In Poland and in the West in general, as well as among many supporters of European integration in today's Belarus, the name of Alexander Nevsky causes strong irritation. If we talk about the Poles and Belarusian separatists - opponents of the Union State and rapprochement with Russia, then in this environment, Alexander Nevsky, along with Alexander Suvorov, is one of the most hated historical characters.
With generalissimo A.V. Suvorov is pretty clear about everything - it was he who defeated the Polish insurrection under the leadership of T. Kosciuszko, which broke out in Krakow in 1794 and then spread to other Polish and partially to Lithuanian-Belarusian territories. The Polish and Catholic Catholic Belarusian-Lithuanian gentry wanted to restore the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and their rule over the Orthodox Belarusians. The peasants did not support this uprising, and Suvorov did what he could do brilliantly - he quickly defeated the enemy, defeating Kosciusko in Warsaw. But in modern Belarus, T. Kosciuszko is proclaimed a national hero only on the grounds that he was born on the territory of Belarus and fought against Russia. Therefore, the identity of Suvorov is being attacked in the style of “the strangler and executioner of the Belarusian people”, although it is the Belarusian people who are obliged, first of all, to Suvorov for their liberation from noble bondage. There is a museum AV Suvorov in Kobrin, Suvorov School in Minsk, however, certain forces constantly make attempts to remove the name of the Generalissimo from the name of the military school, transforming it into a "gentry corps", and liquidate the museum.
In this sense, the similar and obvious hostility of the Poles and Belarusian “svyadomykh” in relation to the holy blessed Prince Alexander Nevsky seems far less understandable and reasonable: he did not fight with Poland.
However, the reasons for such an attitude become clear if we recall the interest shown by Pope Innocent IV to the personality of the Russian prince. This interest was not at all in the desire to establish a relationship with the famous commander. Pope, realizing that after the Mongol invasion, Russia was in an extremely difficult situation, he tried to take advantage of this and sent two letters to Alexander Nevsky when he was in the Golden Horde in 1247. He proposed to Nevsky to adopt Catholicism, to translate Rus into Catholicism, promising for this joint struggle against the Mongols by organizing general crusades against the Horde.
Not to mention the difficulties of the practical implementation of this plan, I must say that with such a scenario, Russia would become the scene of a fierce struggle between the Catholic West and the Horde, with quite predictable consequences.
Alexander Nevsky was well aware of the experience of such unions and crusades on the example of the Byzantine Empire. In the 1204 year, during the Fourth campaign, the crusaders intervened in the internal feuds in Constantinople, seized the city and power in Byzantium, plundering Orthodox churches, including Hagia Sophia. (From the power of the Crusaders managed to free themselves only in 1261 year.)
Alexander Nevsky did not respond to the first letter, and the second, returning from the Horde, gave a decisive refusal, after consulting with representatives of the ruling elite and clergy of Russia. According to some reports, the poisoning of Nevsky’s father, Prince Yaroslav Vsevolodovich, in the 1246 year in the Horde one year before the events described could have been connected precisely with the activity of Rome to incline Yaroslav to accept Catholicism and joint action against the Mongols.
Europe was seriously scared by the invasion of Batu. Contrary to the historical version rooted in Europe, the Mongols were not at all exhausted upon reaching the Adriatic coast. Batu turned back not because he was afraid of a battle with the European armies, but for a completely different reason. At that time, the great khan unexpectedly died, and Batu decided to hurry back: the division of the vast empire, including securing Batu’s right to control the conquered Russia, was much more important for the Mongol khan than the continuation of the conquest of Europe. No matter how strange it may seem to many of our lovers to put Europe at the center of the universe, for Batu it was simply a distant periphery. The underestimation of this fact is due to the fact that we still, unfortunately, pay much more attention to the history of England and France and to various events of little significance for Russian history like Bartholomew’s night and the struggle of the Red and White Roses, ignoring the much more important history of relations between Russia and Russia Hordes, events in the states of Genghisides, in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Commonwealth.
However, the departure of Batu did not mean that the Mongols would not return to Europe. They could come there in a few decades just as they came to Russia again after the battle of Kalka. Europe was not saved by its army or the weakness of the Mongol-Tatars, but by the resulting turmoil over the division of the great legacy of Chingizids among the nomadic invaders. Fearing their return, as well as knowing about the troubles in the east, Pope Innocent IV and courted Alexander Nevsky. The implementation of this plan, I repeat, could also lead to the division of Russia between Catholic Europe and the Horde. As a matter of fact, a similar scenario was subsequently implemented with the formation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the western and southern Russian lands.
In 1385, the Grand Duke of Lithuania Jagiello concluded the dynastic Krevo union with Poland, converted to Catholicism, flattered by the royal crown. Since then, the expansion of the Poles and Catholicism into western and southern Russia, the current Belarusian and Ukrainian lands, began.
The emergence of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania by the current Belarusian historians serves as a peaceful process of uniting the Polotsk principality with the Lithuanian princes, and supposedly natural because of the desire to resist the Horde and North-Eastern Russia (future Muscovy). At the same time, the facts show that this process was not so peaceful at all. True, the Lithuanian expansion to the weakened and devastated Russian lands was also carried out with the help of dynastic marriages, but it also threatened the existence of Russia, which Alexander Nevsky understood perfectly. When the Lithuanians began active raids on the Polotsk lands, in 1245, the prince launched a military campaign against them and defeated them. This is what is said in “The Life of Alexander Nevsky”: “At that time, the Lithuanian people multiplied, and Aleksandrov’s volosts began to ravage ... And he beat seven regiments of soldiers for one trip, many princes beat them, and took others captive ... And they became from that time they are afraid of his name ... ".
The Polotsk principality from the beginning of the XIII century led a hard struggle with the Crusaders. The first to fall was the Russian city of Kukeynos, which covered Polotsk. He burned it, but did not give the enemy the famous Prince Vyachka. It is symbolic that Vyachka after the incident went to the Pskov-Novgorod lands and died a few years later in a battle with the Crusaders during the defense of Yuriev. Then the crusaders destroyed the city of Gercik. Having lost control over the mouth of the Dvina, the Polotsk principality still stopped the advance of the Crusaders to Russia. In 1239, Alexander Nevsky took the wife of the Polotsk prince Bryachislav Paraskeva as his wife. The son of Nevsky and his relatives lived for some time in Vitebsk. Therefore, it is not surprising that Polotsk and Vitebsk warriors, among whom the huntsman Yakov Polochanin, took part in the battle against 1242 on Lake Peipsi against the Crusaders.
Thus, Alexander Nevsky did not allow the crusaders or pagan Lithuania to seize parts of the Russian lands, on which modern Belorussia was later formed.
And since the dynasties of the Lithuanian-Russian princes, especially those who converted to Catholicism and became the Polish king Jagiello, in modern Belorussia were almost declared pillars of the Belarusian statehood, Alexander Nevsky is their obvious historical antipode. His refusal to convert to Catholicism, as well as the defeat of the Lithuanians who tried to seize Russian lands, and the preservation of the unity and originality of Russia, even under the Mongol-Tatar protectorate, make him a figure so hated both for the Poles and for the current Russophobic part of the Belarusian society. The role of Alexander Nevsky is tried in every way to belittle: he is declared only a miserable servant of the Mongols, and his victories on the Neva and Lake Peipsi are minor and meaningless. At the same time, the defeat of the Lithuanian troops in 1245 and the letters of Pope Innocent IV are carefully ignored.
Alexander Nevsky is an Orthodox saint, for a long time Orthodox Belarusians and Ukrainians turned to him for protection with prayers, as a defender of the faith and commander. This religious and civilization confrontation passes through the centuries.
In 1894, thanks to the initiative of the hero of the Russian-Turkish war I.V. Gurko, who was then provisional governor-general of Poland, built the Alexander Nevsky Church on Saxon Square in Warsaw. At that time in Warsaw, there were approximately 42 000 Orthodox believers, many military for whom the name of Alexander Nevsky was sacred, and there were not enough Orthodox churches. Emperor Alexander III personally approved the project L.N. Benoit. Next to the temple, the 70-meter bell tower, which became the highest building in Warsaw, began to be erected.
The Alexander Nevsky Church has become a true pearl of architecture and art. Altar painted V.M. Vasnetsov, icons created by V.P. Guryanov and other best Russian icon painters. A large number of granite, marble, semi-precious stones, precious metals were used, 16 made the richest mosaic compositions, 14 bells were cast, the largest of which was the fifth largest in the whole Russian Empire. In total, according to independent experts, there were at least 2 000 items in the temple that are of significant value to world culture and art. 20 May 1912 of the year the cathedral was consecrated.
After the outbreak of the First World War, it was decided to evacuate the iconostasis and the most valuable objects of decoration from the temple. As soon as the Germans entered Warsaw, in 1915 the church was converted into a church and at the same time into a military church. A copper coating was torn off the domes, and an organ and rows of parishioners, Catholics and Lutherans, were installed inside the church. But so far no one could have imagined that the so-called enlightened Europe is much more prone to barbarism than the "barbaric" East that it criticizes.
In 1918, the Polish authorities, which had just gained independence, began to think about what to do with the cathedral. A request was sent to the art history department of the University of Vilna, which decided that the cathedral had no historical and artistic value. In 1922, the 70 bell tower was destroyed. In 1924, the fate of the grand cathedral was easily decided by those who claim to be “civilized”.
The decision to destroy the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral shocked even a moderate part of Polish society — many suggested that it be rebuilt, converted into a church.
In Soviet Russia, no one was going to intercede for the church. The “world community”, verbally condemning the Polish authorities, also did nothing to preserve the temple.
During 1924-1926, the temple was blown up and pulled apart. In order to give symbolism to this unpopular outside of Poland (and in Poland itself), the shares of the Warsaw authorities even issued special coupons. The Poles who bought them could be proud of having participated in the destruction of the cathedral with their personal means. The most valuable materials from which the cathedral was built were later used in the construction of various objects in Warsaw and even Krakow (including for the pedestal of the Pilsudski monument, which made the decision to destroy the church). It is curious that during the war years in 1942, the Germans renamed the place where the temple was, into Adolf Hitler Square.
The destruction of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral was far from the only atrocity of the Polish authorities. Taking advantage of the weakening of Orthodoxy in Soviet Russia, in Poland only in 1918-1920 many Orthodox churches were destroyed. For example, in 1924-1925, in Lublin, the majestic Orthodox Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross was destroyed. These barbaric acts continued later. Thus, in the 1938 year, in the Kholmshchyna region, with the active participation of the police and troops, a large number of Orthodox rural churches were destroyed, whose parishioners were Ukrainians who lived here for many centuries. Not endlessly recalling Katyn, demanding repentance from Russia, modern Poland has not yet condemned its own excesses against the Orthodox population, the mass executions of captured Red Army soldiers and did not repent of anything. In many ways, unfortunately, this is because since the days of the USSR we have not posed these important questions for the Poles and Poland now: they treated Orthodoxy in the USSR with hostility, and the fact of the execution of the captured Poles to the Red Army did not want to publicize do not damage the credibility of the Red Army.
The Belarusians, who were outside the borders of the USSR under Polish rule, tried as best they could to protect the Alexander Nevsky Church in Warsaw. The forces were unequal, but still managed to save something.
Thus, in the St. Simeon's Church in Kamenets, near Xelovezhskaya Pushcha, in 1920, a three-tier iconostasis was installed, made in Warsaw at the beginning of the 19th century, of carved, dark, bog oak for the side chapel of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Warsaw. The iconostasis survived and with the help of the regent of the choir of the temple in Kamenets, Semyon Korneluk was bought by the resident of the Pruska village Theodosia Traychuk in memory of his son-pilot who died in 1918 in France. Separate parts of mosaic panels from the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral were transported to the Polissya city of Baranavichy and they decorated the walls of an Orthodox church built in 1931 in honor of the Intercession of the Theotokos. Thanks to this, a small fragment of a unique composition by V.M. Vasnetsov, "He rejoices about you ..." and part of the mosaic N.A. Kosheleva “Spas with the builder”, which depicts L.N. Benoit holding a model of the cathedral. Something that was taken out into evacuation after the start of the First World War was preserved in the museums of Russia, but on the whole, the damage to Russian and world culture is irreparable.
For comparison, we can give, as they say, a mirror situation with the famous church of Saints Simeon and Helen, better known as the Red Church, located on Independence Square in Minsk near the Government House. The Belarusians not only did not demolish it during the Soviet era (although there were such attempts), but also carefully preserved it and then restored it. Now it is a valid Catholic church.
... But the name of Alexander Nevsky could not be erased completely from the consciousness and memory of the Belarusians. In the Grodno region, on the territory controlled by the Poles until 1919, the Poles of Alexander Nevsky Church in Vertelishki operated to the present day. And in Eastern Belarus there are temples of Alexander Nevsky. In Mstislavl, Mogilyov region, in connection with the 650 anniversary of the birth of Alexander Nevsky in 1858, they decided to build a temple, which opened its doors to parishioners in 1870 year. In this church of Alexander Nevsky kept an icon with a piece of his relics.
In 1896-1898 in Minsk, designed by architect V.I. Struev at the military cemetery was built the temple of Alexander Nevsky. This is practically the only Minsk Orthodox church that has retained its original appearance. The temple was built to perpetuate the memory of the heroes of the Russian-Turkish war 1877-1878. The names of 118 soldiers of the Kolomna Regiment and the artillery brigade who died for the liberation of Bulgaria are immortalized on white marble plates with gold. Officers and soldiers who fell in that war were buried in the temple and near it. The heroes of the Great Patriotic War, Belarusian poets Y. Kupala and Y. Kolas and other famous people also found their rest here. At the beginning of the 1960-s, they wanted to close the temple and set up a coffin-making workshop there.
The temple was able to defend. And in the summer of 1992, the construction of the Alexander Nevsky Church in Vitebsk began. Initially, he was called upon to become a temporary church until the restoration of the Holy Annunciation Church was completed (in which, according to legend, Alexander Nevsky himself was). But over time, fell in love with the townspeople, and he was left in the same place, although there were enough of those who wanted to demolish it.
It was the forces that opposed the idea of the Vitebsk authorities and the public who wanted to demolish the temple and set up a monument to Alexander Nevsky on the already erected pedestal near the temple opposite the Yakub Kolas Theater. 11 projects were submitted to the competition for the installation of the monument to Alexander Nevsky. A lot of people participated in the discussion. The monument was supposed to symbolize the historical, cultural and religious community of the Russian and Belarusian peoples, to serve as a symbol of movement towards the further development of the Union State, the Eurasian Union.
To the greatest regret, in recent years, the cultural-historical policy in Belarus has begun to tilt towards Russophobia and nationalism.
The idea of installing the monument to Alexander Nevsky was subjected to a powerful propaganda attack from the Ministry of Culture and the Academy of Sciences, some state newspapers, and from the opposition forces of Belarus.
The main point is that Alexander Nevsky is a Russian historical character, “and we are building a sovereign Belarus, and we don’t need other heroes”. According to the plan of the people, who in many ways now determine which monuments to be placed in Belarus and where to put them, Jagiello, other Lithuanian and Polish figures of the period of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth need to perpetuate. But - these are the very people who have dedicated their lives to tearing the Belarusians away from the Russian people. And if you install a monument to Alexander Nevsky, then in comparison with his life activity, the personality of Jagiello, who betrayed Orthodoxy and his people for the sake of the royal crown, will look very unattractive.
It was hoped that the monument to Alexander Nevsky will appear in Vitebsk in the year of the 1025 anniversary of the baptism of Russia as a symbol of Orthodoxy and the unity of nations, but the pedestal, alas, is still empty. But before the arrival of the heads of the Orthodox local churches in Belarus to participate in the celebrations of the 1025 anniversary of the baptism of Russia in Vitebsk, they wanted to erect a monument to the Lithuanian Prince Olgerd, one of the founders of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. After public protests, this idea has so far been abandoned, otherwise the situation would have looked completely unattractive.
On all of Belarus 12 September, on the day of memory of the holy Prince Alexander Nevsky, the divine services were held. He still stands guard over the western frontiers of Orthodoxy, causing fear and hatred among the enemies of the Russian land.