“This land was Russian, it still is, and it will remain so! We owe this legendary phrase to the Prince of Novgorod, Alexander Nevsky. In April 1242, he attacked the soldiers of the Teutonic Order, originating from present-day Germany, who wanted to conquer medieval Russia and convert it to Catholicism. Eight Centuries later, the figure of Nevsky occupied a prominent place in the imagination mobilized by Vladimir Putin to justify his invasion of Ukraine, presented as a defensive measure to protect Russian-speakers in the face of Western danger.
“We are now fighting against Europe as our ancestors did,” says Oleg Yakontov, a 56-year-old former paratrooper who took part in the historic reenactment near the Estonian border. In September 2021, Vladimir Putin and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, unveiled in person, a few meters away, a metal sculpture representing the despotic prince of Novgorod and his soldiers.
“The image of Alexander Nevsky is truly grand,” declared the Russian leader, hailing him as a “brilliant military commander” but also a “skillful diplomat” allied with the Mongols as Moscow looks toward China today. “Our president continues this work,” says 52-year-old engineer Oleg Davydov calmly. According to him, Vladimir Putin embodies “the security of the country, its strength, its confidence and its security.”
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