This article focuses on the puzzling circumstances that led to the production of the first bottle of Coca-Cola in Eastern Europe—in Bulgaria in 1965. The curious story line is revisited because, while opposition to the expansion of the iconic drink after World War II particularly in Eastern Europe, has been well studied, more has come to light about the economic activities and intentions of the Bulgarian Communist Party. A central argument is that the ideological opposition of communist parties across Europe held less power than did local economic interests. What looked like the surprising “breakthrough” of Coca-Cola instead fit a general strategy to intensify trade with the West. The article broadens the understanding that local actors contributed to the cracking of the Iron Curtain at least as much as did the “irresistibility” of Western culture.
Revisiting Coca-Cola's “Accidental” Entry into Communist Europe
Albena Shkodrova is a journalist and public historian. For seven years she has been editor-in-chief of Bulgaria's gourmet magazine Bacchus. Her book Communist Gourmet: The Curious History of Food in the People's Republic of Bulgaria (2014) became a bestseller in Bulgaria and an English edition by CEU Press is expected in 2019. In 2017 Shkodrova defended in Belgium her PhD “Rebellious Cooks: Practical and Hedonistic Powers of Writing Recipes in Communist Bulgaria.” This research, based on household manuscripts and oral history, is a systematic study of the meanings of home cooking.
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Albena Shkodrova; Revisiting Coca-Cola's “Accidental” Entry into Communist Europe. Gastronomica 1 May 2018; 18 (2): 59–72. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2018.18.2.59
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