In October 1800, a young, rich, popular and successful Swedish aristocrat and military hero in the Russian service committed suicide, seemingly for no rea son. His name was Major Magnus-Wilhelm Sprengtporten (1772–1800), and he was the son of the famous Swedish traitor, Finnish patriot and Russian agent Goran Magnus Sprengtporten (1740–1819; the future military governor of Fin land). The real cause of his death in Moscow triggered an intense epistolary debate that has remained unnoticed by Russian and Western scholars of sui cide. The participants of this debate included Russian, Swedish, Finnish, Polish, and French writers, politicians, military men, conspirators, adventu rists, courtiers, and historians, ranging from the Russian writer Karamzin to Napoleon, then First Consul of France, and Russian Emperor Paul I. The major question posed by this project is not why the son of the infamous Swedish poli tician decided to commit suicide, but rather how this suicide reveals a number of dramatic ideological, political, emotional, and literary conflicts and shifts in Russia, Sweden, and Europe as a whole on the eve of the Napoleonic Wars.
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