Sunday, 24 July 2011

A reminder

Having, of course, spent a good deal of time over the past couple of days following the shocking and tragic events in Norway, late last evening I watched the video that the terrorist Breivik put online to accompany his voluminous manifesto before committing his terrorist bombing and mass murder.

The point of view on current European affairs and Breivik’s own ‘solution’ is in itself both extreme and perverse. But I could not help feeling a bit extra uncomfortable by seeing slides devoted to Vlad Tepes and the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683.

These are, as readers of this blog will know, historical subjects that have been touched on in connection with the theme of this blog, here as well as elsewhere. The Dracula: Woiwode und Vampir exhibition that I myself attended in Bucharest last year also dealt with the Türkenkriege, the struggles between Christian rulers and the Ottomans. In a post on that exhibition, I myself mentioned that this struggle ‘is an interesting way of linking the otherwise disparate subjects of a Valachian Voivod and the ‘undead’ corpses that caught the attention of many people in the 18th century.’

With Breivik’s appropriation of this struggle and related historical subjects, I cannot help but feel disconcerted. Seeing the image of Vlad Tepes, so well-known from many books, in his slides makes me feel that he has in some way tainted this image.

Of course, there is nothing new about staging current affairs in terms of a historical framework, and I am sure that others will feel that he has tainted other images and subjects. Also there is no doubt that the image of Vlad Tepes was a picture of real horror and evil hundreds of years ago, but with Breivik’s use of it, it has now become associated with current day violence and cruelty.

And this is not all - and I apologise if this subject makes my reader nauseous - but a quick search in Breivik’s manifesto shows that he has also decided to use the Tepes name for a kind of weapon that he cruelly names: ‘Tepes revenge – Defensive Steel Impaler’. ‘The name is taken from Romanias most famous historical Crusader, Vlad Tepes, who impaled tens of thousands of Muslim invaders in the Balkans,’ Breivik explains. “… he was a real master of STAGING the cruelty to obtain maximum effect,” he says of Vlad Tepes, “He was the greatest master of imagology, hundreds of years before this science to be discovered and theorised.”

Obviously the Norwegian terrorist has aimed at providing images for his own crusade, and I am afraid that in some unsettling and perverse way he has succeeded. At least, I am myself afraid that it will take me some time to shake off the uncomfortable association between the image of Vlad Tepes and the bombing and mass murders in Norway.

On the other hand, this uncomfortable feeling can serve as a reminder of the tragedy that happened in a neighbouring country, formerly actually a part of my own country. And as a reminder that self-styled ‘crusaders’ everywhere may appropriate history and images for their own purposes.

And as I am sure we all need to think about the tragic events that have happened in Norway and to consider what we can do to prevent them from being repeated in the future, it is after all not for the worst to have something to remind us of them.

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