Ceausescu, Communism, and Communist Vampires

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Amazingly, regarding Vampire Nation, a TV writer once asked me, "Why the obsession about Communism? We already know all this. Why keep writing about it?"

I don't know that one novel constitutes an "obsession," but consider: Who would say that we "talk too much" about Nazism? That we've enough books and films about Nazis? That there is no more room for films like Inglorious Bastards? No one would say that.Yet Communism ruled a far greater geographic area, and lasted far longer, than did Nazism. There are many more stories to be told, both historical and fictional.

Some of the below books were helpful in my research for Vampire Nation. Others are just interesting.

Red Horizons: The True Story of Nicholae & Elena Ceausescus' Crimes, Lifestyle, and Corruption, by Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa, Former Head of Romanian Intelligence.

Author Pacepa saw the Ceausescus first hand on a daily basis. Lurid details on one of Communism's First Families (who could have appeared on Jerry Springer). Details the criminal, terrorist, drug, and espionage activities of several Communist intelligence services, including Pacepa's talks with Arafat, Gadhafi, and Tito. Pacepa defected to the U.S. in 1978, the highest-ranking defector from an East Bloc nation.

Ceausescu: The Unrepentant Tyrant, A&E Biography

If you want to learn about Ceausescu, but don't have time for heavy reading, this A&E Biography DVD is a painless introduction. 50 minutes long, and not expensive.

The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression, by Stéphane Courtois, Nicolas Werth, Jean-Louis Panné, Andrzej Paczkowski, Karel Bartosek, Jean-Louis Margolin.

Harvard University Press offers a comprehensive overview of the 20th century's Communist body count (authors estimate 85-100 million killed worldwide). Covers Communist mass murder in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America. Authors demonstrate that: (1) Communism was a unified worldwide movement, and not disparate national liberation movements, and (2) that totalitarianism, repression, and mass murder are rooted in Communist ideology, and are not aberrations from "true Communism."

Victory: The Reagan Administration's Secret Strategy That Hastened the Collapse of the Soviet Union, by Peter Schweizer.

Argues that President Reagan's strategy to outspend and outmaneuver the East Bloc nations (e.g., he induced Saudi Arabia to increase oil production, thus driving down the price of Soviet and Rumanian crude, further aggravating their economic woes), won the Cold War. That had Bush or Carter won the Presidency in 1980, Communists would likely still rule Eastern Europe. Yes, their economies would be shaky today, but their economies had always been shaky. Yet the West propped them up for over six decades. Reagan stopped that, which is why many streets in Eastern Europe are today named after him.  Cites declassified Soviet Politburo documents in its support.

Ceausescu and the Securitate: Coercion and Dissent in Romania, 1965-1989, by Dennis Deletant.

Deletant is a British scholar, having written several academic books about Rumania, and is married to a Rumanian woman. This book also relates the difficulties of getting her emigration approved by the Communist government.

The Politics of Duplicity: Controlling Reproduction in Ceausescu's Romania, by Gail Kligman.

Whereas Red China's "one child" policy mandates abortions, Ceausescu enforced an abortion ban by stationing Securitate officers in delivery rooms -- not from concern for the unborn, but because he wanted an expanding population of ethnic Rumanians. The result was a surfeit of sick abandoned orphans. A popular rumor (unconfirmed by Kligman) was that these orphans, embittered and without family ties, made prime Securitate recruits.

Pinstripes and Reds: An American Ambassador Caught Between the State Department and Romanian Communists, 1981-1985, by David B. Funderburk.

Funderburk was nominated by Reagan to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Rumania. His book provides insight into the nomination and Senate confirmation process. He was a political appointee rather than a State Dept. careerist, so he received pressure from both ends, hence his subtitle.

Journey to Freedom, by Nicholas Dima.

Part prison diary, this is the autobiography of a young man imprisoned in Rumania in the 1950s for trying to cross the border. A vivid portrait of life in a Communist prison (both literal and the nation itself). He later moved to Canada, then returned to Rumania (with a Western passport) during the Ceausescu era, and reports what he saw.

Downfall: The Ceausescus and the Romanian Revolution, by George Galloway and Bob Wylie.

British paperback published in 1991. Original research, crisp writing, balanced reporting. Includes post 1989 revolution interviews and photos with Ceausescu children Nicu, Valentin, and Zoia. Nicu, speaking from prison, says Pacepa's Red Horizons is "Lies, lies, and not even good lies!" 

Stalin's Secret War: A Startling Exposé of his Crimes Against the Russian People, by Nikolai Tolstoy.

Author is descended from Leo Tolstoy (of War and Peace fame). Contains shocking accounts of Stalin's brutality and extreme paranoia. Published in 1981 (by Holt, Rinehart, Winston). Recently released Soviet archives prove the truth was even more shocking than detailed in this book.

Karl Marx, Racist, by Nathaniel Weyl.

Karl Marx was descended from rabbis, yet wrote the anti-Semitic A World Without Jews. Often described by his contemporaries as "swarthy" in appearance, Marx indulged in racist slurs. Seems the man had "issues."

In Search of Dracula: The History of Dracula and Vampires, by Raymond T. McNally & Radu Florescu.

Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu regarded the real life Dracula (Vlad Tepes, 1431-1476) as a national hero. Ceausescu commemorated Dracula on stamps and statues, reproduced in this book. Ceausescu condemned Western vampire movies as a slur on the real life Dracula (who tortured & killed 20,000 - 100,000 people, depending on which source you believe).

Kiss the Hand You Cannot Bite: The Rise and Fall of the Ceausescus, by Edward Behr.

Much information on Ceausescu's early years (how he became what he was) and the best accounting I've yet read of his last days and hours before his capture and execution.

Romania, a Country Study, edited by Ronald D. Bachman

First released in 1989 by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress under their Area Handbook Series program. A dry read. Rumanian military ranks and insignias are illustrated on pages 284 and 285. The Second Edition, 1991, still has the 1989 ranks & insignias (i.e., from the Ceausescu regime).

A Communist Vampire subgenre?

 
The brutality of Ceausescu's regime, and Transylvania's location in Rumania since 1944, should have inspired a spate of Communist vampire novels. Yet while some recent vampire novels are set in post-Communist Rumania, I know of none set during Communism. None, save Vampire Nation.

Curiously, some post-Vampire Nation films do contain some of my novel's imagery and ideas.

The Lost, by Jonathan Aycliffe

A short literary horror novel written in the epistolary format of Stoker's Dracula.  A young Brit inherits an isolated Transylvanian castle after the fall of Ceausescu. Aycliffe's cynical post-Communist students ring true-to-life.  Atmospheric and entertaining.

Children of the Night, by Dan Simmons.

Opens days after Ceausescu's downfall. This horror/medical thriller (vampire blood cures AIDS) is an uneven read, sometimes intriguing, sometimes too much of a soap opera. The hero/priest doubts the existence of God, beds the heroine/AIDS researcher, and leaves the Church. Well-researched, yet not a novel about Communism. Ceausescu is portrayed as just the latest of Dracula's puppet rulers.

Love at First Bite

Comedy in which Dracula emigrates to the US. In an early scene, Dracula is evicted from his newly nationalized castle by the Communist government. Leaving, he adds, "Just remember, without me this place will be as exciting as Bucharest on a Monday night."

Maus, by Art Spiegelman

Award-winning comic book about the Nazi holocaust. Like Vampire Nation and Animal Farm, an example of dark fantasy that teaches history.

The Breed

This odd made-for-cable film is about an NSA (National Security Agency?) officer who discovers real-life vampires. Shot in Hungary, the sets have a vaguely East European Communist, Orwellian milieu. Yet these are the good guys! And we're supposed to think that we're in some (alternative?) United States? I found its fantasy premise confusing.

Underworld

Kate Beckinsale's vampire assassin resembles Vampire Nation's vampire-hunter assassin. Underworld is about a vampire vs. werewolf war. In Vampire Nation, that was World War 2, the Nazis being the werewolves.

There is also Vampyre, a film that may or may not exist. A web page described Vampyre as a film about a good vampire who fights Ceausescu's Securitate during the '89 Revolution. No information about its production company, distributor, cast, writer, or director. Nor have I found any mention of Vampyre anywhere (on the web or in books) aside from that one web page, now extinct.

Comic books and graphic novels of related interest include The Red Star (a futurist alternate universe that combines communism and the supernatural) and Commies From Mars (an underground sci-fi satire, with sexually graphic imagery).

 

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