Prince Vlad Dracula (1431-1476/7)
Famous for the character of the same name in Bram Stoker’s book, Vlad Dracula was a Romanian prince who repulsed the Ottoman Turks from his country. He earned the moniker Impaler (Tepes in Romanian) for his bloodthirsty practice of impaling his enemies, erecting whole “forests” of impaled—alive—enemies.
There are reports of cruelty and torture, but never consumption of blood or any kind of vampiric traits. Western Europeans, Germans, Russians, and Ottomans feared and conflated his reputation, but the people of Eastern Europe (particularly Romania and Bulgaria) regard him as a hero for repelling the Ottomans.
Countess Elizabeth Bathory (1560-1621)
Less well-known than Vlad, Elizabeth Bathory of Hungary was a rampant serial killer of teen girls. She lured girls to her castle at first with the promise of work as servants, but later opened it up as a school for girls to learn proper etiquette and courtly behavior. She tortured them in various ways, including biting their flesh.
After her trial, she was sealed into rooms in her castle; she died four years later. Court records say she killed 80, but numbers vary all the way up to 650 from witnesses. After her death, stories spread (many from surviving witnesses, but not corroborated) that she bathed in and drank blood to preserve her beauty.
Because Vlad and Elizabeth are in adjacent countries separated by the Carpathian mountain range, the pervasiveness of stories from the region (many perpetuated by Gypsies), and the remoteness of the area, this region of Eastern Europe has become vampire central.