XI, 2015, 1

Converging Histories – Parallel Histories. Moldavia and Wallachia in 1457 and 1476 | p. 99–120

Moldavia, power, Stephen the Great, Vlad the Impaler, Wallachia


By means of a comparative approach, this article aims to assess the despotic and infrastructural power of fifteenth-century Wallachia and Moldavia. By applying Michael Mann’s theory of social power to an analysis of these two late medieval polities, we have attempted to find a balance between structural and individual explanations. We have chosen to focus on two key moments, 1457 and 1476, when the histories of Wallachia and Moldavia are the most closely intertwined. The first section of the article, entitled converging histories, deals with Stephen the Great’s and Vlad the Impaler’s political options in the multi-polar regional arena. Scrutinizing the decision margins the two rulers faced, we contrast Stephen’s success with Vlad’s failure. Our interpretation is that, despite having initially a similar kind of despotic power, Stephen and Vlad used it differently. The second part of the article, entitled parallel histories, proposes a comparative analysis of Stephen’s and Vlad’s infrastructural power based on the documents issued by their chanceries. A quantitative investigation reveals that the state has infiltrated society in a far more significant way in Moldavia than in Wallachia. A qualitative analysis of the first charters issued at the beginning of the two reigns suggests that the links between subjects and ruler, entailed by the infrastructural power, were considerably more developed in Moldavia. Therefore, despite apparent similarities, Stephen the Great and Vlad the Impaler differ both in their psychological profiles, as well as in the type of power they had at their disposal.