Sprengtporten‘s life

Materials about the life of Georg Magnus Sprengtporten are collected and studied by Russian and Finnish scientists in the archives and libraries of Finland, Russia and Sweden.

Painter: Lorentz Lars Svensson Sparrgren (1763 – 1828). 5,3 x 4,2 cm, ivory. Collection: Sinebrychoff Art Museum  (Helsinki, Finland). Source: kansallisgalleria.fi

Materials about the life of Georg Magnus Sprengtporten are collected and studied by Russian and Finnish scientists in the archives and libraries of Finland, Russia and Sweden.

The project began with a study of literature and archive work and getting buried in the personality of Georg Magnus Sprengtporten to get an overall picture of his life. Being acquainted with literature and archival materials from the very beginning showed that he was an exceptionally difficult person. A lot has been written about him, and the attitude towards Sprengtporten as a person was very different, especially in early literature. Some considered him a traitor, others a hero. It is obvious that Sprengtporten deserves a much bigger place in the minds of the current generation.

An important part of the research is getting to know Sprengtporten’s inner circle. For example, the reigns of Gustav III and Catherine the Great were studied in order to understand the activities of Sprengtporten. This is also necessary because of the incredible life story of Sprengtporten himself. In fact, by studying his personality, one can trace a number of events in the world history of that time, from the American War of Independence to the Napoleonic Wars and even colonial history.

Studying the literature on Sprengtporten, four different areas of research can be distinguished.

  1. The historical context of Sprengtporten's life, namely the framework of his activities.
  2. Sprengtporten as a military man, i.e. his professional career
  3. Sprengtporten as a politician
  4. Sprengtporten as a cosmopolitan and a citizen of the world

Historical context is the necessary background for all three personal stories as a military, political figure and cosmopolitan. Professional history is important for our project, because the time in Brahelinna in 1775-1779 can be considered the turning point of Sprengtporten's professional career. He was an officer in Brahelinna, appreciated and respected by everyone, the creator of innovative cartographic works and a school for training officers. Although Sprengtporten later held senior military and civilian positions, his respect was incomparable to the respect during his time in Brahelinna.

Rulers Gustav III and Catherine II

Gustav III was the King of Sweden from 1771 to 1792. Gustaw III: Painter: Alexander Roslin (1718 - 1793). Collection: Stockholm National Museum, Sweden. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Georg Magnus Sprengtporten was a general of two great powers. Sprengtporten: An unknown artist. Collection: The State Hermitage Museum (Saint Petersburg, Russia). Source: hermitagemuseum.org

Catherine II, or Catherine the Great, was the Empress of Russia from 1762 to 1796. Catherine the Great: Painter: Vigilius Eriksen (1722 - 1782). Collection: The State Hermitage Museum (Saint Petersburg, Russia). Source: hermitagemuseum.org

Among the Swedish rulers, Gustav III was one of the greatest personalities. He was a talented culture propagandist, he also staged a coup. Georg Magnus Sprengtporten helped his cousin Jacob Magnus Sprengtporten in the military coup of Gustav III in 1772. Earlier, in the spring, Sprengtporten was appointed the commander of the Savo Brigade. However, the relationship between the king and the younger Sprengtporten began to cool down. At the time of Brahelinna, they had differences. Gustav did not invite Sprengtporten to the Parliament in 1779, where he was to participate as commander of the Savo Brigade. This led to a complete break in relations and the transfer of Sprengtporten to Russian service in 1786.

Catherine II was one of the most important rulers of the Enlightenment era and developed Russia during her long reign from 1762 to 1796. Georg Magnus Sprengtporten, on his way to Europe in 1779, began his trip from St. Petersburg. His achievements in the military training of the Savo Brigade were well known there.

Russian court welcomed Sprengtporten, and, according to the rumors, at that time Prince Potemkin invited him to the Russian service for the first time. Sprengtporten also gained an audience with Catherine the Great. It was a huge contrast to the popularity that Sprengtporten enjoyed with Gustav III, and this contrast definitely remained in Sprengtporten's mind.

Years later, in 1786 in the Netherlands, he presented to the Russian minister his proposal on the state balance of the Nordic countries and the independence of Finland, and transferred to the Russian service at the end of the same year. Catherine the Great used Sprengtporten as a strategist in Gustav's war and used his communication with the Finnish officer opposition. During the war with Gustav Sprengtporten was wounded in Porrassalmi in 1789 and was treated in Brahelinna.

Conversational counterparts Benjamin Franklin and Casanova

Benjamin Franklin was a scientist and inventor whose work touched on various aspects of society. He was the U.S. ambassador to Paris when Georg Magnus Sprengtporten arrived there in 1779 to join the French troops going to the American War of Independence. At that time, from 1779 to 1781, Sprengtporten was influenced by Franklin, and the ideas of republicanism and independence began to fascinate Sprengtporten. According to Franklin, Sprengtporten's ideas were unrealistic at the time.

Sprengtporten treated the injuries he received in Porrassalmi for several years at European resorts. Czech Teplice was his place of residence from 1795 to 1798. There he became friends with Count Waldstein's librarian, the famous Giacomo Casanova. Sprengtporten was one of Casanova's last friends, as Casanova died shortly after Sprengtporten returned to Saint Petersburg. Casanova described Sprengtporten’s character in a positive light.