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News 12 Feb 16

Romanians Yearn for Rule by Vlad the Impaler

If an election was held in which only figures from the past could compete, many Romanians say they would vote for the tough medieval prince who crucified his enemies.

Marian Chiriac
Bucharest
Vlad the Impaler remains a model of authoritarian leader for many Romanians | Photo: edusoft.ro

Democracy may have had its day in Romania, considering the results of a recent poll, which showed that many Romanians would like to hand the country over to the cruel medieval prince called Vlad the Impaler - if he was still alive.

The prince of Wallachia, nowadays southern Romania, is widely seen as a hero and a great leader by many Romanians.

"Vlad was a true king. Of course, he was a cruel prince and did many bad things, but mostly to the rich and the merchants,” 63-year-old Steliana Notaru said.

"We need a tough leader now more than ever, as Romania is still plagued by corruption and insecurity,” Notaru added.

A recent survey, conducted by CSCI pollster and interviewing more than 1,000 Romanian adults, showed that 35 per cent of them would vote for Vlad as Romanian President if an election took place in which only historic figures could compete,

Tepes, called “the Impaler” for his brutality, led Romanian resistance to the Ottomans after they invaded Transylvania in the mid-15th century. He later burned the suburbs of the town of Brasov and killed hundreds of ethnic German "Saxons" living there.

It marked him down as a sadist who enjoyed killing and torturing people. Legends of his cruelty were passed down the generations through pamphlets published in Germany.

But Vlad Tepes remains popular mainly among people who yearn for a tough non-nonsense leader.

"To most of Romanians, Vlad Tepes remains a symbol of the fight against corruption. They only cite the fact he used harsh methods to reclaim the country from the corrupt and rich boyars, and that he was ruthless with thieves and bums,” says historian Alexandru Voicu.

"Even if they accept he was a cruel prince, they say at least he was a honest one,” he added.

The bloody legends about Vlad the Impaler inspired Irish writer Bram Stoker to create the famous book about the blood-sucking Count Dracula.

Nowadays, the Romania authorities play on this legend to draw tourists to Transylvania, mainly to the gothic turrets of Bran Castle, which was built in the 14th century to serve as a customs and a fortress defending the eastern border of Transylvania.

Vlad is not the only infamous historical character who has had a makeover in many people’s minds during recent years.

Romanians have now mixed feelings about once hated communist regime. Preoccupied with their financial woes, many people say they don’t feel strongly about the regime that took power in 1947 and collapsed in December 1989.

Surveys show that nearly half the population believe life was better in the communist era, with a higher standard of living and job security being given as the main arguments.

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