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Some Romanians wistful about Vlad Ţepeş


Some Romanians feel that the country needs the return of somebody like Vlad Drăcula, the medieval prince renowned for strict and brutal law-enforcement.

Vlad Drăcula (whose name serves as that of the famed fictional vampire,) is popularly known by the epithet "Ţepeş" — "the impaler." He stuck his victims on wooden spikes.

Vlad Ţepeş ruled with a strictness and a brutality that ensured adherence to the laws of his region. Some call it justice — and some think that Romania needs Vlad Ţepeş now.

I talked with a woman in a shop in Cluj, one day in the summer of 2009 who was telling me about Ţepeş. She seemed a decent person; but her ideas about justice were disturbing.

Vlad Ţepeş, she told me, would collect people who were begging on the streets, and he would test them to find out whether or not their story was true — whether, for example, they were truly blind, or crippled. If they'd been begging dishonestly, he would kill them.

This lady thought that this was okay, and that it would be acceptable now. Lying, she said, is the same as stealing.

I had to disagree. Begging is a form of speech, nothing more; lying is not stealing; and there's no justice in excessive punishment (not to mention that killing is beyond the reach of the term "excessive.")

I talked about this later with somebody else (who, incidentally, was also a woman in her mid-30's,) who also acted pretty comfortable with ideas of the return of a Vlad Ţepeş-style rule of law. Disturbing. But there it is, reality.

I kind of get a feeling that the wistfulness for the iron rule of Vlad Ţepeş is a vestige of the subconscious wish for Nicolae Ceauşescu, the dictator whom the revolution deposed and killed in 1989. Life changed, then, and while it is not really politic to want the old days, the changes were not all good.* Almost nobody would wish for the return of Ceauşescu's rule — but many seem to agree that he was no monster; and some people appear to be somewhat wistful about those old times.*

Maybe Vlad Ţepeş serves that purpose; those he murdered and oppressed already being long dead, he can serve as more of an abstraction of the wish for stricter justice and greater certainty.

That's just an impression that I got — it's not really based upon anything else.


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Some modern expressions about the years of dictatorship:

• "The houses that Ceauşescu built, Basescu can't paint."

• "In the Ceauşescu days, everybody had money — but there was nothing to buy. These days, there is plenty to buy — but there's no money."

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  • Return to "somewhat wistful" ...


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R.e. "changes not all good:" The woman in the shop in Cluj told me that when she was a girl she had to go to the bread line for two hours in the morning before school, to wait on behalf of her family for the privelege of buying the half-loaf-per-person ration.

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  • Return to "not all good" ...


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