Romania: Random Facts and Trivia

Some random facts and trivia for the country of the world Romania, some of the myths of the land, information on Dracula, vampires, gypsies, some sayings.




Article 28 of the Constitution of the Romanian Socialist Republic reads: "The freedom of speech, press, assembly, meetings, and demonstrations is guaranteed to the citizens of the RSR." Article 29 reads: "The freedom of speech, press, assembly, meetings, and demonstrations must not be used for purposes which are contrary to the socialist system and the interests of those who work." A major job of the secret police is to prevent the violation of Article 29.

In the middle 1960s Romania was pressured by the Soviet Union and other members of COMECON, the Russian version of the Common Market, to forego industrializing and concentrate on producing only grain and oil. Romania refused, saying that it was unwilling to become merely "the gas station and grocery store" of Eastern Europe.

Dracula--For Westerners this is by far the most famous figure associated with Romania. The 1897 novel by Irishman Bram Stoker, plus countless movies based on it, have familiarized the world with the sinister vampire Count Dracula. In fact, the historical model for this villain--the Wallachian (not Transylvanian, as in the novel) Prince Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler--was a cruel and ingenious psychopath of such monstrous proportions that beside him the famous character of Stoker's novel is a mere pussycat. (See: Vampires, Chap. 27.) Because of the worldwide Dracula craze, the Romanian Government is currently restoring Castle Dracula as a tourist attraction.

Vampirism--True vampire bats do not exist in Europe at all, but only in South America. However, the ancient Romanian peasant belief in the moroi, the undead, and in the strigoi, demon birds of the night, is still alive. The Eastern Orthodox Church, to which most Romanians, or at least their pre-communist elders, belong, preaches that a body bound by a curse will not be received by the ground. This may be the source of belief in the undead.

Mud-bathing--Perhaps nowhere else in the world is this ancient health practice indulged in so widely and by all strata of the populace. It is said to be good for nearly everything that ails you, and Romanians congregate in large numbers at mud-bath spas, where they coat their bodies in mud and bake in the sun.

Gypsies--Possibly the largest contingent of Eastern European gypsies--or Rom, as they call themselves--live in Romania. As the smallest and most visibly different minority in the area, they have historically suffered merciless persecution. Up until the 19th century they were considered slaves in law and fact, though at the same time their music and their practice of the occult arts have become a distinctive part of Romanian peasant culture. The present Government is forcing them to abandon their nomadic ways and settle down.

Both the pride and the long-suffering resignation of the Romanian people can be seen in their proverbial sayings:

"There is no more bitter fruit than foreigners in one's land."

"Justice is as the rulers make it."

"Kiss the hand you cannot bite."

"A sword won't cut a lowered head."

"Many dogs will eat a lone wolf."

"The water flows, but the stones remain."

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