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Bela Lugosi as the eponymous Count in Tod Browning’s Dracula, 1931. Dracula, 1931. Directed and produced by Tod Browning. Cinematography: Karl Freund. Photo: Alamy

Bela Lugosi as the eponymous Count in Tod Browning’s Dracula, 1931. (Alamy)

Romania’s Problem with Dracula

Bram Stoker’s novel was a mixed blessing for Romania. It attracted tourists, but the legend was at odds with communist ideals and made a villain of a national hero.

Transylvania – a large region comprising much of central Romania – is near-synonymous with one word: Dracula. Bram Stoker’s novel, published in 1897, tells the story of a predatory vampire who lives in a ruined castle, high in the Carpathian mountains. Most of the action unfolds in Victorian London, but it is the description of Transylvania – dark, wild, untouched by science and modernity – that is the novel’s most evocative achievement. Since Stoker had never been to Transylvania his portrayal of the region was largely the work of imagination. Nevertheless, his depiction of a frightening region on the edge of Europe stuck. The novel gave rise to a vampire subculture, still alive today, and at its centre stands Transylvania, the natural home for the supernatural. 

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