Rum Runners of the Baltic—The Rise of Transnational Liquor Smuggling Networks in Interwar Europe


  • Adrian Mitter



This article analyzes the local and transnational entanglements of interwar liquor contraband operations to show how smuggling in the Baltic Sea region grew from small-scale coast-to-coast operations to a large-scale trade organized by transnational syndicates moving millions of liters. It examines transnational smuggling networks, the use of flags of convenience and large base ships to argue that the framework of the “Helsinki Convention for the Suppression of the Contraband Traffic in Alcoholic Liquors of 1925” led to professionalization and trans-nationalization of contraband operations and a significant growth in liquor smuggling. The analysis of the Free City of Danzig, where the boundaries between small-scale smuggling and professional contraband operations were fluid, provides insights into the local elements of liquor smuggling operations. This part of the argument focuses on the weak governmental control and the tax-free area in the Danzig port, which provided the necessary infrastructure for large-scale smuggling and enabled the city-state to become a major hub for liquor smuggling operations.

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