The lands along the Neva River have belonged to the Ancient Russian state since at least the 9th
century. However, throughout history these lands have had a mixed population of Slavs, Finns
and other ethnic groups. From at least the ninth century this area was part of
of Novgorod. Novgorod was an important center of international and domestic trade and craftsmanship.
Novgorod merchants traded with Western and Northern Europe and later with the towns of the Hanseatic
League. All that trade went through the Neva River and through Lake Ladoga.
In 1240, when most of Southern and Central Russia was fighting the Mongol invasion, a Swedish
force landed at the banks of the Neva River.
The Novgorod troops of Prince Alexander went out to
meet the foe and on July 15, 1240 fought the battle of Neva (Nevskaya Bitva).
The Russians successfully launched a surprise attack and were victorious. This battle became a
symbol of Russia's dramatic
fight for independence and Prince Alexander was given the name Alexander Nevsky (i.e. Alexander
of Neva). Prince Alexander was then declared a Saint of the Russian Orthodox Church for his
efforts to protect Russia and its Christian faith.
(Later, in the 18th century, he was proclaimed
the patron saint of St. Petersburg - Peter the Great's "paradise" on the Neva).