Vlad Tepes (also known as Dracula) was Voivode of Wallachia in the mid-1400s. During his reign, Wallachia faced expansionist invasions by the Ottoman Empire. Vlad used every strategy available to him to stop the Ottoman invasion. Eventually, he turned to darker methods and allowed himself to be turned into a vampire. This granted him the power to turn the Ottomans back, but it came at a cost.
Older vampires are able to maintain control over their juniors by injecting blood into the younger vampires with their fangs. This is how the turning process works in the first place and it simply must be repeated from time to time. When the control is firmly in place, a vampire will find themselves physically incapable of disobeying an order from their sire. Few vampires will willingly release a vampire they have turned, so when Dracula’s sire tired of Wallachia and moved on, he forced Dracula to travel with him.
It took Dracula several centuries to find his way out from under the thumb of his sire. By that time he found that his old kingdom had changed so much he barely recognized it. It was a satellite state of the Ottomans which was something Dracula could not abide by. He immediately began making inroads into the local political structure. By the time Romania was ready to declare itself fully independent instead of being a satellite state, Dracula was not mentioned in any public records. But all those who were in positions of power knew he was the true power behind the throne.
A few decades later, Europe erupted into war. As lines were drawn between the Central Powers and the Allied Powers, the side that Romania fell on became obvious. Russia was a public ally of Romania after helping them earn their freedom from the Ottomans and Dracula had a personal friendship with the Romanovs. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was not actively hostile, but it was no friend either and held several territories that Romania claimed a more direct cultural tie to. Finally, the Ottomans were publicly disliked by the people and personally hated by Dracula. With Austro-Hungary and the Ottomans on one side and Russia on the other, the Romanians joined the side of the Allies.
At the conclusion of the war, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire were both dismantled. Romania was able to claim a sizable amount of their former territory and declare itself the Romanian Empire. Officially, Dracula still held no official title, but the other powers of the world were becoming more aware of his presence. At this time, he began being referred to as “Emperor” by the movers and shakers of the world. At least, when they were behind closed doors and outside of the public eye.
The conflict also caused the Romanian Empire to have close ties with most of the other Allied Powers. None more so than the UK. Dracula had convinced his daughter and step-daughter from a tryst with a pirate ship to join the Royal Navy as a part of ensuring Romania would be on the winning side of the war. While this lost him the favor of their mother, it gained him an inside line to the British Admiralty. Especially with both ships being regarded as war heroes themselves.
Unfortunately, Romania left the war with a worse relationship with Russia than at the beginning. Late in the War, Russia had devolved into a civil war of its own. The winning side exposed Communism and was vehemently anti-nobility. Romania being a burgeoning Fuedal Empire on their doorstep that had been friendly with their own deposed Tsar was not viewed favorably. Due to both sides just coming out of a bloody conflict, neither was eager for further war, but tensions were high.
Those tensions were put aside when several nations began embracing Fascism. Shortly after rising to power, Hitler had reached out to Romania to establish an alliance. Due to their shared dislike of the Communists, Hitler suspected that Romania would be friendly to the NAZI Party. However, the noble class in Romania was based on personal power rather than race. While vampires made up the majority, several radically different magical creatures enjoyed high status in their system. From their point of view, the NAZIs were nouveau riche who could not be trusted to act with decorum. Especially when it became evident that the NAZIs were intent on genocide, the Romanians wanted nothing to do with them. They didn’t have an opposition to the basic idea of genocide, they just thought the NAZIs were tacky in how they went about it.
The distaste for the personality of the Fascists combined with the close connection with the British to mean that when Hitler’s aggression made war inevitable, Romania once again found itself on the side of the Allied Powers. However, this time instead of being a growing minor power, it was already established as the dominant power in their region of Europe. The fighting was intense, but Romania was again able to expand its borders. This time, claiming almost all of the formerly Italian territory in the Mediterranean and establishing several other countries in the area as explicit satellite states.
This laid the groundwork for a new kind of conflict. The tension that had already existed between the Soviets and the Romanians returned. The USSR had similarly expanded its sphere of influence and firmly controlled the northern part of Eastern Europe. However, now a third faction was involved as the Western Democracies found themselves at odds with both the Authoritarian Communists and the literally bloodthirsty Imperialists. For several decades, the Cold War would threaten Europe with destruction.
However, the Western Powers were willing to employ elite magical creatures/talents and compensate them fairly for their contribution. In Romania, a similar system was in place except for instead of financial compensation, their creatures and spellcasters were granted higher social standing and titles (and a decent amount of money as well). In the USSR, such beings were at first refused to be acknowledged as any different from the common people, and by the time they realized this was a tactical mistake, they were already too far behind. By the 1970s, Romania had established free rein to broadcast all of the propaganda they liked directly to the Soviet people. The killer was that they were able to show accurate statistics that said that the chance of being eaten by a noble in Romania was actually lower than the chance of being arrested by the KGB in the USSR.
So, despite being the weakest industrial powerhouse of the three factions in the Cold War, Romania emerged as a distinct victor. The USSR collapsed and in the scramble to carve up the Eastern Bloc, Romania had the edge on NATO due to proximity. Today, tensions remain between NATO and Romania, though neither side feels a threat of imminent conflict.