November 01, 1996

Still Alive, Smoker?

Still Alive, Smoker?

Но дым отечества нам сладок и приятен.
But the smoke of our native land is sweet and pleasant .
From Alexander Griboyedov’s play, Woe from Wit

Okay, okay, we know that America is virtually a non-smoking country now, but not so Russia – here a pack of cigarettes is a vital accessory. Ever since Peter the Great started forcing tobacco on his countrymen, they’ve been unable to go without.

Indeed, plenty of Russian leaders, including Peter, have been turned into chain smokers by the pressure of office. Stalin is renowned for his famous pipe, filled with Gertsegovina Flor (Flowers of Herzegovina) tobacco, Brezhnev for his cheap and nasty Novost cigarettes, and now General Alexander Lebed with his world-famous cigarette holder (in Russian мундштук – directly from the German, for “mouthpiece”).

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