the Teutons with an Orthodox country in their possession. It would only be the start of of political maneuvering that would see the Archbishop of Novgorod pledged allegiance to the Pope, but maintaining orthodox customs and traditions.

The Teutonic Order thus acted as the sword and shield of Orthodox Novgorod against it’s neighbours and the mongol horde. It was an uneasy alliance held together by Novgorod’s profitable position as gateway to the Baltic Sea and a slow conversion to Catholicism. But it ensured Novgorod’s continued survival into the late Middle Ages and it provided the Teutonic Order with the means to maintain the large armies that were it’s raison d’etre.

In reality, Alexander defeated the Teutonic Knights at the Battle of the Ice and went down in history as Alexander Nevsky, probably the most famous Russian warrior in history and granted sainthood by the Orthodox Church. Novgorod would thrive for several centuries, but would ultimately be annexed by the Grand Duchy of Moscow at the end of the 15th century.

When legend becomes fact, print the legend!

One of the most celebrated combat sequences in cinema is the ‘Battle on the Ice’ from Sergei Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky (1938), which depicts the Novgorodian prince’s victory over a crusading army led by the Teutonic Knights at Lake Peipus in 1242, the theme of the latest Medieval Warfare IV.1. It is, of course, both unwise and unfair to expect historical accuracy from any dramatic film. Filmmakers have different aims and operate under different rules than historians. Nevertheless, it is always interesting to explore how history and art converge or diverge in any film based on actual events (see also Murray Dahm’s article on history and film). Eisenstein’s epic presents an especially complex interplay of drama, history, propaganda, and legend, and demonstrates how the lines between these various strands can sometimes become nearly indistinguishable.

The film came at a critical juncture in both Eisenstein’s career and the history of the Soviet Union. The critical success that the director had achieved with The Battleship Potemkin (1925) had been followed by a series of failed and aborted projects. More dangerously for Eisenstein, a penchant for cinematic experimentation and a lengthy sojourn to the U.S. and Mexico which included an extended stay in Hollywood had left him ideologically suspect in the eyes of the increasingly doctrinaire and oppressive Stalinist regime. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union faced the imminent danger presented by the expansionistic ambitions of Adolf Hitler.

Eisenstein needed a ‘safe’ project to revive his flagging career and restore his political credentials, and Stalin needed a film that would rally the Russian people in the face of the ever more likely prospect of a German invasion. When Eisenstein took the helm of Alexander Nevsky, he intended to give Stalin exactly what the leader wanted, stating unequivocally in a contemporary article, “My aim is patriotism!” Nevertheless, the authorities were careful to surround him with sturdily dependable party loyalists who would insure that the mercurial director hewed closely to the Stalinist line. Eisenstein’s ‘guardians’ included his co-director, D.I. Vasiliev, and the scenarist, Piotr Pavlenko, who may have moonlighted as a spy for the Soviet secret police. Even the film’s leading man, Nikolai Cherkasov, was a member of the Supreme Soviet.

The finished product, though highly dramatized, generally conforms to the broad outlines of mid-thirteenth century Russian history. Novgorod stands as the last bastion of Russian independence. The Mongols have subdued vast stretches to the south and east, and a crusading army spearheaded by the Teutonic Knights advances from the west. At the opening of the film, Alexander Nevsky, is living in exile, having been expelled in a dispute with the Novgorod’s boyars and merchants following his defeat of the Swedes at Neva River in 1240. But with the crusaders fast approaching, a delegation from the city implores Alexander to return to confront the invaders. The prince accepts the invitation, and after arranging a pragmatic peace with the Mongols, turns his attentions to the more immediate threat from the west. Alexander gathers his forces and delivers a crushing defeat to the enemy on the frozen surface of Lake Peipus on August 5, 1242.

The film makes clear, however, that Eisenstein’s primary motive was not to record the events of the past faithfully, but to hold a mirror to the contemporary situation of the Soviet Union and to glorify the Russian people and contemporary Soviet doctrine. He frequently simplifies matters in order to make his message clear. For instance, the ethnic diversity of each army is ignored. Alexander’s forces would have included Lapps, Finns, Balts, Turco-Mongol horse-archers, and others. In the film, all are simply ‘Russians’. Likewise, the crusading army that probably was dominated by Estonians and counted among its numbers several other groups including Balts, Finns, and even Russians, here is conflated into a singular horde of ‘Germans’.

The masses of the Russian people are celebrated in diverse ways. Alexander is portrayed as a champion of the ‘proletariat’ who shares a solid bond with the workers, bother rural and urban. When the audience gets its first glimpse of him in exile at Pereyaslavl, he is calf-deep in the local river working alongside the common fishermen. The army that fought at Lake Peipus probably was comprised largely of the druzhinas — the elite military entourages — of Alexander and his younger brother Andrey, along with the Novgorod urban militia, as well as Finno-Ugrian and perhaps Turco-Mongol units. At best, it likely included only a very small percentage of true peasants. But in Eisenstein’s work, the poor Russian farmers flock to Alexander’s cause in enormous numbers to form an army consisting overwhelmingly of peasants. Representing another variety of worker, the patriotic armorer, Ignat, operates as a sort of one-man 5 Year Plan, selflessly distributing his martial wares to the departing army. And, in a particularly striking expression of the communist ideal of the universal brotherhood of the proletariat, at the conclusion of the battle, Alexander allows the surviving German foot-soldiers to return home unharmed because, “they were forced to fight”.

Whereas the film idealizes the common folk, the wealthy are vilified. The merchants and aristocratic boyars of Novgorod who fear that war will disrupt trade resist Alexander’s return. Acting as the spokesman for the masses, Ignat caustically rejects a proposed accommodation with the enemy: “For them, the rich folk, it’s all the same (…) wherever there’s a profit, that’s their native soil. But we poor folk face certain death under the Germans.”

Churchmen are portrayed in an equally negative way. The only Russian cleric featured in the film, the faithless monk Ananias, collaborates with the enemy. While the Orthodox Church was well entrenched in and around Novgorod by the mid-thirteenth century, in the film there is absolutely no indication of religious feeling among Alexander’s followers. The object of their devotion is Mother Russia, and Alexander even describes traitors to her as ‘Judases’. Not at all surprisingly, there is no hint in the film that Alexander was later elevated to sainthood by the Russian Orthodox Church.

The frightening and violent religious fanaticism of the Teutonic Knights and their religious leaders stands in stark contrast to the secularism of the Russians, and no doubt was equated in the minds of Soviet audiences with the brutal, blind fervor of Nazi true-believers. In one remarkable scene, the Grand Master of the order casually, one-by-one, drops the still-living children of the captured city of Pskov onto a blazing pyre: a gruesome portent of the fascist excesses soon to be unleashed on a massive scale in Eastern Europe.

The director’s intentions are also evident in the film’s martial details. As documented in his notebooks, Eisenstein oversaw each detail of costuming, including the arms and armor of the opposing armies. In spite of some obvious errors such as the incorrect design of the cross worn by the Teutonic Knights, there seems to have been at least some attempt at historical fidelity. Generally speaking, the swords, axes, mail and other armaments and protection employed by the combatants on both sides do not seem out of place. For instance, Alexander’s soldiers wear the typical conical, tapering helmets with aventails, and many carry the kite-shaped shields common to the place and period. Likewise, the elaborate crests that decorate the great helms of the leading Teutonic Knights, including the imposing, curving horns sported by the Grand Master, were clearly drawn directly from illuminations in the fourteenth-century Manesse Codex and other medieval manuscripts (see the examples below) Yet, even if jousting knights of the fourteenth-century actually sported such ornate headgear while competing, such unwieldy adornments seem rather impractical for the desperate, life-or-death combat at Lake Peipus.

But historical precision was clearly secondary to propaganda in Eisenstein’s mind, and other aspects of the costuming plainly illustrate his aim to depict the Teutonic Knights and their followers as “the ancestors of contemporary fascists” (Bordwell, p. 210). It has frequently been remarked that the great helms worn by the knights serve to transform individuals into dehumanized cogs in a faceless horde, interchangeable in Russian consciousness with the mass of soulless, fascist marauders then threatening to overrun their homes. Likewise, the design of the helmets worn by the crusader infantry deliberately evoke the modern German stalhelme.

More pointedly, the extended hand that tops the helm of one of the Teutonic Knights appears to be giving a Nazi salute (Bordwell, p. 215), and the bishop who accompanies the crusaders wears a mitre decorated with stylized swastikas.

The extended ‘Battle on the Ice’ marks the climax of the film. As staged by Eisenstein, Alexander is urged by his commanders the meet the enemy on the eastern side of Lake Peipus, which marks the boundary between Livonia and Russia. Alexander peremptorily rejects this suggestion, vowing, “The dogs shall never set foot on Russian soil!” and determines to meet them on the frozen surface of the lake itself. When one lieutenant points out the risks of fighting on ice that is already beginning to thaw in the early spring weather, Alexander retorts that the dangers will be much greater for the more heavily-armored Germans. Taking up position near the eastern shore, Alexander places his footsoldiers in the forefront to bear the brunt of the first assault, and holds his cavalry in reserve on each flank. The ‘countless’ German host initiates the action with a cavalry charge, followed by a full assault by their footsoldiers. The Russian infantry initially falls back, then rallies and begins to turn the tide. At the decisive movement, Alexander spurs his cavalry into action, catching the enemy in a classic pincer movement, and the battle soon turns into a rout. As the Germans retreat en masse toward the western shore, the ice begins to give way beneath them, and many sink into the freezing waters to the descending notes of Sergei Prokofiev’s famous score.

There is no doubt that Eisenstein has taken considerable dramatic license in his recreation of this encounter. To cite just one instance, in the film the Teutonic Knights are led by a Grand Master. Just who commanded the knights at Lake Peipus is not clear in the sources, but it is evident that no Grand Master was present. Indeed, it is very likely that the Teutonic Knights made up only a very small part of the crusading army (Nicolle, p. 41 Urban, p. 94).

Further, Eisenstein own vision of the battle was inspired by the ‘Battle in Heaven’ in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Like the Teutonic Knights in the film, the Host of Satan in Milton’s epic: “Brstl’d with upright beams innumerable / Of rigid Spears and Helmets throng’d and Shield / Various.” And Alexander’s minions substitute for the Heavenly Host who pursued their diabolical foes “into the wasteful Deep” (Seton, p. 380-1).

It is, however, impossible to judge with any precision how closely the director’s recreation of the battle reflects actual events, because the course of the historical battle is itself difficult to determine from contemporary sources. The earliest chronicles disagree on several significant points such as the size of each army and the numbers of crusaders who were captured or killed. At places, the same sources directly contradict details of the battle as presented by Eisenstein. For example, the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle of the 1290’s asserts that Alexander’s forces outnumbered the knights by a ratio of 60-1, and also records that the battle commenced with a charge by Alexander’s horse-archers, a group which does not even make an appearance in the film. Most interestingly, although the earliest Rus’ chronicles make mention of a lake and indicate that at the close of the battle fleeing crusaders were pursued by Alexander’s troops, the same sources give no indication that any part of the battle or pursuit actually took place on the lake. The Rhymed Chronicle does not even mention a lake or a pursuit. In fact, it states that during the fighting, “Many from both sides fell dead on the grass.” (quoted in Ostrowski, p. 292).

The Harvard historian Daniel Ostrowski has carefully traced the growth of what he calls the “legend” of the battle through several layers of sources following these earliest accounts (p. 290-1). The first source to allege that any part of the battle took place on the ice is the older redaction of the Novgorod Chronicle which did not appear until at least the fourteenth century, and Ostrowski makes a reasonable case that this assertion results from the author combining details of the battle in 1242 with an earlier engagement fought on a frozen lake in 1016 (p. 305-7). The first sources to claim that the ice gave way beneath the combatants are the Moscow Chronicle Compilations of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century. And illuminations from the 16th century Litzevoi Letopisnyi Svod appear to indicate that some of Alexander’s men drowned along with their opponents (Ostrowski, p. 302-3).

Ostrowski argues, as had David Nicolle before him, that the legend of the battle — in which the battle was fought on the ice, which gave way under the fleeing crusader army with fatal results — was cemented in the popular imagination by Eisenstein’s epic (Ostrowski, p. 308-9 Nicolle, p. 69). More intriguingly, Ostrowski also posits that the film version of the battle had a significant impact on subsequent historiography. As evidence, he cites a passage from a popular textbook of Russian history which might very well serve as a brief synopsis of the battle sequence in the film:

“The massed force of mailclad and heavily armed German knights and their Finnish allies struck like an enormous battering ram at the Russian lines the lines sagged but held long enough for Alexander Nevskii to make an enveloping movement with a part of his troops and assail an enemy flank a complete rout of the Teutonic Knights followed, the spring ice breaking under them to aid in their destruction” (Raiasanovsky, p. 74).

Although the film served to shape historical perceptions in the long run, its short term fortunes were subject to the shifting tides of immediate events. It generated great enthusiasm and attracted huge domestic audiences following its initial release in November of 1938 and garnered numerous honors for Eisenstein, including the prestigious Order of Lenin. But with the conclusion of the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact in August 1939 — and the abrupt reversal of the Stalinist line on Germany — the film quietly but quickly disappeared, only to be rushed back into theaters in the wake of Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. During its re-release, the film achieved even greater popular success.

In the following year, the Soviet military introduced a new decoration, the Order of Alexander Nevsky, awarded for “showing initiative in the choice of a felicitous moment for a sudden audacious and successful attack to the enemy, inflicting a major defeat with few losses among one’s own forces” (Dobrenko, p. 69). In just one more instance of the film’s impact upon collective memory, the medal was adorned with the striking profile of Nikolai Cherkasov, the star of Eisenstein’s recent hit.


The districts belongs to the basin of the Narva River. The principal river in the north of the district is the Plyussa, which crosses the district, enters Leningrad Oblast, and joins the Narva. The biggest (left) tributary of the Plyussa within the district is the Lyuta. In the south of the district, rivers flow into Lake Peipus. The biggest of them are the Zhelcha and the Gdovka. In the south of the district, there is a system of lakes, the biggest of which is Lake Velino. A number of small offshore islands on Lake Peipus belong to the district as well.

The northern part of the district, in the river basins of the Plyussa and the Zhelcha, is a depression of glacial origin. Its southwestern part is swampy and is seasonally flooded by Lake Peipus it is a plateau which sharply drops to the Zhelcha River valley. The highest elevations in the district are found on this plateau and reach approximately 180 meters (590 ft) above sea level. [3]

In the south of the district, Remdovsky Zakaznik, one of three federally protected nature reserves in Pskov Oblast, is established to protect lowlands adjacent to Lake Peipus.

In the Middle Ages, the area belonged to Pskov and was always located at the western border of the Russian lands. It was constantly subject to attacks by Germans, Swedes, and Poles. Thus, in 1242, Alexander Nevsky, at the time the prince of Novgorod, fought the Livonian Order on the ice of Lake Peipus. The event, known as the Battle of the Ice, took place close to what is now the village of Kobylye Gorodishche and resulted in Novgorodian victory. Gdov was first mentioned in the 14th century. In the 15th century, the area together with Pskov was annexed by the Grand Duchy of Moscow. In 1614, in the course of the Ingrian War, Gdov was taken by Swedes however, in 1617, it was returned to Russia as a part of the Treaty of Stolbovo. [9]

In the course of the administrative reform carried out in 1708 by Peter the Great, the area was included into Ingermanland Governorate (known since 1710 as Saint Petersburg Governorate). Gdov was mentioned as one of the towns into which the governorate was divided. Later on, Gdovsky Uyezd was established.

In 1919, Gdovsky Uyezd was an area where important events of the Russian Civil War and the Estonian War of Independence were taking place. Originally, the area east of Lake Peipus was under control of the revolutionary government. On May 15, 1919, the detachment under command of Stanislav Bulak-Balakhovich captured Gdov, and the whole uyezd thus came under control of the Yudenich's White Army troops. In November 1919, the Red Army recaptured Gdov. [10]

On August 1, 1927, the uyezds were abolished, and Gdovsky District was established, with the administrative center in the town of Gdov. It included parts of former Gdovsky Uyezd. The governorates were abolished as well, and the district became a part of Luga Okrug of Leningrad Oblast. On July 23, 1930, the okrugs were abolished as well, and the districts were directly subordinated to the oblast. Between March 22, 1935 and September 19, 1940, Gdovsky District was a part of Pskov Okrug of Leningrad Oblast, one of the okrugs abutting the state boundaries of the Soviet Union. On March 11, 1941, Slantsevsky District was split from Gdovsky District. Between August 1941, and February 1944, Gdovsky District was occupied by German troops. On August 23, 1944, the district was transferred to newly established Pskov Oblast. [11]

On August 1, 1927, Rudnensky District was established as well, with the administrative center in the selo of Rudno. It included parts of former Gdovsky Uyezd. The district was a part of Luga Okrug of Leningrad Oblast. On August 30, 1930, the administrative center of the district was transferred to the village of Vyskatka. On August 10, 1933, Rudnensky District was abolished and split between Gdovsky and Osminsky Districts. Currently, the area of the district is split between Gdovsky and Slantsevsky Districts. [12]

On August 1, 1927, Polnovsky District was also established, with the administrative center in the selo of Polna. It included parts of former Gdovsky Uyezd. The district was a part of Luga Okrug of Leningrad Oblast. On September 20, 1931, Polnovsky District was abolished and merged into Gdovsky District. On February 15, 1935, Polnovsky District was re-established. It included territories previously located in Gdovsky and Seryodkinsky Districts. Between August 1941 and February 1944, Polnovsky District was occupied by German troops. In February 1944, the Kingisepp–Gdov Offensive, a military operation in which the Soviet Army advanced to the east bank of the Narva and of Lake Peipus, took place here. On August 23, 1944, the district was transferred to Pskov Oblast. [13] On February 15, 1958, Polnovsky District was abolished and merged into Gdovsky District. [14]

Another district established on August 1, 1927 was Seryodkinsky District, with the administrative center in the selo of Seryodka. It included parts of former Gdovsky Uyezd. The district was a part of Pskov Okrug of Leningrad Oblast. In 1935, a part of the district's territory was transferred to Polnovsky District. Between August 1941 and February 1944, Seryodkinsky District was occupied by German troops. On August 23, 1944, the district was transferred to Pskov Oblast. [15] On February 15, 1958, Seryodkinsky District was abolished and split between Gdovsky and Pskovsky Districts.

On August 1, 1927, Lyadsky District was established as well, with the administrative center in the selo of Lyady. It included parts of former Gdovsky and Luzhsky Uyezds. The district was a part of Luga Okrug of Leningrad Oblast. Between August 1941 and February 1944, Lyadsky District was occupied by German troops. On August 23, 1944, the district was transferred to Pskov Oblast. [16] On October 3, 1959, Lyadsky District was abolished and split between Plyussky and Gdovsky Districts. [17]

The western part of the district is included into the border security zone, intended to protect the borders of Russia from unwanted activity. In particular, the town of Gdov and the whole shore of Lake Peipus within the district are included into this restricted area. In order to visit the zone, a permit issued by the local Federal Security Service department is required. [18]

Industry Edit

The economy of the district is based on food and timber industries. [19]

Agriculture Edit

Agriculture in the district specializes in meat and milk production, as well as potato growing. [19]

Transportation Edit

A railway connection, now suspended due to lack of commercial traffic, existed between Gdov and Slantsy further reaching Saint-Petersburg. Before the WWII this railway line reached Pskov, but once it was destroyed during World War II, the stretch between Gdov and Pskov was never rebuilt.

Gdov is connected by roads with Pskov, Kingisepp via Slantsy, and Plyussa. There are also local roads, with bus traffic originating from Gdov.

In the mouth of Gdovka river there is a harbour for the fishermen's and leisure boats. However, due to lack of customs and borderguard offices sailing to Estonia is not possible.

During 1950-1980-ties an unpaved airfield in Gdov was used for commuter air transit to the neighbour town of Slantsy. Before 2009 Smuravyevo airfiled hosted active units of the Russian Airforce.

Press Edit

Gdovskaya Zarya (est. 1918) is a local newspaper that also has got a web-portal.

The district contains seventy-two cultural heritage monuments of federal significance and additionally eighteen objects classified as cultural and historical heritage of local significance. [20] The federal monuments include archaeological sites as well as pre-1917 churches. Gdov has a kremlin—an ancient fortress—built in the 14th century. Only fragments of the original fortress walls have survived. The St. Dimitry Cathedral was destroyed in 1944 and reconstructed in the 1990s. The only other medieval church in the district is the St. Michael Church in the village of Kobylye Gorodishche, constructed in 1462.

The only state museum in the district is the Museum of Gdov Region History. It was founded in 1919, destroyed during the German occupation of Gdov, and re-created after World War II. The museum hosts historical and local interest collections. [21]

Battle of Lake Erie

Once the War of 1812 broke out, the British Royal Navy gained naval supremacy over Lake Erie. As such, the British forces in Canada easily crossed into Detroit and captured Fort Detroit by August of 1812. As a result of British naval supremacy on Lake Erie, the American naval war effort established shipbuilding harbors and ports in Erie, Pennsylvania, to combat this threat. However, the shipbuilding in Erie needed to be aided by other manufacturing hubs such as Pittsburgh alongside other shipbuilding harbors in the Chesapeake. Fortunately, the American naval armaments left the Chesapeake harbors for Erie just before the British captured construction ports and cannon foundries.

The new squadron of ships, under the command of Master Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry, were about completed by mid-July of 1813. However, the British flotilla in Lake Erie blockaded the shipbuilding areas outside the surrounding waters of Erie. Only a sandbar and American cannons prevented the British ships from destroying the new American squadron. The British abandoned their blockade at the end of July 1813 due to the poor weather and looming shortage of supplies. As the British Royal Navy withdrew, the newly constructed American squadron slowly traversed the sandbar and eventually organized in Put-In-Bay for the upcoming battle

On September 10, 1813, the American squadron spotted the British vessels, hoisted their anchors, and departed Put-In-Bay to meet their British foe. While the British ships were equipped with longer range cannon, they lacked the firepower of the American vessels. In order to compensate for the lack of range, Master Commandant Perry ordered his two largest ships the Niagara and the Lawrence, to set full sail, and proceed directly towards the British line. Perry’s flagship was the Lawrence, and he was conspicuous as it sailed to close the distance between the British ships and the cannons of the Lawrence. However, the captain of the Niagara was less keen on charging into the British ships under a maelstrom of cannon fire and therefore froze and left the Lawrence and Master Commandant Perry to charge into the British line alone. But, with the aid of the smaller American gunboats, Perry was able to close the gap between his vessel and the already engaged British line. Despite Perry’s maneuver, the cannons aboard the Lawrence did not have the destructive effect that Perry had planned. As a result, the Lawrence came under direct fire from two British vessels who made quick work of Perry’s ship. It was only after the last cannon was rendered unusable that Perry departed the destroyed Lawrence on a small rowboat and transferred his flag onto the Niagara.

Perry miraculously escaped the wreck of the Lawrence unscathed with the help of his personal assistant Cyrus Tiffany, a free African American, who physically shielded Perry from debris and gunfire during their escape to the Niagara. Perry, now in command of the Niagara, intended to continue the fight. The British vessels, however, believed that Perry fled to the Niagara to lead the American squadron in retreat. The Americans, now with a favorable wind, sailed the Niagara as well as the smaller gunboats and schooners towards the British line and opened fire to great effect. Two of the British vessels that were previously entangled in their rigging during the engagement with the Lawrence only managed to break free after the American squadron utterly decimated the British flotilla. As a result, the British had lost their fighting ability and surrendered at 3:00pm.

The American victory on Lake Erie secured even more naval vessels to fall into American hands. The spoils of battle included the battered British naval vessels and as such, Perry’s fleet in Lake Erie expanded. Once the British vessels were repaired and now under the banner of the United States of America, Lake Erie was under American control. This naval supremacy forced the British to withdraw from Fort Detroit. Additionally, the lake remained in American hands for the remainder of the war, which prevented any possible British invasion of Ohio or Pennsylvania from Canada.

Battle of Lake Peipus, 7 August 1703 - History

Also known as the Battle of the Ice, this was a great medieval battle that checked the Eastward expansion of not only the Teutonic Knightly orders, but also of Roman Catholicism in 13th Russia.

The 768th anniversary of the battle of Lake Peipus - or "Schlacht auf dem Eise" as the German's know it.

It was the battle between the Teutonic Knights and their Estonian peasant allies (all led by Prince-Bishop Herman of Dorpat who was intent on invading the neighboring Novgorod. The troops included those of the Order as well as the Estonian troops (Chuds) totaling about 4000.

The exiled prince Alexander Nevsky of Novgorod was begged to come back by the people when they knew that the Teutonics were coming to get them, so they begged Alexander to come back - which he did. He hooked up with his brother Andrei. Their forces consisted of the Druzhina (bodyguards) of the two princes, plus Pagans and Eastern Orthodox Christian troops (total about 5000).

The battle was fought over the thick ice of Lake Peipus and the attached Lake Pskovskoe (now you know why that lake is never remembered). The knights and their allies battled the main line of the Russians for hours, when Alexander had his numerous archers join the fray. That disordered the Teutonics, and when the light Russian cavalry appeared, they fled back over the frozen lake. On the far side they began to rally and gather for a counter-charge, but by that time the thinner ice at the edge of the lake began to give way, and (according to legend and the Eisenstein movie made under Stalin's regime) the knights crashed through the ice to their frozen watery grave.

Regardless of the outcome, it is a great medieval battle, and worthy of a Wayne presentation (he has the Teutonic figures, I am sure).

The Battle of the Ice 1242

The Battle of the Ice took place on the 5 th April 1242 during the Northern Crusades in Europe which were directed against Pagans and Eastern Orthodox Christians. This battle was fought between the Republic of Novgorod and the Livonian Order of the Teutonic Knights, and marked the end of the Crusaders campaigns against the Orthodox Novgorod Republic for the next century.

In the wake of the Mongol and Swedish invasions of the Novgorod Republic, the Teutonic Knights, in an attempt to exploit the nations weakened state, attacked in 1240 and occupied Pskov, Izborsk and Koporye. As the Teutonic Knights advanced deeper into the Republic’s territory, the local citizens called to the City of Novgorod itself the 20 year old Prince Alexander Nevsky who had been banished earlier that year.

Throughout his campaign in 1241 Alexander managed to retake Pskov and Koporye from the crusaders. In spring 1242 the Teutonic Knights defeated a detachment of Novgorodians before they met with Alexander’s forces at Lake Peipus (between modern day Estonia and Russia).

On April 5 th 1242 Alexander, intending to fight in a place of his choosing, retreated in an attempt to draw the over confident Crusaders onto the frozen lake. The Teutonic Knights charged across the lake at the Novgordian militia. The Novgordian force caused the crusader attack to slow, and successfully held the enemy force. A little after two hours of close quarter fighting, Alexander ordered the left and right wings of his army to enter the battle.

The crusader army by this time was exhausted from the fierce fighting on the icy surface and began to retreat in disarray further onto the ice, then the appearance of the fresh Novgorod troops and cavalry made them retreat in a panic.

The battle ended in a decisive victory for the Novgorod Republic. It halted the eastward expansion of the Teutonic Order and established a permanent border between Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Catholicism. The crusaders defeat at the hands of Alexander’s forces prevented the crusaders from retaking Pskov and leaving a lasting mark which made the crusaders never mount a serious challenge eastward again.

(The images used are artist’s interpretations of events and we do not own the rights to them, full credit to the owners of the images)

In popular culture [ edit | edit source ]

The event was glorified in Sergei Eisenstein's patriotic historical drama film Alexander Nevsky, released in 1938. The movie, bearing propagandist allegories of the Teutonic Knights as Nazi Germans, with the Teutonic infantry wearing modified World War I German Stahlhelm helmets, has created a popular image of the battle often mistaken for the real events. In particular, the image of knights dying by breaking the ice and drowning originates from the film. Sergei Prokofiev turned his score for the film into a concert cantata of the same title, the longest movement of which is "The Battle on the Ice". ⎗]

During World War II, the image of Aleksandr Nevsky became a national Russian symbol of the struggle against German occupation. The Order of Aleksandr Nevsky was re-established in Soviet Union in 1942 during the Great Patriotic War. From 2010 Russian Federation has an Order of Aleksandr Nevsky (originally introduced by Catherine I of Russia in 1725) given for outstanding bravery and excellent service to the country.

Heavy metal band Aria composed a song, "Ballad of an Ancient Russian Warrior", for their Hero of Asphalt album in 1987. The song describes the battle from a participant's point of view.

In a 2009 Russian-Canadian-Japanese World War II-related anime, First Squad, the Battle on the Ice plays a vital part in the plot.

"Katabasis", the fourth volume of the Mongoliad Cycle of novels, by Joseph Brassey, Cooper Moo, et al., climaxes with the Battle of the Ice.

The battle is depicted in Hetalia: Axis Powers as young Russia and young Prussia with the Teutonic Knights are shown fighting.

Watch the video: Alexander Nevsky - Fight at the Neva River (July 2022).


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