Who was behind his assassination?
Paul was assasinated by a large group of prominent Russians, including Bennigsen, the famed military commander, Pahlen, a scion of one of Russia's leading noble families and a leading government minister, and many other notable persons of the time.
This group of assasins made their plans well in advance. That the group formed in the first place was due to the growing sense that Paul was mentally unstable and that his whims were leading Russia to political and economic ruin.
Paul was definitely mentally unstable. An obsessive-compulsive who was prone to fits of paranoia and rage, his mental condition became worse under the stress of governing.
During Paul's last months, he ended Russia's war with France and proposed an alliance with Napoleon. Further, he went to war with England, even going so far as to dispatch 20,000 Cossacks on the bizzare and impossible mission of conquering India via an overland Asiatic route.
Paul's reversal of Russia's traditional alliance with England was regarded as an act of insanity. When Napoleon heard about it from Russian diplomats, he was so amazed that he had the diplomats arrested, thinking that they must have deliberately misrepresented Paul's directives.
The Russian aristocracy in particular was negatively affected by Paul's alienation of England, as these aristocrats made their living by selling their agricultural products in British markets.
The ranks of Paul's assasins were swelled by others who were motivated by anger and a desire for revenge. In the five years of Paul's reign (1796-1801), many prominent citizens of St. Petersburg were jailed, publically humiliated, exiled or ruined socially and professionally as a result of Paul's paranoid and vindictive cruelty.
By 1801, obviously many people had good reasons for wanting Paul dead.
The object of the assasins at first was to let Paul live but to force him, by threatening his life in his bedchamber, to sign an abdication in favor of his son, Alexander. Alexander, just 24 at the time, was informed of this plan in advance and reluctantly gave his approval, as he knew as well as anyone else that his father was nearly insane and in need of removal.
The assasins, however, were thoroughly drunk the night they made their way via a supposedly secret staircase to Paul's bedchamber, and they beat him to death in the ensuing melee.
I believe there were approximately two dozen assasins in Paul's bedchamber that night.
Paul is a very fascinating figure to study...at least from a psychological perspective. He was actually rather intelligent and he had a grandiose element to his personality. If not for his mental illness, Paul might have proven to be an unusually capable tsar.