by Mary Neuburger It seemed like a bad idea at the time, but I did it anyway. Maybe, just maybe, there was hope that the little museum in the Bulgarian mountain village of Yasna Polyana would be open. Established in 1998, the museum contained the intellectual remnants of the Bulgarian Tolstoyan community, who had created […]
This summer I conducted research in, but also beyond, my regular haunts, namely the dusty old libraries and archival reading rooms of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. After several days in Sofia, I took to the mountains to follow the paths of ethnographers, tourists, and pilgrims who have written about this distant borderland of Europe over the past 200 years.
The global history of tobacco—the weed that captured the hearts, minds, and imaginations of so many in the twentieth century—has been told in splendid and enlightening detail. Historians have delved into the stark economic, political, and social implications of the production, consumption, and exchange of this commodity in various national contexts, most notably the United States.
Bulgaria became one of the most important points of entry for Phillip Morris, RJ Reynolds, and other US tobacco companies to penetrate the Iron Curtain into a growing and untapped market. While the direct imports of cigarettes into the Bloc remained limited, Bloc states signed licensing agreements with US companies in the mid-1970s that resulted in the production of Marlboro (Phillip Morris) and Winston (RJ Reynolds) in local factories.