Turkish Docudrama Challenges Romania’s Rosy View of Medieval Hero

While many Romanians revere the 15th-century prince nicknamed ‘Vlad the Impaler’ as a national hero, a Turkish production has stirred a debate by presenting a darker side

Launched at the end of December on Netflix, the second season of the Turkish historical docudrama Rise of Empires: Ottoman is captivating audiences all over Romania – but also irritating them, Balkan Insight reports.

The series follows Mehmed II, the sultan who made his name in history by conquering the Byzantine capital, Constantinople, and by his campaign against a Wallachian king named Vlad Tepes.

Not that many people outside Romania have heard of Tepes, a scourge of the Ottoman Turks in 15th-century Wallachia (nowadays southern Romania). But they will have heard of him under the name Vlad the Impaler, who is often confused with the entirely fictional character of Dracula created by Bram Stocker.

Tepes, called “the Impaler” for his brutality, led Romanian resistance to the Ottomans after they invaded the country in the mid-15th century. He later burned the suburbs of the town of Brasov in Transylvania and killed hundreds of the ethnic German “Saxons” living there.

It marked him as a sadist who enjoyed killing and torturing people. Legends of his cruelty were passed down the generations through pamphlets published in Germany.

But for many Romanians, the Wallachian prince is a national hero and a symbol of the fight against corruption. Mostly because of the way he is presented in history textbooks, as an anti-Ottoman fighter and as a harsh punisher of the rich, Tepes is popular mainly among people who admire a tough, non-nonsense leader.

But his image in the Turkish historical docudrama offers a new and surprising perspective for the average Romanian.

The series goes into detail about Tepes’ upbringing in Turkey, where he learned, for example, the famous hanging technique, as well as his relationship with Sultan Mehmed II. According to the series, they were soul mates.