Vambery Armin

As an example of how interconnected the Danubian region is, the last personality of this rather short series is Vambery Armin.

He was born on the 19th of March 1832 in Szentgyorgy, Austrian Empire, nowadays Svaty Jur, in Slovakia. He was born as Hermann Bamberger or Armin Bamberger. He was raised Jewish, but later became an atheist. When he was 1 year old, his father died and the family moved to nowadays Dunajska Streda. In school he showed a remarkable talent for learning languages. Due to financial struggles he had to work to provide for his studies, but by the age of 16 he had a good grasp of Hungarian, Latin, French and German. He then learned English, Scandinavian Languages, Russian and some Slavic languages.

In 1846, he went to Pressburg (Bratislava) and remained there for three years. After that, he studied in Vienna, Kecskemet and Budapest.

Vambery was attracted to Ottoman literature and Turkish studies. He took a trip to Istanbul where he established himself as a private tutor of European Languages.

During his life, he took various journeys into the Middle East, following his fascination for oriental culture. He even disguised himself as a Muslim pilgrim and spent several months in Persia.

In Europe he became known as a Turkologist and as a publicist. He published various studies and articles in Budapest, as well as a German-Turkish dictionary.

However, the reason we chose to present him is because of his great yet unknown influence on what is maybe the best-known fictional character of the Danubian region: count Dracula. Now, maybe some of you will not see an obvious connection, so I’d like to expand this a bit.

As it is widely known, Bram Stoker never visited Transylvania. Yet, his depiction of it and his thorough grasp on Transylvanian legends and mythology are quite impressive. During a stay in London, Vambery Armin met Bram Stoker and the latter claimed Vambery was his consultant. Vambery Armin was, consequently, the person behin Bram Stoker’s vivid image of Transylvania. Some even claimed that the notorious Professor Van Helsing, the vampire hunter, was based on Vambery. However, this is very unlikely. Yet, there are two chapters in Stoker’s novel (18 and 23), where Van Helsing refers to his “friend Arminius, of Buda-Pesth University”.

Vambery Armin died on the 15th of September 1973, aged 81, in Budapest.

He is a perfect exampleof the richness of Danubian Europe and of its importance on the grand European scale. Rather than being tied by one place, be that Hungary, Slovakia or Austria, he travelled, took interest in linguistics and cultural studies and collaborated with personalities of the time. Through his knowledge, the world literature gained, besides his studies, one of the most fascinating novels and Europe gained a truly Danubian Citizen.