From time immemorial, the Slavs and Germans have sustained an ancestral rivalry. More than 8 centuries ago, April 5 1242 took place a historical fact ignored by many, a battle that changed the history of Russia and the world: the battle of the Ice Lake.
At that time, Russia was not the territory we know now. It was called Republic of Novgorod and occupied, a territory less extensive than today. At the head of this state, was one of the most important figures in the history of Russia, Alexander Nevski.
It was a region hit by the raids of the Mongols and by the knights of the Teutonic Order, a German military order, which was eager to evangelize and occupy the territories located at east of Europe.
Two years before in 1240, in these Germanic crusaders occupied several cities of Novgorod as Pskov, Izbork and Koporye. Alexander Nevski He realized that yes, the Germans continued their advance, they would finally conquer the entire republic and decided to stop their advance. To do this, he gathered his troops to confront Western power.
Meanwhile, the knights of the Teutonic Order They were confident of their success. They considered that the Russians were not a rival for their heavy cavalry force, which was the main axis of their power. Counting on the blessing of Pope of Rome, interested in converting Catholicism to Orthodox Christians, in addition to the help of Danish and Estonian soldiers drunk on looting, they set out to destroy From Russia.
The April 2, both forces are in the Lake Peipus, on the current border between Estonia and Russia. The battle is coming.
As in the 2 World War, the Germans set out to conquer Russian territory, will Alexander Nevski be able to stop his advance?
The count of troops for each side was the following:
-800 German knights.
-100 Brothers of the Teutonic Order, the elite of the German army.
-1000 Estonian light infants.
-400 German heavy infants.
-300 Danish infants.
-2000 militants of Novgorod.
-1400 mercenaries of different nationalities (Finnish, Estonian, etc).
-1000 soldiers of the guard druzhina. They were the elite troops of Novgorod, most were mounted riders, who had good equipment and fiercely loyal to their leader, Alexander Nevski.
-600 archers on horseback Mongolian allies. A force unparalleled in Europe, whose tactics, ferocity and rain of arrows caused fear among Westerners.
Although we can see that Alexander Nevski they had more troops, the Germans had better equipment and military training so the advantage was on the German side.
Start the fight!
The German troops were launched in wedge formation, with the aim of breaking the Russian lines and bringing down Alexander Nevski to demoralize his men.
The Russian army arranged its infantry and archers in the center, with its cavalry to the flanks to border the Germanic knights.
The German charge was terrible, despite the rain of arrows from the Russian foot archers, the Teutons managed to break the formation and went to destroy the rest of Russian infantry.
But Nevski he had foreseen this and taking advantage of the lightness of his troops, made a feigned flight and crossed the lake Peipus, waiting for the next German attack.
The German army fell into the bait, its forces arranged like a gigantic battering ram, crossed the river of ice, being an easy target for the arrows of the horse archers Mongols, who began to decimate their ranks. In spite of everything, they managed to cross the lake and collide with the Russian infantry that managed to retain their advance.
Then, Nevski he unleashed his druzhina, that was thrown on the flanks of the Germanic army causing a great death among its ranks. The Danish and Estonian warriors began to flee, but the Teutonic Order and the German Knights they resisted inflicting heavy casualties on Russian soldiers.
But, they could not stand much longer, the German soldiers realized that if they did not flee, they would be completely surrounded and decimated and started retreating.
And there the disaster happened
It was April and although the lake was frozen, the ice sheet was not strong enough to withstand the weight of the knights, with their mounts riding at high speed and armor, while trying to escape, the German soldiers sank into the ice, and drowned in the cold waters of the Peipus Lake. Because of this, this combat is known as the Battle of Ice.
It was a massacre
Cross casualties are estimated at almost 1000 men, 400 of them Germans and 20 knights of the Teutonic order. Also 50 knights they were taken prisoner to demand a ransom.
As for the Russian casualties were not so numerous, but many infants lost their lives, in the initial charge of the German knights.
The importance of this battle has been overlooked by historians, but it marked the future of Russia as a country. In the first place, the incursions of Germans and Swedes were reduced since this defeat. Also, it served to consolidate the power of Novgorod and create the germ of what would be centuries later Empire From Russia.
This battle is immortalized in one of the most distinguished films of the Soviet cinema: Alexander Nevski, directed by Sergei Eisenstein
What can we learn from this battle, dear Russian Lover? First, never attack Russia in winter time (it was April, but the Russian winter is more durable) and second never underestimate Russian power !!