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Few names have plunged more fear into the human heart than Count Dracula. Legendary vampire Vlad the Impalercreated by author Bram Stoker in his 1897 novel of the same name, inspired countless horror films, television shows, and bloody tales of vampires.


Although Dracula is a purely fictional creation, Stoker called him a shameful character of a real person who had a taste for blood: Vlad III, the prince of Wallachia or, as he is better known, Vlad Tepes. The painful nickname is a testament to the beloved way of the Wallachian prince to escape from enemies.

According to historians who have studied the connection between the vampire Stoker and Vlad III, there is nothing to do with Dracula.

Count Dracula: A Real Story

Vlad Tepes (Vlad III) was born in 1431 in present-day Transylvania, the central region of modern Romania. The connection between Vlad Tepes and Transylvania is steady, according to Florin Kerta, professor of medieval history and archeology at the University of Florida.

Dracula [Stoker] is associated with Transylvania, but the real historical Dracula - Vlad III did not own anything in Transylvania. Bran Castle, a modern tourist attraction in Transylvania, often referred to as Dracula's castle, was never the residence of the Prince of Wallachia.

Since the castle is located in the mountains in this foggy area, and it looks intimidating, this is what you would expect from Dracula's castle, but Vlad III did not live there, he did not even step there.

Vlad III’s father, Vlad II, lived in Sighisoara, Transylvania, and Vlad Tepes was born in Targovishte, which at that time was the royal place of the Principality of Wallachia, where his father was a “governor” or ruler.

Tourists can visit the castle where Vlad III spent time. At about age 12, Vlad III and his brother were imprisoned in Turkey. In 2014, archaeologists discovered the likely location of the dungeon. Tokat Castle is located in northern Turkey. This is a creepy place with secret tunnels and dungeons that are currently under restoration and open to the public.

In this picture, “Vlad Tepes and the Turkish Envoys” by Theodor Aman (1831-1891) allegedly depicts a scene in which Vlad III

Order of the Dragon

In 1431, the king of Hungary, Sigismund, who later became emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, introduced the elder Vlad into a knightly order, the Order of the Dragon. This designation brought Vlad a new surname: Dracul. The name comes from the old Romanian word for dragon, “draco”. His son, Vlad III, will later be known as the “son of Dracula” or, in the old Romanian, Dracula, hence Dracula. In modern Romanian, the word "fights" refers to another terrible creature - the devil.

In 1890, Stocker read a book about Wallachia. Although he did not mention Vlad III, Stocker was struck by the word "Dracula." He wrote in his notes: "In the Wallachian language, the Devil means." Therefore, it is likely that Stocker decided to call his hero Dracula for the diabolical associations of the word.

The theory that Vlad III and Dracula were the same person was developed and popularized by historians Radu Florescu and Raymond T. McNally in their 1972 book, In Search of Dracula. Although it was not accepted by historians, the thesis took over the public imagination.

The Order of the Dragon was dedicated to a single task: the defeat of the Turkish or Ottoman Empire. Situated between Christian Europe and the Muslim lands of the Ottoman Empire, the Principality of Wallachia Vlad II (later Vlad III) was often the site of bloody battles as Ottoman forces advanced west to Europe and Christian forces repelled the invaders.

Watch the video: The true story of Count Dracula

Years of captivity

When Vlad II was summoned to a diplomatic meeting in 1442 with the Ottoman Sultan Murad II, he brought his young sons Vlad III and Radu. But the meeting was actually a trap: all three were taken hostage. Senior Vlad was released on condition that he leave his sons.

“The Sultan kept Vlad and his brother hostage so that their father, Vlad II, would bring his forces into the war between Turkey and Hungary.

Vlad and his younger brother were taught science, philosophy and art by the Ottomans. Vlad also became a skilled rider and warrior, according to Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally, former history professors at Boston College, who wrote several books about Vlad III, as well as his alleged connection with Dracula Stoker, in the 1970s and 1980s.

They were treated fairly well by current standards of the time. Nevertheless, the captivity annoyed Vlad, while his brother seemed to agree and switched to the Turkish side. But Vlad kept enmity, and this was one of his motivating factors for fighting the Turks for holding him captive.

Father of Vlad Tepes

While Count Vlad Tepes and Radu Tepes were in Ottoman hands, Vlad's father fought to save his place as governor of Wallachia. In 1447, Vlad II was ousted as ruler of Wallachia by local nobles (boyars) and was killed in the swamps near Belteni, halfway between Targovishte and Bucharest in modern Romania. Vlad's elder half-brother, Mircea, was killed along with his father.

Shortly after these painful events, in 1448, Count Vlad launched a campaign to restore his father’s place from the new ruler, Vladislav II. His first attempt at the throne relied on military support from the Ottoman rulers of cities along the Danube River in northern Bulgaria. Vlad also took advantage of the fact that Vladislav was absent at that time, going to the Balkans to fight with the Ottomans for the Hungarian Governor John Hunyadi.

Vlad won back his father’s place, but his time as ruler of Wallachia was short-lived. He was overthrown only two months later, when Vladislav II returned and took the throne of Wallachia with the help of Hunyadi.

Little is known about the whereabouts of Vlad III between 1448 and 1456. But it is known that he sided with the Ottoman-Hungarian conflict, abandoning his ties with the Ottoman rulers and receiving military support from the King of Hungary, Wadislaw V, who did not like Vlad's rival, Vladislav II of Wallachia.

The political and military policies of Vlad III came to the fore in 1453. Vlad, who had already strengthened his anti-Ottoman position, was proclaimed governor of Wallachia in 1456. One of his first deeds in his new role was to end the annual tribute to the Ottoman Sultan - a measure that had previously secured peace between Wallachia and the Ottomans.

A woodcut from a 1499 brochure depicts Vlad III, who dines among the pierced corpses of his victims.

Strengthening the power of Vlad

To strengthen his power as a ruler, Vlad Tepes had to suppress the ongoing conflicts that historically occurred between the Wallachian boyars. According to the legends that spread after his death, Vlad invited hundreds of these boyars to a banquet and, knowing that they would challenge his authority, forced the guests to stab them.

This is just one of the many terrible events that Vlad Tepes earned with his posthumous nickname Dracula. This story - and others like it - has been captured in printed materials since the reign of Vlad III.

In the 1460s and 1470s, immediately after the invention of the printing press, many of these stories about Vlad circulated orally, and then were collected by different people in pamphlets and printed.

These stories are not completely true or significantly decorated. In the end, many of those who printed the brochures were hostile to Vlad III. But some of the pamphlets of that time tell the most terrible news about Vlad, making us believe that the tales were historically accurate. Some of these legends were collected and published in the book "The Tale of Dracula" in 1490 by a monk who introduced Vlad III as a cruel but fair ruler.

The victory of Vlad Tepes over the Ottoman invaders was celebrated throughout Wallachia, Transylvania and the rest of Europe - even Pope Pius II was impressed by the event.

The reason he is a positive character in Romania is because he was a fair, albeit very harsh ruler.

Death of Vlad

Soon after the liberation of the Ottoman prisoners of war in August 1462, Vlad was forced to flee to Hungary, failing to defeat his much more powerful opponent Mehmet II. Vlad was imprisoned.

Vlad's younger brother, Radu, who sided with the Ottomans during ongoing military campaigns, took control of Wallachia after his brother’s imprisonment. But after the death of Radu in 1475, local boyars, as well as the rulers of several nearby principalities, spoke in favor of Vlad returning to power.

In 1476, with the support of the governor of Moldova, Stephen III the Great (1457-1504), Vlad made the last effort to restore his place as ruler of Wallachia. He successfully stole the throne, but his triumph was short-lived. Later that year, after another battle with the Ottomans, Vlad and the small vanguard of the soldiers were ambushed, and Vlad was killed.

There is much debate about the location of the grave of Vlad III. It is said that he was buried in the monastery church in Snagov, on the northern edge of the modern city of Bucharest, in accordance with the traditions of his time. Recently, historians have established that Vlad was buried in the monastery of Comana, between Bucharest and the Danube, which is close to the alleged location of the battle in which Vlad was killed.

One thing is certain: unlike Count Dracula Stocker, Vlad III definitely died. Only painful tales of his years as ruler of Wallachia continue to haunt the modern world.