Wages and prices in the interwar-period Lithuania (2)


In this short article, we would like to provide you with a couple of examples, emphasising that these are only average prices and they could differ from place to place, but it is enough to get a general idea. Make sure to compare the listed prices with average wages of that time.

In 1937, food prices in Lithuania were as follows: 1 kg of pork – 1.40 litas, 1 kg of beef – 0.65 litas, 1 kg of smoked ham – 1.85 litas, 10 eggs – 0.85 litas, 1 l of sour cream – 0.95 litas, 1 l of milk – 0.15 litas, 1 kg of sugar – 1 litas, 1 kg of potatoes – 0.04 litas, 1 kg of butter – 2.60 litas, 1 kg of black rye bread – 0.25 litas, etc.

In the same year, a workhorse cost 294 litas, a dairy cow – 157 litas, a small thick bull – 50 litas, a chicken – 2.35 litas and a duck – 2.55 litas.

The price of electricity was quite high at the time, as a Belgian company had a monopoly and was regulating all the prices, thus in 1930–1932 they ranged from 1.20 litas/kWh to 1.35 litas/kWh. After the electricity boycott of 1933, the price slumped to 0.87 litas/kWh.

One could also eat out during the interwar period. Especially in the then capital Kaunas, which had many first-class and simpler restaurants and cafés (canteens). At first-class restaurants (such as Metropolis), a bottle of foreign wine cost 25–35 litas in 1938, a bottle of champagne – 75 litas, a bottle of cognac – 65–75 litas, while a bottle of Bénédictine liqueur – as much as 95 litas. During a ball, a bottle of cognac or a cocktail could cost up to 30 litas. A quite hearty meal at a second-class restaurant could cost 2.50–4.50 litas. However, in general, one could eat at a second- or third-class restaurant for 1.30–2.00 litas. Outside the city centre, prices were 25% lower. A cup of coffee would cost 65–80 cents at a café. A simple bun was priced at 40–60 cents. In ordinary canteens, prices were as follows: curdled milk with sour cream – 45 cents, curd with sour cream – 75 cents, fresh boiled potatoes – 20 cents, fried potatoes – 35 cents, butter – 15 cents, a boiled egg – 15 cents, scrambled eggs – 40 cents, salad with beets – 50 cents.

Prices of clothes were quite high as well. A men’s suit cost around 80 litas, whereas wealthy men who attended balls had to dress accordingly. For example, a tailcoat could cost up to 500 litas and lacquered shoes – 50 litas. For women, prices of dense fabric dresses started at 9 litas, while of ballroom shoes – at 40 litas.

Those who wished to dress up had to spend up to 20 litas for men’s silk handkerchief, 12 litas for a lipstick, 40 litas for perfume, 15 litas for powder and 10 litas for silk stockings. At the hairdresser’s, men would usually leave around 5 litas, whereas women – up to 12 litas.

In Kaunas, cultural entertainment in 1930s was also something one had to save up for. Going to the cinema cost from 1.60 litas (for ordinary seats) up to 3.50 litas for a box, whereas plays at the State Theatre, depending on the play itself and the chosen seating arrangements, could cost from 50 cents to 10 litas. Those wishing to spend their quality time calmly could purchase books. They were not as expensive, with their prices starting at a few dozen cents. Press was quite cheap too: the most popular newspapers cost 30 cents, while illustrated magazines were prices at around 1 litas.

Those who commuted in Kaunas by buses in 1930s paid from 20 to 25 cents for a stop and the average in Lithuania was around 7 cents for a kilometre. Those who had their personal cars paid 0.7–0.8 cents for a litre of gasoline (compared with prices in Latvia and Estonia, gasoline in Lithuania was almost 30% more expensive). However, when the country was faced with a fuel crisis due to the political situation in late 1930s, the price for gasoline surpassed even 1 litas. As for a new car, it was not then affordable to everyone: e.g. Ford cars cost 7,500–8,000 litas (up to two President’s salaries) and Plymouth cars could even cost 16,000 litas.

Interestingly, new bicycles were also quite expensive, with their cost reaching from 300 to 600 litas, whereas foreign (especially Philips) radio receivers could cost from 500 to more than 3,000 litas.

Last updated: 2021-06-17