Dracula - Historical Evidence

In evaluating the accounts of Vlad Dracula it is important to realize that much of the information comes from sources that may not be entirely accurate. With each of the three main sources there is reason to believe that the information provided may be influenced by local, mainly political, prejudices. The three main sources are as follows: (1) Pamphlets published in Germany shortly after Vlad’s death, (2) pamphlets published in Russia shortly after the German pamphlets, and (3) Romanian oral tradition.

German Pamphlets
At the time of Vlad Dracula’s death Matthias Corvinus of Hungary was seeking to bolster his own reputation in the Holy Roman Empire and may have intended the early pamphlets as justification of his less than vigorous support of his vassal. It must also be remembered that German merchants were often the victims of Vlad Dracula’s cruelty. The pamphlets thus painted Vlad Dracula as an inhuman monster who terrorized the land and butchered innocents with sadistic glee.

The pamphlets were also a form of mass entertainment in a society where the printing press was just coming into widespread use. The pamphlets were reprinted numerous times over the thirty or so years following Vlad’s death—strong proof of their popularity.

Russian Pamphlets
At the time of Vlad III the princes of Moscow were just beginning to build the basis of what would become the autocracy of the czars. Just like Vlad III, they were having considerable problems with the disloyal, often troublesome boyars. In Russia, Vlad Dracula was thus presented as a cruel but just prince whose actions were intended to benefit the greater good of his people.

Romanian Oral Tradition
Legends and tales concerning Vlad the Impaler have remained a part of folklore among the Romanian peasantry. These tales have been passed down from generation to generation for five hundred years. As one might imagine, through constant retelling they have become somewhat garbled and confused and are gradually being forgotten by the younger generations. However, they still provide valuable information about Vlad Dracula and his relationship with his people.
Vlad Dracula is remembered as a just prince who defended his people from foreigners, whether those foreigners were Turkish invaders or German merchants. He is also remembered as a champion of the common man against the oppression of the boyars. A central part of the verbal tradition is Vlad’s insistence on honesty in his effort to eliminate crime and immoral behavior from the region. However, despite the more positive interpretation of his life, Vlad Dracula is still remembered as an exceptionally cruel and often capricious ruler.

Despite the differences between these various sources, there are common strains that run among them. The German and Russian pamphlets, in particular, agree remarkably as to many specifics of Vlad Dracula’s deeds. This level of agreement has led many historians to conclude that much of the information must at least to some extent be true.
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