Legendary cigarettes of the 1990s

Henry Tudor
6 min readFeb 20, 2022


The 1990s were a troubled time for Russia. Some “rose up” during those years, others could not survive… Those were difficult years for everyone. But in this post, I’m not going to talk about politics, gang warfare, or “how good the Soviet Union was. My story will be about cigarettes. Cigarettes that people smoked in the 1990s, cigarettes that have forever disappeared from our sight.

Everybody was selling cigarettes back then. Well, almost everybody =) It’s unthinkable now, but in the ’90s any kid could buy a pack of cigarettes at any stall, of which there was an enormous amount at any point of free space. Another sign of that era was that if you didn’t have enough for a pack of “fancy” cigarettes, you could buy them in a “crumble,” one at a time.

So what were these cigarettes?

Marlboro. Of course, these were the most pompous cigarettes back in the USSR. Although they appeared long before the 90’s, they became relatively affordable in those years. In the 1970’s Marlboro were not openly available and were only for the “Blatnye” in the “Beryozki”. The image of “bribe cigarettes” was emphasized by Russian cinema as well. Remember, a Marlboro pack was glimpsed in the hands of characters from Ivan Vasilievich Changes the Profession and Sluzhebny Roman.

By the 1980 Olympics, the affordability situation had improved a bit. For example, you could buy a pack of Marlboro produced in Chisinau for a ruble. But the indulgence did not last long. Soon after the Olympics, the coveted cigarettes disappeared again from mass sales and became an attribute only for visiting diplomats and private citizens.

Camel. Another unattainable legend of the American tobacco industry! Unlike Marlboro, Camel did not appear in the domestic official sale until the 90’s. Not to say that the cigarettes were very accessible. Mainly because of the high price. But they were just as popular among the smoking public as Marlboro, but were stronger and had great flavor. And only Camel was available in the so-called “army” version — without filter.

Winston. These cigarettes were slightly lower than the previous two in the “desirability” rating, and were more affordable and cheaper. The truth is not much and they were mainly found in people “with money”. These cigarettes were on sale in 1992, and in 1998 they began to be produced in Russian factories “under license”. The Winston of the 1990s was strong and flavorful, but if you compare it to the modern version…. It is better not to compare — heaven and earth!

Dunhill International. Another “cool” cigarette that most mere mortals couldn’t afford. They were sold in classic and menthol versions, but invariably in fancy square packs. Always saw them on sale in most stalls, but never saw anyone buy them =)

More. They were no less desirable than Marlboro cigarettes, but with girls. They were available in two versions — classic and menthol, but both versions had an unusual and chic look, which was given by the dark brown colored cigarette paper. More’s smoke was tasty and fragrant, but not “masculine” in strength.

Rothmans. Nowadays these cigarettes are nothing, but in the 1990s they were classy, expensive and very tasty cigarettes. I wouldn’t have found them to be widely available either, but you could buy the KS version by the piece in a stall.

Rothmans International. This version was more expensive and stronger (14 mg resin, 1 mg nicotine). These packs were not sold “by the piece” and were not often seen in the hands of smokers. But they were on sale, of course.

Lucky Strike. These cigarettes were more affordable and cheaper, although for some reason they were not very popular. Like the Camel, they were occasionally available without a filter. They got more popularity in the second half of 90’s. I smoked them for a long time myself. I remember their pleasant taste and good strength.

Bond Street. Or simply, Bond. These cigarettes were already considerably cheaper than all the previous cigarettes, and you could afford to smoke them, if not permanently, then regularly. They had a pleasant, hearty smoke of medium strength. If memory serves, the price for a pack of Bond was about 600 rubles (before the denomination). To give you an example, a pack of Bulgarian Tushka cost about 400.

Magna. But the real hit was of course Magna! Inexpensive cigarettes with a very fragrant, delicious smoke with a confident medium strength. They had only one drawback — they burned like a match! Who would have thought then that this property would become an accepted “standard” in the future. They were half the price of the Lucky Strike.

Chesterfield. Another really legendary cigarette. They were more expensive than Magna, but not by much. More available since the second half of the 90’s. Chesterfield held its position for quite a long time, preserving the taste, and the unchanged design of the pack, recognizable at a glance. They were excellent cigarettes, with a classic american blend taste and medium strength.

Pall Mall. These cigarettes were also quite affordable for regular smoking. Like Chesterfield, they had a pleasant aroma, tasty smoke and a hearty strength. Also for a long time were very decent quality. Even when they started to be produced in Russia “under license” they could still be smoked.

Rothmans Pall Mall. Some may exclaim, “No! The Pall Mall was different in my 90s!” That’s right, there were cigarettes like that. Only it wasn’t really a Pall Mall, or rather it was the Rothmans version. They were a totally different cigarette and had a soft smoke and a pretty high strength.

L&M Filter. These cigarettes, which were a class below Marlboro and Camel, were very popular. Relatively inexpensive and slightly less strong than Magna, but they didn’t burn like matches.

Sovereign. And these are almost “people’s” cigarettes! They were in demand and widely available. They differed not so much in the strength of the smoke as in the unusual for Soviet and American cigarettes. Sovereign was made by British company Gallaher and had a rare england blend, that is a bag consisting only of Virginia varieties.

At that time many are remembered for the greatest variety of cigarettes sold. And the “legends” of course do not end with these 15 brands. I will definitely write another post about the famous cigarettes of the 90’s in the near future. Well, for now — that’s all. I’m waiting for your comments and memories, who else, what do you remember?