State Liquor Store in Interwar Lithuania
During the interwar period, an average-sized Lithuanian town used to have from over ten to several tens of shops. The nameplates with inscriptions used to describe the main profile of the shop: beverages, meat, small goods, drapery, tobacco and cigarettes, ironmonger’s goods and so on. The majority of shops, however, were not too specialised, especially in the small towns, and used to sell various things from needle and matches to herring or bike. The nameplates that used to be fitted over the entrance to the trading house contained the name of the shop and the surname of its owner. The trade was regulated by the national laws or resolutions adopted by the municipalities.
After the declaration of independence, the Lithuanian government put the spotlight on the restoration of the economy. The policy of alcohol production and trade had to guarantee high and fast budget income. In 1923, the national vodka monopoly was introduced in Lithuania and continued to be effective until the Soviet occupation in 1940. The production of alcohol was strictly regulated by the laws and rules of the central government and by the laws issued by the municipality councils. The retail trade in alcohol was permitted in commercial companies of the three categories: state shops of alcoholic beverages, alehouses and the inns.
The state vodka shop was usually called the monopoly. In the monopoly, one could purchase vodka, ordinary and methylated spirit. The shop sold bottles for take away only. It was forbidden to drink in the shop or nearby. The alcohol was not sold to young persons under the age of 18 or people under the influence of alcohol and also was not sold on loan. In 1920s – 1930s, the anti-alcohol campaigns were strongly promoted. The stores and pubs were required to have periodical and non-periodical publications issued by abstinence fellowships as well as posters. It was forbidden to display bottles in the windows or other similar places of the shop and there had to be no images or any other advertising of alcoholic beverages in the signboards. The curtains were obligatory in the windows of the shops.
The bottles of vodka and spirit were corked up. The corks and part of bottle neck were covered with red or brown sealing-wax and banderol. The colour and text of banderol depended on a volume of bottle, strength and origin of alcohol, i.e., local or foreign production. The glued side of label contained the stamp of warehouse of national monopoly and a date. The price of beverage was indicated on the label. The empty bottle with undamaged label could be returned to the monopoly.
This exibition is based on interwar state vodka shop, i.e., monopoly, exposition of Open-Air Museum of Lithuania. It is housed in typical residential-commercial Lithuanian town's jewish house, which was built in Šiaulėnai, Radviliškis District, in the 19th century and brought to the museum in 1985.