Are you special, basic or complex? Behind North Korea’s caste system
‘Songbun’ separates citizens according to ancestral and social standings – or whether they’ve had their photograph taken with the great leader. NK News wonders how will it coexist with Kim Jong-un’s proposed reforms
North Korean Army soldiers and civilians on the stands of the Kim Il Sung Stadium, a photograph by Ilya Pitalev which won at the Sony World Photography Awards in 2013. Photograph: Ilya Pitalev/Sony
Fyodor Tertitskiy for NK News, part of the North Korea network
Wednesday 4 March 2015 05.00 GMT Last modified on Wednesday 4 March 2015 12.13 GMT
It might not be obvious from the outside, but experts agree that North Korea is undergoing significant upheaval. Kim Jong-un’s regime is said to be serious about reforms, with the so-called “30th May measures” promising to increase personal income and allow greater social mobility.
But this has left many wondering how North Korea’s strict songbun system of social classification will coexist with such unprecedented reforms.
Songbun was most important element in the social structure of Kim Il-sung’s North Korea. Sung, who established the Democratic People’s Republic in 1948, initiated the system of social classification in the late 1950s, dividing the population into groups according to the actions and status of their paternal ancestors during the Japanese colonial period and the Korean War.
Songbun determines, among other things, whether North Koreans are allowed to live in the capital or in special cities, the workplace they’re allocated, and what kind of education they can receive.
While there has been some research into songbun, much of it is either outdated or incomplete. Researchers aren’t allowed to access official North Korean documents of this kind, which are always classified, but fortunately I have a friend who served in the North Korean police and is very familiar with the songbun documents, who was able to explain it in more detail.
Brahmins and untouchables, North Korean style
According to this system of social classification North Korean society is divided to five groups, from the best to the worst: special, nucleus, basic, complex and hostile. Earlier research has usually only mentioned three strata, because the existence of the special class was largely unknown, and the complex classification was only introduced in the 2000s.
Nucleus, also known as core, is the standard. Special is very rare and acts as a bonus in status. In contrast, basic (also known as wavering) can lead to slight discrimination, while people deemed complex and especially hostile face substantial prejudice.
‘Awarded with an audience’ is a title given to North Koreans who have talked to the leader for 20 minutes or more
A possible exception from this system would be blood relatives of the Kim family, who are seemingly excluded from all official documentation, although this remains to be verified.
Songbun is calculated from two factors. The first measures the social position and actions of one’s paternal ancestors during the Japanese colonial period and the Korean War. Did they fight with Kim Il-sung and later remain close to the Great Leader? Congratulations, your ancestry songbun is as good as it can be. Or, did they work as a clerk in the colonial administration, or worse, were they part of a faction in the independence movement that later proved hostile to Kim? Well then, your ancestry songbun is very bad and you’re unlikely to advance to any meaningful position in society.
The second – social songbun – measures the place occupied by a person in North Korean society; a worker, farmer, military man, teacher or policeman. There is, however, one variation of social songbun which overrides all others – party member – and another, the strange sounding “awarded with an audience”.
Portraits of North Korea’s national founder Kim Il-sung (left) and late leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang, North Korea. Photograph: AP
The latter is a title given to North Koreans who have talked to the leader for 20 minutes or more, or who have had their picture taken with him. That’s why commemoration photos printed in the official newspaper of the ruling Worker’s Party, Rodong Sinmun, often include thousands of people – the songbun of all of them has just increased.
Songbun influences many aspects of life in North Korea. If your songbun isn’t good enough, you cannot live in Pyongyang. Or, you cannot enter a good university, no matter how smart you are. You cannot be employed as a teacher or a policemen with bad or even average songbun. And if you want to join the ranks of the secret police (as many North Koreans do) not only you, but all you relatives up to the sixth generation must have a good songbun, or you do not qualify.
Can you alter your songbun? When it comes to ancestry , the answer is almost always no. Records are kept in four locations: at the local administration office, ordinary police, secret police and at specific organisations, like the Worker’s Party, Women’s Union, or labour union.
The situation during the Kim Il-sung era was much the same: a person of bad ancestry could not get a good job, so his or her songbun remained bad too. However, many things have changed since Kim Il-sung died in 1994, and the role of this system of classification is one of them. Now, a person who has worked for three years gets a new social designation decided upon by the decision of the local party committee. And these days even people of questionable ancestry can join the party. Some North Korean officials have also started to simply ignore songbun, reasoning that punishing someone for the sins of their ancestors is unfair and unjust.
The role of songbun is gradually reducing, as the country embraces new ways and new economic models. If Kim Jong-un really wants to proceed with promised reforms, one of the necessary steps would be to abolish songbun, at least in practice.
A version of this article first appeared on NK News
Introducing the retirement home for old age pussycats
Elderly cats can spend the last years of their nine lives in comfort at special accommodation dedicated to looking after senior felines.
By Becky Barnes
Last updated: 04 March 2015, 16:19 GMT
Elderly cats whose owners pass away or can no longer look after them can live out the rest of their years in comfort at a retirement home dedicated to felines.
There are 76 ‘Old Age Pussycats’ aged 10 to 20 living at the Lincolnshire Trust for Cats retirement home, which has been adapted especially for moggies.
Pet owners must pay a one-off fee of £850 for their cat to be taken in at the home, which is south-facing – giving animals plenty of sunshine to relax in – and furnished for their comfort.
Jain Hills, who set up the retirement home in 2001, wanted to do something for older cats when she saw they were being rejected by rehoming charities.
“I don’t think anywhere else does it because people come all the way from London with the cats to come here,” the 65-year-old said.
The oldest cat at the home is Henry, 20, whose owner died. He has a favourite armchair, which the other cats know not to sit in.
The home is also open to cats whose owners leave the country. One of the whiskered residents gets parcels sent to her from overseas, which she is apparently happy to share with her furry friends.
The seven-acre retirement facility offers individual rooms for new arrivals while they get settled and has three sitting rooms for the cats to lounge in, linked by enclosed outdoor areas.
The house is kept warm with central heating, is decorated in cat memorabilia and has leather sofas and Indian rugs for the cats to nap on.
There are also more than 400 stray cats taken in by the charity now living on the grounds.
It’s no wonder he looks grumpy: ‘Hideous’ blobfish is crowned the world’s ugliest animal | Mail Online
It’s no wonder he looks grumpy: ‘Hideous’ blobfish is crowned the world’s ugliest animal
A living blob of jelly that dwells in the darkest depths of the ocean has been officially named the world’s ugliest animal.
The blobfish, described as ‘hideous’ by Simon Watt from the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, is a jelly-like fish that resembles a bald, grumpy old man.
Measuring up to a foot in length, it lives between 600 and 1,200 metres below the ocean surface off the coasts of Australia and Tasmania.
The blobfish, described as ‘hideous’ by Simon Watt from the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, measures up to a foot in length. It lives between 600 and 1,200 metres below the ocean surface off the coasts of Australia and Tasmania
Despite being completely inedible, it has a habit of being hauled up in trawler nets.
Experts believe the blobfish is under serious threat, although there are no reliable estimates of its numbers.
‘We’ve needed an ugly face for endangered animals for a long time,’ said Mr Watt, speaking at the British Festival of Science at the University of Newcastle.
The Axolotl, a freaky cross between Peter Pan and the Xmen, is endangered because of urbanisation in Mexico City and polluted waters
‘For too long the cute and fluffy animals have taken the limelight but now the blobfish will be a voice for the mingers who always get forgotten.’
The blobfish topped a shortlist of five ugly animals voted for online by members of the public.
In second place was the Kakapo, a critically endangered giant parrot from New Zealand, and number three was the Axolotl, a weird type of salamander from Mexico that is the equivalent of a giant tadpole.
Next on the list was the Titicaca water frog, aka the ‘scrotum frog’, which is only found in Lake Titicaca on the border of Peru and Bolivia.
The Titicaca frog, also known as the ‘scrotum frog’, is found on the border of Peru and Bolivia. Locals make a frappe of the frog, which is considered an aphrodisiac, by cooking it and running it through a blender
Kakapo is a classic example of evolution on an isolated island – it is the only flightless parrot in the world, and also the heaviest
The Proboscis monkey is named after its enormous nose
Locals make a frappe of the unfortunate frog, which is considered an aphrodisiac, by cooking it and running it through a blender.
The last ugly animal is the proboscis monkey, from Borneo, whose enormous nose is literally its hooter.
The nose provides a resonating echo chamber for the monkey’s deafening mating calls.
The Ugly Animal Preservation Society was set up to champion the cause of endangered creatures with no friends.
It is backed by a number of celebrity scientists, presenters and comedians, and organises road shows and school visits.
Particle physicist and broadcaster Professor Brian Cox said: ‘I support the ugly animal campaign. There are too many people trying to save cute animals. They get all the press, and all the attention.
‘Ugly animals are more deserving than cute animals.’
Describing the blobfish, Mr Watt said: ‘Indeed this is an ugly hideous thing. It looks sad and so it should, because it’s suffering from severe problems.
‘They’ve got a really gelatinous flesh that is slightly more buoyant than the water. So they float around and they can be right lazy.
‘They’ve got no muscle tone whatsoever because they don’t have to move. They just sit there looking unhappy, grabbing any food that comes by.
‘It’s the ultimate deep sea couch potato.’
MORE OF THE WORLD’S UGLIEST ANIMALS
European common eel
A favourite cockney snack, the European eel is threatened by overfishing and environmental changes. Its unusual life cycle sees it change colour as it grows, from transparent to yellow to dark grey.
Rob Wells (comedian and science presenter) – urges supporters to ‘support the eel so we can have a jolly good East End knees up in its honour!’
European common eel: A favourite cockney snack, the European eel is threatened by overfishing and environmental changes. Its unusual life cycle sees it change colour as it grows, from transparent to yellow to dark grey
Dromedary jumping slug
The dromedary jumping slug wriggles its way out of danger, avoiding predators with a quick flick. It’s part of the Aronidae family and lives mainly in the Americas.
Tom Toal (comedian and actor) thinks the slug deserves far more recognition than it currently gets… ‘It’s a slug, with a hump on its back, that can jump! Where’s its Disney movie?? You’ve got the Hunchback of Notre Dame… where’s the dromedary jumping slug and the princess?’
Dromedary jumping slug: The dromedary jumping slug wriggles its way out of danger, avoiding predators with a quick flick. It’s part of the Aronidae family and lives mainly in the Americas
Greater short-horned lizard
Stephen Fry is supporting this feisty little lizard, found in North America. The greater short-horned lizard is identified by its toad-like appearance. When scared, it builds its blood pressure near its eyes, and forces blood through its tear ducts, squirting it at predators. Combined with a noxious smell, the blood is a surprisingly effective method of repelling predators such as foxes, coyotes and dogs.
Great short horned lizard: Stephen Fry is supporting this feisty little lizard, found in North America. The greater short-horned lizard is identified by its toad-like appearance
The pig-nosed turtle is the sole surviving member of an ancient and once widespread family of animals. The most unique feature is the elongated, pig-like snout, which acts like a snorkel, allowing the turtle to breathe while the rest of the body remains underwater (perhaps so it never has to show the world its ugly face?).
Greg Foot (daredevil scientist and C4 Sunday Brunch’s ‘resident scientist’) says: ‘Forget your big cuddly attention grabbing pandas. It’s time for something else to step up into the limelight, well, I guess something to swim up in this case! Yes, it is the pig-nosed turtle… so there you go – the pig-nosed turtle. Vote now! It’s quite clear it’s got to be the pig-nosed turtle. No longer does he need to be bullied in the animal playground, he can now stand there with his piggy snouty nose raised up high.’
Pig-nosed turtle: The most unique feature of the animal is the elongated, pig-like snout, which acts like a snorkel, allowing the turtle to breathe while the rest of the body remains underwater
Pubic lice have been around for over 3 million years but face extinction because of increasing hygiene habits across the world. They live in coarse hair and eyelashes.
Dan Schreiber (producer, presenter and from QI Elf) explains why he has sympathy for these particularly unattractive beasts… ‘So many women worldwide are having Brazilians that they don’t have a natural habitat to exist on anymore… they’re being deforested!’
Pubic louse: Pubic lice have been around for over 3 million years but face extinction because of increasing hygiene habits across the world. They live in coarse hair and eyelashes
There are 18 varieties of bat in the UK, and most are in national decline. Seventeen of these are currently known to be breeding, the eighteenth is actually just one lone male who appears to have come over from the continent and lives in a cave in South England on his own. Bats make up over a quarter of the mammal species that live in the UK and can often be found near railway lines, as they like to use the tunnels as roosting areas, and short cuts to other hunting grounds.
Simon Watt sympathises with these species: ‘Bats are brilliant, if you cannot see all the reasons British bats are fantastic, you must be as blind as a, well, as a bat actually!’
Simon Watt sympathises with these species: ‘Bats are brilliant, if you cannot see all the reasons British bats are fantastic, you must be as blind as a, well, as a bat actually!’
You’ve bitten off more than you can chew! Lion cub causes uproar… by chomping on its dad in a bid to make him play
This is the moment an attention seeking cub annoyed his father once too often.
The cheeky cub can be seen tugging on his father’s mane, chewing on his fur and even smacking him on the end of the nose in a bid to entice him to play.
But while the father initially returned his son’s affections, he soon lost patience with the playful cub and snapped – baring his teeth at the startled cub.
I warned you, boy… Luke the lion makes it clear he has had enough of his son’s fun and games
The images were taken by photographer Paul Sutherland, 54, at the National Zoological Park in Washington, Columbia, US.
He said: ‘I’m connected with a number of people at the zoo and they invited me to come along when the lion cubs were born.
‘Having been an editorial photographer I like to create images which tell a story or send a message.
‘I spent a lot of time photographing the cubs, I went whenever I could. Every time the cubs came out there was a question mark over what they would do.
The cheeky cub can be seen tugging on his father’s mane, chewing on his fur and even smacking him on the end of the nose
So much for my lie-in: Luke’s nap is a no-no as far as the youngster is concerned
Seriously, son, take the hint: Luke looks like he is enjoying a cuddle…but that out-stretched paw is getting ready to swipe
‘When the adult male lion, Luke, is in the yard the cubs come out with the female lions.
‘Interestingly many of the cubs head straight for dad, they’re like "hey dad look at me".
‘The cubs would jump on Luke to try and get his attention, just being playful really.
‘But if Luke is grumpy he’ll roar and as he does the mother lion gives him a telling off. He’s a bit of a wimp compared to other lions so if he gets a telling off he’ll tolerate the cubs a little longer.
‘They would get five to ten minutes’ interaction with dad before he would get tired and there’d be a roar.
‘And if one of the cubs would make the mistake of grabbing his tail, Luke would get really angry.
‘It’s really just nature in action. Humans do it too. You annoy your dad that much, he’ll snap and be like "that’s enough".’
Right, that’s it! The cub takes a bite out of Luke’s chin… and he’s not happy about it
Fine, I’ll leave you alone! The cub retreats to safety… still with a look of mischief about it
Inside North Korea’s brutal prison camps
Prisoner Shin was beaten, starved, tortured and treated as a slave. Miraculously he escaped and survived to tell the tale
The North Korean military has put on a lavish display to mark the anniversary of the armistice which ended the Korean War. But despite the truce nearly 60 years ago, North Korea is still seen as a volatile nation. It has been condemned by other countries for its nuclear testing programme and its record of human rights violations – in particular its use of brutal prison camps. One man who knows all about the country’s abuse of human rights is Shin Dong-hyuk – the only man born inside a North Korean prison camp who managed to escape. His story has been documented in a book ‘Escape from Camp 14’ by journalist Blaine Harden. Here the author offers Yahoo! News a startling picture of what life is like in notoriously secretive North Korea.
A naked Shin was hung from the ceiling by his arms and legs, his body in the shape of a U. Just a boy at the time, he was lowered by a winch towards a tub of burning charcoal. Crazed with pain, he smelled his burning flesh. A guard then pierced his stomach with a hook on a pole and held him over the fire until he lost consciousness. This was just one instance of the brutal torture Shin experienced and witnessed at Camp 14 – one of North Korea’s inhumane prison camps.
American Journalist Blaine Harden spent years trying to gain the trust of Shin, now in his late 20s, so that his story could be told. He tells us: "The purpose of writing the book is to grab people by the throat and explain how North Korea operates and Shin’s story does that so well because no one has told it before."
Shin is the only person to be born in a prison camp who has escaped and lived to tell the tale.
His only crime? Being related to his father’s brothers who escaped to South Korea after the Korean War in the 1950s. There are people like Shin who were born in the camps and never allowed to leave and others, considered defectors, who are either there for ‘rehabilitation’ – or more likely until they die.
Harden says: "They can arrest anybody they want, for any reason, without any charge and take them away in the middle of the night and never tell them why they were taken."
The camps have been around since the late 1950s and Harden says they have always operated in almost exactly the same way. He says: "There is an incredible culture of brutality. Working people to death, usually by the time they’re in their mid-40s, they have executions, guards who are at liberty to murder, rape and torment the prisoners without any sanctions against them. They are taught to regard the prisoners as pigs and dogs. They can rape them, impregnate them, kill the babies and kill the women. They can also beat children to death if they’re in the mood."
A female North Korean soldier looks out from behind a barbed-wire fence around a camp (PA)
A total of 60 former camp inmates have told their stories to human rights investigators. Harden explains how those interviews, carried out separately across a decade, tell a remarkably consistent story about how the camps operate, what life is like, who lives, who dies, why and how.
Shin was starved, beaten and raised as a slave in a culture of disclosure and reward. He reported his mother and brother for plotting an escape which ultimately led to their execution.
Harden says: "How Shin was raised in the camp is an example of the sort of mentality that is spread across the country. There are about 170,000 secret police in North Korea. They are in virtually every apartment block, every village. They are there to incentivise people to snitch on each other. And children, relatives and friends do snitch on each other."
An estimated 200,000 people are detained in prison camps and there are fears the camps are growing. Satellite images show the existence of the camps, yet North Korea still denies their presence to the rest of the world.
But people in North Korea know the camps exist. "They know that every once in a while people disappear into the night – an entire family," says Harden. "And they know if they speak out there’s a chance that they could join them."
North Korean female soldiers on parade in Pyongyang (Reuters)
People may be scared into silence but they are armed with more knowledge. Despite its extravagant ceremonial parades and military displays, North Korea is poor. Times are hard and although the Kim family rulers have tried to isolate the notoriously secretive country from the rest of the globe, censoring media, preventing access to the internet and effectively starving the populace of information, knowledge about the wealth and freedoms in the outside world has seeped through into this totalitarian state.
More electronic products such as DVDs, radios and USB sticks are crossing the border illegally, primarily from China, and the number of radios that can tune into outside radio stations has increased. A recent survey of all defectors who have fled the country revealed that while in North Korea, 60 per cent were able to listen to outside radio stations on a daily basis.
Harden says: "They know more about the outside world but their ability to act on it and interact with each other based on the new information they have is not changing very much at all. There’s no civil society inside North Korea. People do not get together. They cannot meet in more than groups of three or four anywhere and people cannot travel easily within the country so they are socially and politically atomised."
Harden believes that life may have actually got worse under new leader Kim Jong-Un, who was declared the ‘Supreme Leader’ of North Korea at the end of 2011 following the death of his father.
He says: "It seems to have gone backwards in some ways. The border has been effectively closed down, people are not crossing or fleeing the country. The number of defectors arriving in South Korea has been cut significantly in the past year. Kim Jong-Un recognised that having this porous border was allowing people to go off and tell stories to human rights people and he wanted to end it. The Government has lost none of its appetite for cruelty."
Propaganda is also used incessantly and it is extremely powerful. Pictures of the ‘great’ and ‘dear’ leader Kim Jong-Un are everywhere and the state owned Central News Agency is the sole news provider in the country, ensuring the publication and broadcast of specific messages, including verbal attacks on America and South Korea.
Harden says: "They teach people that the US in particular, South Korea and Japan are plotting to murder them, to bomb them to kill their children – and there are some good reasons for North Koreans to believe it. During the Korean War the Americans bombed North Korea. They destroyed virtually every city, town and village, including about 85 per cent of the structures.”
Harden states that every single person in the country had a relative killed in the war. "That is sold and resold in the state propaganda about why you need the Kim family to protect you."
[North Korean defector’s ‘impossible’ dream of closing prison camps]
Shin was not subject to the propaganda. There was no use for propaganda for the prisoners born in the camps. They have no choices. They are put to work, then they die. For the rest of the population though it’s a highly effective method of control.
Despite all this, Harden is optimistic change will occur in North Korea. The UN has authorised a human rights investigation into the camps, amid denials from the country’s UN ambassador Sin Son-ho, who recently asserted ‘we don’t have any human rights problems’.
Harden says: "They are surrounded by a booming China and an absolutely amazing South Korea which is one of the fastest growing economies, one of the most wired places in the world and Japan. They’re getting poorer and their options are fewer. As more information seeps into the country, the contradictions become sharper, so change has to happen."
Shin is one of many who dares to hope he is right.
Nermin Oomer – Fri, Aug 2, 2013
WikiLeaks to release vast dossier of 2million incriminating emails sent by Syrian officials | Mail Online
WikiLeaks to release vast dossier of 2million incriminating emails sent by Syrian officials
By Ian Garland
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange prepared a statement from his hiding place in the Ecuadorian Embassy
WikiLeaks has announced it has begun publishing more than two million embarrassing and incriminating emails from Syrian government officials.
In a news conference, the whistle-blowing website’s spokesman Sarah Harrison revealed the emails were sent by political figures, government ministers and companies between August 2006 and 2012.
She read a statement from the website’s controversial founder Julian Assange – currently holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London – claiming the emails contain material embarrassing to both ‘Syria and its opponents’.
Assange, who is attempting to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual abuse, wrote : "The material helps us not merely to criticise one group or another, but to understand their interests, actions and thoughts. It is only through understanding this conflict that we can hope to resolve it.’
WikiLeaks said the emails, which it has called ‘The Syria Files’, would shine a light on the inner workings of the Syrian government and economy, and ‘also reveal how the West and Western companies say one thing and do another.
Syria Files: WikiLeaks announce the release of the leaked emails online
There are more than eight times as many documents in "The Syria Files" as the number of diplomatic cables WikiLeaks published in 2010, when it angered Washington by disclosing confidential information relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where Assange is reportedly sleeping on a blow up mattress
The range of files extends from the intimate correspondence of the most senior Baath party figures to records of financial transfers sent from Syrian ministries to other nations, WikiLeaks said.
The emails are in several languages and include 68,000 in Russian. Moscow is one of Syria’s main arms suppliers and has shielded its long-standing ally President Bashar al-Assad from tougher U.N. sanctions over his crackdown on a 16-month uprising.
The revolt, which started with peaceful pro-democracy protests in March 2011, has turned into a something approaching a civil war as the government’s crackdown triggered an armed uprising.
Opposition leaders and Western governments say more than 15,000 people have been killed in the uprising. The government says "terrorist gangs" steered from abroad have killed several thousand troops and police.
WikiLeaks said that although it had not yet verified all the emails due to their significant volume, it was "statistically confident" the vast majority of files were genuine.
Weather alert as deluge expected
More than a month’s rain is expected to fall over just two days in parts of the UK this week.
A severe weather warning has been issued by the Met Office, with fears of flooding and disruption on Friday and Saturday.
Central and northern England is expected to be worst affected, with an amber alert – the second most severe category that can be given – in place for north-east England.
Up to 100mm (3.9 inches) of rain could fall in 36 hours during the downpours. The average UK rainfall for July is 69.9mm (2.8 inches), and 64.4mm (2.5 inches) for the north of England.
Met Office chief forecaster Martin Young said: "We are expecting outbreaks of heavy rain across a wide area of the UK, with worst affected spots likely to be in central and northern parts of the country.
"Rainfall totals could be 40-60mm (1.6-2.4 inches) widely across warning areas, but some places could see up to 100mm (3.9 inches) of rain through Friday and into Saturday.
"Given the saturated ground from the record rainfall in June, this could cause disruption – including difficult driving conditions and flooding in some areas."
People living in the affected areas have been warned to be prepared for flooding.
An Environment Agency spokesman said: "Heavy rain on Friday and Saturday may lead to significant flooding of properties across parts of northern England. We urge people to remain vigilant and prepared for flooding by checking the Environment Agency website and signing up for localised river flood warnings."
Last month was the wettest June since records began, with double the average rain falling during the month. Provisional figures from the Met Office showed the UK received 145.3mm (5.7 inches) during June, beating the previous record of 136.2mm (5.4 inches) in June 2007.
Ancient ‘Vampire’ Bodies Found In Bulgaria
Bulgarian archaeologists have unearthed centuries-old skeletons with iron rods through their chests – believed to have been victims of an old anti-vampire ritual.
According to Bozhidar Dimitrov, head of the National History Museum in the Bulgarian capital Sofia, two skeletons from the Middle Ages have been discovered near the Black Sea town of Sozopol.
Ancient skeletons unearthed in Bulgaria are believed to have been victims of an anti-vampire ritual. Photo: Sk …
"These two skeletons stabbed with rods illustrate a practice which was common in some Bulgarian villages up until the first decade of the 20th century," said Mr Dimitrov.
Widespread superstition led to iron rods being hammered through the chest bones and hearts of those who did evil during their lifetimes for fear they would return after death to feast on the blood of the living.
People believed the rod would pin them down to prevent them from leaving their graves at midnight and terrorising people as they slept, the historian explained.
An archaeologist cleans dust from a skeleton dating back to the Middle Ages in Sozopol, Bulgaria. Photo: PA
In 2004, archaeologist Petar Balabanov unearthed six nailed-down skeletons at a site near the eastern town of Debelt.
He said the pagan rite also was practised in neighbouring Serbia and other Balkan countries.
Vampire legends form an important part of the region’s folklore.
The most famous tale is that of Romanian count Vlad the Impaler, known as Dracula, who staked his war enemies and drank their blood.