The Borsa: The Black Market for Rock Music in Late Socialist Bulgaria

SLAVIC REVIEW 73.3 (2014): 514-537

Abstract: This paper offers an empirical description and analytical interpretation of the borsa—the largest black market for rock music in Bulgaria in the 1980s. The text illuminates the distinct characteristics of the urban locale that became the focal point of rock fans’ desires and ambitions, examines how the interactions between the entrepreneurs who supplied the music and their adolescent clients were embedded in enduring networks of trust, and explores the peculiarities of the borsa as a site where western works of art were mechanically reproduced. It also demonstrates that the place where admirers of rock music met was enlivened by political energies and deliberately demarcated as a space in which ideological differences could manifest themselves, thus contesting Alexei Yurchak’s argument that in late socialism it was possible to be loyal to and love “both Lenin and Led Zeppelin.”