Janaks Texas-Czech Articles and Photos

Count Dracula in Czech History

When the Hussite Wars ended and peace returned to Bohemia in 1436, a lot of peasant soldiers were left without a war to fight.  They had been fighting for so long that many of them did not know how to do anything else.  Many of them did not have a home to return to.  They formed small armies, then, and hired themselves out to fight in other countries.  These mercenaries took Hussite military innovations to other parts of Europe.  The very countries that had sent knights and soldiers to kill the Hussites years earlier now used them to fight in their own wars.

When the succession of Ladislas Posthumous was threatened, his supporters enlisted the services of two Czechs and their mercenary Hussite armies.  Jan Bitovsky defended the young king’s interests in Croatia.  Jan Jiskra defended them in Slovakia.  The presence of Czech troops in these areas, and the fact that Bitovsky and Jiskra were given the right to use the Czech language in Hungary strengthened the Croats’ and Slovaks’ Slavic consciousness.

Jan Jiskra was given far-reaching powers.  He had the right to mint coins.  He had the power to impose and collect taxes.  He had the authority to administer the lands under his control.  The income of the country’s mines was put at his disposal.  Jiskra was, in fact, the sovereign ruler of Hungary’s northern districts from 1440 to 1462.

When Matei Corvin became king, royal authority was restored throughout Hungary.  In 1462 Jan Jiskra entered Corvin’s service, and his Hussite army came face to face with the infamous Transylvanian, Count Dracula.

Actually Dracula was not a Transylvanian count.  He was the Prince of Wallachia, a Romanian country across the Carpathian Mountains from Transylvania.  Dracula was born in Transylvania only because his father was living there in exile at the time.  Dracula’s father was a protégé of Emperor Sigismund.  In fact, Sigismund crowned Dracula’s father Prince of Wallachia in Nuremberg in 1431.

Dracula’s father was called Vlad Dracul.  Some historians interpret this as “Vlad the Devil” because of his cruelty.  Others interpret it as “Vlad the Dragon” because Emperor Sigismund conferred the Order of the Dragon on Vlad.  Sigismund had created the order himself as part of preparations for a crusade to be launched against the Turks.  In any event, Vlad Dracul’s son was called Vlad Dracula, or Vlad Draculea in Romanian.  The Romanian suffix –ulea means “the son of.”  Vlad Dracula, then, was Vlad the son of Dracul.  If one interprets Vlad Dracul as “Vlad the Dragon,” the infamous Dracula owed his name to Emperor Sigismund, the King of Bohemia.

Dracula was a rather shifty character.  At times he seemed to be on the side of the Hungarians.  At times he seemed to side with the Turks.  His main concerns were the independence of his country and his own survival, so he cast his lot wherever he needed to in order to guarantee these ends.

In 1462 Jan Jiskra and his army of Hussite Czechs were accompanying Dracula across the Carpathian Mountains to reclaim the Wallachian throne.  King Matei Corvin had reason to believe Dracula was getting ready to betray him, so he ordered Jiskra to arrest the prince.  Jiskra took Dracula prisoner and brought him back to Hungary.  There Corvin locked Dracula up in the fortress of Visegrad for a number of years.

– Robert Janak

“Count Dracula in Czech History,” Naše Dějiny (Magazine of Czech Genealogy and Culture published in Hallettsville, Texas, by Doug Kubicek from 1982 to 1989), September – October 1987, pages 6-7.

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