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History of Romania
Although Roman occupation
of Dacia ended in 271 A.D., the relationship between the Romans
and Dacians flourished; mixed marriages and the adoption of
Latin culture and language gradually molded the Romans and
Dacians into a distinct ethnic entity. The ancestors of the
modern Romanian people managed to preserve their Latin heritage
despite Gothic, Slavic, Greek, Hungarian, and Turkish conquests;
and the Romanian language survived as a member of the romance
Romania has been subjected to numerous occupations by foreign powers since the Middle Ages. In the Thirteenth Century, the Romanian principalities Moldavia and Wallachia became vassal states of the Ottoman Empire. Bukovina, Transylvania and Banat were incorporated into the Austro-Hungarian Empire during the 1700s. Czarist Russia occupied Bassarabia in 1812. In 1859, Moldavia and Wallachia became a national state. At the Congress of Berlin in 1878, Romania obtained full independence from the Ottoman Empire but lost Bessarabia to Russia. In 1881, Romania was proclaimed a kingdom, and Carol I (1839-1914) was installed as its first monarch.
Following the death of Carol I, his nephew,
Ferdinand (1865-1927), became king and led the country into
World War I against the Central Powers but later became their
ally. Romania regained Transylvania, Banat, Bukovina, and
other territories after the war. In 1940, Carol II (1893-1953)
named General Ion Antonescu (1882-1946) premier of Romania,
who then forced the monarch to renounce his throne in favor
of his son, Michael I (1921-). Under Antonescus influence,
Romania became an ally of Nazy Germany during World War II
and fought against the Soviet Union. In the last year of the
war, however, Romania switched its alliance to the Soviets
and, after the war ended, Antonescu was executed. In national
elections held in 1947, members of the Communist party assumed
many high-level positions in the new government; and King
Michael I was forced to abdicate his throne. Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej
(1901-1965), of the Romanian Communist party, served as premier
(1952-1955) and later as chief of state (1961-1965). Two years
after Gheorghiu Dejs death, Nicolae Ceausescu (1918-1998),
a high-ranking Communist official, assumed the presidency
On 22 December 1989, the Communist regime was overthrown, and Ceausescu was executed on Christmas Day. In the post-Communist years, various changes have occurred, including a free press, free elections, and a multi-party electorate bringing to power a democratic government. The pace of transforming Romanias economy into a market economy accelerated and improved relations with the United States, Canada and other Western countries were promoted. Romania also petitioned to become a member of NATO, and its candidacy will be considered in the year 2002. Romanias current president is Ion Iliescu. He replaced Emil Constantinescu (1996-2000) and also preceded him during the period 1990-1996.
Like all the other Romanic peoples, the Romanian nation was formed during a long period of time, starting with the Roman conquest of the Lower Danube zones and ending in the eighth and ninth centuries. The venue of this genesis was situated on both sides of the Danube, including Roman Dacia, the territories of the free Dacians and other neighboring regions.
A new people and a new language were formed at that time within this space, situated in Central and Southeastern Europe. The Romanians are a synthesis of two ethnic elements, namely the native Thraco-Geto-Dacians and the Roman conquerors, of which the latter element was also the stronger and consequently triumphed. The mechanism leading to the formation of the Romanian people and its language is called Romanization and it presupposes the gradual appropriation of the Latin language, customs and creeds by the natives. The two Moesia provinces (Moesia Superior and Moesia Inferior) represented a strong center of Romanization until the sixth century. But, following the onrush of the Slavs and the shifting of their headquarters south of the Danube, the center of Danubian Romanity was concentrated in the former Trajans Dacia and the neighboring areas. Although their influence was felt only later, when the formation of the Romanian nation was in its final stage, the Slavs are the third element-minor, it is true-that played a certain part in the configuration of the Romanians personality. In their relationship with Romanians, the Slavs played the same role as the one played by the Germanic elements in the case of Romanic peoples in Western and Southern Europe. Thus, around the eighth century, when, roughly speaking, the Romanian people came into existence, its main nucleus lived north of the Danube, where the Slavs assimilation had already started and would last until the 12th and 13th centuries. South of the Danube, the numerous Slavs pushed the Romances (proto-Romanians) northwards, southwards and westwards, con- comitantly starting a long Slavicization process. That is the reason why the Romanian people appeared and asserted themselves as a medieval nation north of the Danube and in Dobrudja, whereas in the south, in the Balkans, smaller groups of Aromanians (or Macedo- Romanians), Megleno-Romanians and Istro-Romanians survived.
Amounting to several hundred thousand nowadays, these people speak three different dialects of the Romanian language. Romanian proper (called the Daco-Romanian dialect) is spoken in Romania and Moldova, being the mother tongue of about 25 million people.
Like all the Romanic peoples, the Romanians were formed from two basic ethnic elements, namely the native element (the Thraco- Daco-Getians) and the conquering element (the Romans). In this synthesis, the Latin essence triumphed. The third ethnic element was represented by nomadic populations, especially the Slavs, which could not alter the Romance character of the Romanians. It is impossible nowadays to state the biological ratio of each element in the genesis of the Romanian people, but it is certain that Romanity triumphed on both the spiritual and the linguistic level. The gradual metamorphosis of the Thraco-Geto- Dacians and of the Romans (and of other ethnic elements assimilated in the course of time), into proto-Romanians and Romanians lasted for seven to eight centuries in the first millennium of the Christian age. It occurred on a vast territory along the Lower Danube, and, in about the sixth to seventh centuries, it was concentrated north of the Danube, where Romanity resisted the waves of migratory peoples. It follows that the Romanian people-the most numerous in Southeast Europe-did not form exclusively north or exclusively south of the Danube, but on either side of the river which only became a barrier between the Latino- phones and the other ethic groups after the genesis of the Slavic states. The Danube did not prevent the Romanians and their ancestors from circulating on both its banks, individually or in groups, or, in certain circumstances, from moving from the north to the south or the other way round. Nevertheless, it never occurred to all Romanians from the south to go northwards or vice versa, because they had neither the means, nor any reason to do so. Logistically this kind of mass crossings was impossible and no Romanic people ever resorted to it.
As seen above, Romanians resemble the other Romanic peoples in many ways. Sharing a common geographical area, the latter lived and developed together as neighbors, influencing one another. The Romanians, on the other hand, are the only Romanic people in Eastern Romanity. Nowadays their neighbors are Bulgarians, Serbs, Ukrainians, Poles, Slovaks-in short, Slavs-and Hungarians. None of them is a Latin people. During the Middle Ages, the situation was the same, in the sense that none of the Romanians neighbors was of Romance origin. That is the reason why many historians and linguists have considered the Romanians to be a miracle and an enigma, not so much for the way in which they came into being, but mostly because of their survival as a Romance People in a Slavic sea, in the way of migratory invader waves.
By the end of the 16th century, Ottoman suzerainty
had become rather oppressive, particularly since the tribute
and other obligations were increased. The princes of the three
countries often found themselves overpowered by this Ottoman
trusteeship, especially those in Wallachia, who were geographically
more at risk. Higher reputation was enjoyed by the Transylvanian
princes, and in particular by those in the Bathory family,
one of whom (Stephen Bathory) even became king of Poland for
a while (1576-1586). Transylvania was also safeguarded by
the Carpathian mountain range and favored with the Habsburgs
protection. The Ottomans were exerting a less
oppressive suzerainty in Transylvania, lest they should provide
a reason for the estates to appeal to the Habsburgs for protection.
The latter were, however, looking for opportunities to take
It was Wallachia, where the situation was the worst, that provided the rescue in voivode Michael who, in order to get to the throne in 1593, made an oath of allegiance to the Sultan and paid large sums of money at Istanbul (Constantinople). Yet, the moment he ascended the throne, Michael began to consolidate his internal power and prepared himself for the anti-Ottoman revolt. He brought his country into an alliance against the Turks called The Holy League, initiated by the Habsburgs. Among the allies were the Holy See, Spain, Venice, some Italian dukedoms, Transylvania and Moldavia. Under these circumstances, the Transylvanian prince proclaimed himself a kind of suzerain for the three countries known as the Dacia of the ancient time, as they were still frequently called, according to the spirit of the Renaissance.
Aided by the Transylvanians and in agreement with the voivode of Moldavia, Michael started the anti-Ottoman revolt in 1594, in Bucharest. With his own army of mercenaries and help from his allies the voivode of Wallachia won remarkable victories against the Turks and the Tartars both north and south of the Danube, arousing the hopes of the Christian peoples in the Balkans. The most famous is the battle of Cãlugãreni, August 23, 1595. Shortly after that battle, the Turks sued for peace and were obliged to acknowledge Michael as prince. Yet peace and quiet were temporary as long as Poland and Transylvania were inclined to conclude agreements with the Ottoman Empire against the Romanian voivode. In order to consolidate his countrys position, he signed a treaty with the Habsburg Empire (1598) which in a way balanced the situation. Still something else was needed, namely energetic enterprise, to enlarge the human, territorial and economic foundations of the monarchical institution, to consolidate the voivodes power and ensure his real independence, particularly when faced with the Ottoman danger. Michael thought of bringing together under his own authority the three countries called by the humanists Dacia. They had the advantage of not being occupied by the Turks like the Balkan countries, a fact that offered the voivode greater freedom of action. Their economic systems were complementary, trade routes could easily cross the Carpathians, the Transylvanian merchants enjoyed privileges south and east of the Carpathians, the princes and boyars on these sides owned hundreds of cities, market towns and villages in Transylvania, the Romanian bishoprics in Transylvania were subordinated to the metropolitan churches in Moldavia and Wallachia, etc. An important fact was also the common ethno-demographic background: the Romanians were a majority in all the three countries. Consequently, in 1599, the Wallachian army, commanded by Michael the Brave (theoretically on behalf of the Habsburg Emperor), crossed the mountains into Transylvania and defeated the army of the local prince. The monarch of Wallachia was proclaimed Prince of Transylvania. In the year 1600, the same army crossed the mountains, this time to the east, and incorporated Moldavia in the new political structure. That is how, in the summer of 1600, at Iaºi (Jassy), Michael the Brave could suggestively call himself Prince of Wallachia, of Transylvania and of the whole Moldavian country. He had become, as his contemporaries appreciated in the spirit of the Renaissance, a restitutor Daciae, i.e., the prince that reconstituted ancient Dacia. He had rebuilt it, though, for the benefit of the Romanians, the offspring of the Romans, as some witnesses would timidly and indirectly notice, and as his successors would more and more openly emphasize. Still ruling in London at the time was Elizabeth I, founder, in the New World, of the colony of Virginia, the nucleus of the large American federation of the future.
The union did not last, as the Hungarian nobles, the Poles, the Habsburgs and the Ottomans were all opposing Michael, and because the rebuilding of Dacia in a modern spirit and with a Romanian prince as ruler could not, at that moment, have the benefits of the needed institutions. That is why the voivode who had caused the union to become a fact was treacherously assassinated with the nobilitys connivance on August 19, 1601, near Turda.
Michael the Brave did not act in a modern
national spirit when he united the three countries, and he
did not aim at creating the modern Romania, but he built up
a solid foundation for the future Romania. In Transylvania
he adopted measures in favor of the Romanians, meaning to
ensure their equal standing with the other nations, and he
established certain institutions common for the three countries.
The estates, i.e., the official ruling minority, perceived
the great danger and worked for Michael s downfall,
for the abolition of his form of government, for the complete
severance of relations with the two remaining Romanian countries.
On the contrary, encouraged by the prince of their own
nation, the Romanians rose against the nobility; they
had gained a lasting hope-that of becoming free in their own
country and of enjoying equal rights with the acknowledged
nations. Later on, Michael the Brave became a modern national
symbol of the Romanians, a kind of Founding Father, as important
for them as the image of George Washington for the American
When I came to the United States in the late 1960s, I could not understand why Dracula was, and still is, so popular in this country.
Many Americans, after hearing that I was
from Romania, would ask me what I knew about Dracula, for
it was virtually the only thing they identified with my native
land. Moreover, the Dracula Americans had in their mind was
very different from the Dracula I knew in my native
Romania since early school days. To my American friends, Dracula
meant a Transylvanian count-vampire, a fictional character
from the novel Dracula (1897) by British author Bram Stoker.
The count is a corpse during the day but comes to life at
night in the shape of a huge bat, draws blood from the necks
of sleeping victims, and turns them into blood-seeking vampires
as well. After a series of horrifing adventures, Dracula is
finally cornered by his enemies and killed; a stake is driven
through his heart. Draculas Transylvanian world is portrayed
as a dark, mysterious, and dangerous land, one filled with
blood and violence.
My image of Dracula was a prince called Vlad the Impaler, who ruled the Romanian region of Wallachia between 1456 and 1462 and was assassinated by boyars in 1476. He became famous for his bloody rule; he used death by impaling against political opponents, robbers, and thieves. Dracula was a nickname (derived from the Romanian word dracul meaning devil) given to the prince because of his violent regime, which resulted in the brutal deaths of more than 20,000 Romanians. But is there any connection between the fictional and the historical Dracula?
There never could have been a fictional Dracula without the existence of an historical Dracula. Although more than 400 years had elapsed between Vlad the Impalers death and the publication of Stoker's book, the princes image survived and was continuously revised not only in Romania but also in several other countries.
Dracula stories depicting the cruelty of the Wallachian prince first circulated in Germany and became quite popular at the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth centuries. Dracula was also described in dark colors by some Hungarian writers. In France, Dracula was viewed as a ruler combining cruelty with heroism. This image was circulated by Walerand de Wavrin, who knew Dracula personaly and had fought in his army against the Turks. To England, Dracula's reputation had initially come via the narration of William of Wey a pilgrim to the Holy Land. In Russia Dracula was portrayed at the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth centuries as a basically heroic figure because he had fought against the Turks. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Hungarian writers invariably described Dracula in negative terms, and in compensation, Romanian men of letters presented him in favorable colors, stressing his patriotic aspects. Numerous poems, plays, novels, and historical works were recorded in Romania during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the majority of them highlighting his heroic deeds and downplaying his brutality. Nevertheless, Dracula's image and fame in the world is due to his non-Romanian portrayals, among which Stoker's novel represents the culmination. Stoker's novel has been translated into many languages and has remained continuously in print to this day.
Dracula prints appeared in Germany as early as 1485 and later were exhibited in England as well as in other countries. One of the prints, called Draculas Feast showed the prince taking his meals among impaled bodies. Other prints showed Draculas face with very detailed features, and after viewing these prints at the British Museum. Stoker wrote: His face was strong, aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils: with lofty, domed forehead,and hair growing scantily round the temples, but profusely elsewhere. His eyebrows were massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl with profusion.
The mouth, so far as I could see under the
heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel looking, with
peculiarly sharp white teeth. In this way the historical
Dracula served as a prototype for Stoker's fictional one.
The movie industry brought Dracula to the screen for the first time in 1923, in Nosferatu, a German silent movie directed by F. W. Murnau. Dracula's role was played in the movie by Max Schreck, who produced some memorable moments as the count-vampire rising from the coffin. Seven years later, the Transylvanian-born actor Bela Lugosi became famous when he interpreted the role of Dracula on the stage. Then, in 1931, he immortalized the character in the movie Dracula, produced by Universal Pictures and billed as the first horror film. The movie, still in release, became a classic unequalled by any other productions. Lugosi's Transylvanian accent gives authenticity to the film.
His portrayal of Dracula is so close to Stoker's character and so moving that nobody who sees the movie is ever able to forget its title character. Ironically, Lon Chaney, Sr., known in filmdom for his elaborate macabre roles, was slated to play Dracula, but in 1930 he died of cancer at the age of 47, the same age that the historical Dracula was assassinated. Thirteen years later, his son Lon Chaney, Jr. appeared as Dracula in a movie entitled The Son of Dracula.
Dozens of American and British movies have taken up the Dracula theme and given it a new twist. Dracula has been interpreted by several noted actors, including John Carradine, David Niven, and Jack Palance. In England, Christopher Lee successfully portrayed Dracula in a series of vampire movies and even became the leader of a Dracula society. One of the most popular music videos of all time, Michael Jacksons Thriller (1984), expropriated the Dracula image. Presently, there are about 500 Dracula movies in the world, of which more than 50 were produced in the United States and England. Other countries with a thriving Dracula film production include Spain, Japan, Turkey, Mexico, and, of course, Romania.
Draculas image has also been used for business purposes. Some examples include Draculas Feast, a Romanian restaurant that existed in New York City in the 1960s and 1970s, a Dracula nightclub in Switzerland, and a Dracula pub in Romania. There are Dracula toys, comic books, and other print and non-print works based upon the character. There is also a Count Dracula Society (1962- ), founded in Los Angeles, which unites professionals who are interested in serious studies devoted to horror films and gothic literarure. It has branches in several states and publishes a periodical, Count Dracula Quarterly. The society is affiliated with two other organizations interested in Dracula, The Noble Order of Count Dracula and The Order of the Golden Bat. In New York, the Count Dracula Fan Club (1965- ) is devoted to literary and historical aspects of Stoker's Dracula; it has a Dracula museum and is involved in publishing activities. The British Dracula Society/Societé du Comte Dracula ( 1973- ) keeps the papers of Bram Stoker, publishes a semi-annual Dracula Journal, and offers a forum for enthusiasts of gothic and supernatural literature and films. In the summer of 1995, the First World Dracula. Congress was held in Bucharest and in other localities in Transylvania.
Since the early 1980s,the government of Romania has sought to take advantage of worldwide interest in Dracula. It sponsors Dracula Tours that give tourists the opportunity to visit various spots connected with the historical and fictional Dracula. These tours have served to dispel many stereotypes and misconceptions; they place the figure of Dracula within the medieval historical con- text and help visitors to see how those within and outside the culture interpret and/or embellish the reality. The Romanian government also issued a set of special stamps of interest to fans and philatelists. The set was issued in 1959 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Bucharest, Romanias capital. The stamps depict the historical Dracula and the charter issued by him on September 20, 1459, establishing the Wallachian village of Bucharest. After a fierce competition with other places, Bucharest later became a city and ultimately the nations capital.
After researching all the materials on Dracula, one may still ask: Why is Dracula so popular, and why are people, old and young, women and men, so interested in him? Several explanations can be cited. According to some opinions, Dracula - like many other horror characters, such as Frankenstein - brings healthy release from the mundane. Peter Wyngarde, the British author and interpreter of Dracula in a play called Pleasantly Frightening, thinks that the public will never tire of Dracula because he represents the evil in all of us". His figure transcends its Romanian setting to cross nations and cultures. Noted British actor Christopher Lee, Draculas interpreter on the screen, believes that Dracula offers the illusion of immortality. Men are attracted to him", remarks Lee, because of the irresistible power he wields. For women, there is the complete abandonment to the power of men". Bela Lugosi revealed in one of his interviews that more than 97 percent of his fan mail came from women. In fact, one of Lugosis five wives married him solely because he interpreted Dracula so masterfully; she was said to have fallen in love with...Dracula. (The marriage, however, was short-lived.)
I am ready to stop here, but suddenly Draculas words - before he died in Stokers novel - come to mind: You think to baffle me, you with your pale faces all in a row...You think you have left me without a place to rest, but I have more. My revenge has just begun. I spread it over centuries, and time is on my side.
Who is Dracula?