According to the stories of Stefan Shivachev, the director of the History Museum: "Before the Balkan War, Plovdiv District was in third place in terms of areas sown with tobacco, after Haskovo and Dupnitsa. In 1914, it came in second place, and after the war - in first place with 59,190 acres of sown area. After the wars, the production and export of high-quality tobacco from Bulgaria was equal to that of Turkey and Greece, and in the period between 1919 and 1923, the Turkish export was significantly exceeded." Subsequently, the development of the industry continued and Plovdiv managed to build itself as "the largest center of tobacco processing and cigarette production in Bulgaria."
In the years around the two world wars and after them, tobacco was associated with a number of social activities - labor, tobacco workers' revolts, charity, as well as architectural artifacts (tobacco warehouses) and literary elaborations on the subject.
During the past weekend, within the Spiritual Routes in Plovdiv, Assoc. Prof. Mladen Vlashki, PhD and Teodor Karakolev led a rather large group of curious Plovdiv residents on the trail of tobacco in the city under the hills and revealed interesting facts and stories related to the industry and its reflection in the literature.
The tour began in front of the Central Post Office building, where the introduction was made about the importance of agriculture in the economy in Plovdiv and its connection with the plot of Dimitar Dimov's great novel - Tobacco. The topic of charity was also outlined here, with one of the most striking examples being the House of Charity and Public Health, for the support of which the merchant Dimitar Kudoglu provided his two tobacco warehouses on Ivan Vazov Street worth BGN 15 million, which he rented for BGN 800,000 and paid this amount annually for maintenance.
The second stop on the route was the warehouse of Magardich Tomasyan's enterprise. In 1872, he opened a special department for cutting tobacco with two mortars in his grocery store. Only 15 years old, Magardich Tomasyan teamed up with another Armenian - Kevork Garabedyan, to create a joint company, later named Golden Lion Tobacco Factory of M. Tomasyan & Co. In fact, the workshop in Kapana marks the beginning of the first tobacco enterprise M. Tomasyan and Co., owned by partners Tomasyan and Garabedyan. Trade took off and a hand-wheel tobacco cutting machine had to be imported. It was replaced in 1903 with a motor-powered cutting machine, which is considered the beginning of modern tobacco processing in Bulgaria. Four years later, Tomasyan cigarettes were the first to receive a gold medal for quality at the international exhibition in London.
In the warehouses of the company arose for the first time in Europe a people's revolt against the socialist power shortly after Stalin's death.
The group then headed to the remains of the iconic Orient Tabaco warehouse, located at 8 Odrin Street. It is believed to be the prototype of Nicotiana from Dimov's novel, and currently, according to a final court decision, it has a protected status by the state as a cultural asset and the owners should restore and strengthen it, which unfortunately is not happening...
The good example of using the material heritage of tobacco production under the hills was indicated in the face of two of Exarch Yosif's warehouses - the one that now houses the Total Sport gym and the space opposite SKLAD, where were the offices of the 2019 Foundation during Plovdiv European Capital of Culture, and before that it housed a furniture store. The building was previously owned by a joint-stock company known as KARTEL and is one of the fairly well-preserved and maintained ones, at least in the currently inhabited part.
There were tobacco warehouses in a number of places in the city under the hills, and some may even seem unthinkable to us - the Trade Union House, the house where today there is an exhibition of Zlatyu Boyadzhiev and others. Of course, the majority of them were built near the Central Station, to make it easier to transport the goods, and at that time, today's Ivan Vazov Street was quite actively being built and there were large plots of land available.
Around "Boris Hristov" is one of the threads of the connection of the writer Dimitar Dimov with Plovdiv. In the city, as an assistant professor of anatomy and physiology of domestic animals in the Faculty of Agronomy, he lived in several places - in the Commercial High School, where the faculty was originally located, in the so-called Crafts School, today the Professional High School in Interior Architecture and Woodworking (in the corner room with a balcony) and briefly at 14 Antim I Street. About the prototypes of the characters and the ideas that Dimov drew from Plovdiv, we have written in detail in our text about how Plovdiv is related to the novel Tobacco by Dimitar Dimov.
The almost three-hour walk ended right next to 14 Antim I where Assoc. Prof. Mladen Vlashki, PhD read excerpts from Lyuben Stanev's memoirs, and Teodor Karakolev revealed the details of the impressive architecture of Kaishevi's house, which was also used as a filming location of the film adaptation of the novel. It is one of the most striking examples of free-standing rich single-family houses, representatives of early modernism. The architect is Svetoslav Grozev.
The house was built on a plot with a very large unevenness and an irregular trapezoidal shape, therefore, in order to make the rectangular shape of the rooms possible, several bay windows were made, a construction technique often applied by the Revival masters (and not only by them).
Characteristic of the style are the semi-circular balconies, the corner window openings grouped in common sills and the cornice windows passing through the corners. The building is quite well preserved and maintained, and the first floor is still inhabited by heirs of the family.