Barbara Jelavich Book Prize

2013 Citation Recipient

Mary Neuburger

The Barbara Jelavich Book Prize, established in 1995 and sponsored by the Jelavich estate, is awarded annually for a distinguished monograph published on any aspect of Southeast European or Habsburg Studies since 1600, or nineteenth and twentieth- century Ottoman or Russian diplomatic history in the previous calendar year.

Winner: Mary Neuburger
Title: Balkan Smoke: Tobacco and the Making of Modern Bulgaria (Cornell University Press)

Mary Neuburger’s Balkan Smoke is a searching investigation of the role of tobacco in the creation of the modern Bulgarian state and, in a way, of Bulgarianness as a modern national identity. Relying on a rich archival base, as well as indigenous periodicals and local scholarship, Neuburger traces tobacco’s role in trade networks, social custom, and political economy. The book ranges from smoke-filled nineteenth-century coffeehouses to the tobacco industry’s influence on Bulgarian foreign policy during the two world wars, from Communist-era assembly halls clouded in a gray haze to the collapse of the state monopoly and the globalization of tobacco production. Neuburger uses the social, environmental, and economic history of tobacco as a way of understanding the power and weakness of the Bulgarian state in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, showing how the desire to control both the production and consumption of a key good influenced everything from popular culture to the development of governmental institutions. Although many books have been written on tobacco, and even on tobacco in the Ottoman and Russian spheres of influence, no one has delved as deeply into the Bulgarian-language sources as Neuburger has, where her skills are particularly admirable. Neuburger is also to be commended for an outstanding effort at including women in her story as mainstream protagonists, a feature of history-writing on eastern Europe and Eurasia that is still too infrequently encountered. She writes with verve and imagination, truly bringing to life a world created by commodities, consumption, and the contrasting ideologies of health and national greatness. Most broadly, Balkan Smoke presents new information on Bulgarian history that may change what people think about the functioning of Communist economies and the potential for entrepreneurial creativity within them; the tension between economic motives and public health motives in defining a state’s attempts to influence the behavior of its citizens; and the myriad connections between southeastern Europe and the pan-European and global economies.