The first written record of Tver is dated 1135 Originally a minor settlement of Novgorodian traders, it passed to the Grand Prince of Vladimir in 1209. In 1246, Alexander Nevsky granted it to his younger brother Yaroslav Yaroslavich (d. 1271), from whom a dynasty of local princes descended. Four of them were killed by the Golden Horde and were proclaimed saints by the Russian Orthodox church.
Formerly a land of woods and bogs, the Principality of Tver was quickly transformed into one of the richest and most populous Russian states. As the area was hardly accessible for Tatar raids, there was a great influx of population from the recently devastated south. By the end of the century, it was ready to vie with Moscow for supremacy in Russia. Both Tver and Moscow were young cities, so the outcome of their rivalry was far from being certain.