Stoli Responds To The Attempted Boycott Of Russian Vodka

    "The recent dreadful actions taken by the Russian Government limiting the rights of the LGBT community and the passionate reaction of the community have prompted me to write this letter to you."

    In response to Russia's anti-gay laws and the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi, Queer Nation has urged the LGBT community to boycott Russian vodka.

    The activist group released this statement:

    In light of the Putin regime's attacks on the LGBT community, Queer Nation is calling for a worldwide boycott of Russian vodka.

    Do not buy or drink Russian vodka: Brands include Russian Standard and Stolichnaya. Demand that bar owners do not buy or serve Russian vodka. Ask your favorite club promoters, DJs, and entertainers to insist that Russian brands are not served in the venues in which they perform.

    It's time to target Russia. Dump Russian vodka!

    The founder of the It Gets Better Project, Dan Savage, published an article in Seattle's The Stranger titled "Why I'm Boycotting Russian Vodka."

    Shortly after, the Windy City Times reported that Sidetrack, Chicago's largest gay bar, was removing Stolichnaya and other Russian vodka from its shelves.

    The SPI Group, which owns Stolichnaya Vodka, responded today by releasing an open letter to The Advocate.

    The letter, written by the CEO of Stolichnaya, reads:

    Luxembourg, July 25, 2013

    An Open Letter from the CEO of Stolichnaya Vodka to the LGBT community.

    The recent dreadful actions taken by the Russian Government limiting the rights of the LGBT community and the passionate reaction of the community have prompted me to write this letter to you.

    I want to stress that Stoli firmly opposes such attitude and actions. Indeed, as a company that encourages transparency and fairness, we are upset and angry. Stolichnaya Vodka has always been, and continues to be a fervent supporter and friend to the LGBT community. We also thank the community for having adopted Stoli as their vodka of preference.

    In the US, the brand's commitment to the LGBT community has been ongoing for years. Among the best examples, I can cite the series produced by Stoli in 2006 called "Be Real: Stories from Queer America" which featured short documentaries on real life stories depicting the challenges and accomplishments of the LGBT community in the United States (

    Stoli is very proud of its current exclusive national partnership with and in search of the Most Original Stoli Guy. This is a fantastic program that started as a local initiative in Colorado and became a national platform. Previous national initiatives included serving as the official vodka of the Miami Gay Pride Week as well as ongoing events with focus on Pride month.

    Some great examples from other parts of the world are the support to the Durban Gay Pride, in South Africa (, the Pride Parade in Vienna, in cooperation with HOSI and CT, the largest LGBT communities in Austria and the Tel Aviv Pride Parade, taking place this weekend.

    This letter also gives me the opportunity to clear some of the confusion surrounding the Stolichnaya brand, based on facts found online that often inaccurately link our company to the Russian Government. The Russian government has no ownership interest or control over the Stoli brand that is privately owned by SPI Group, headquartered in Luxembourg in the heart of Western Europe.

    Stoli's production process involves both Russia and Latvia. Stoli is made from Russian ingredients (wheat, rye and raw alcohol) blended with pure artesian well water at our historic distillery and bottling facility Latvijas Balzams ( in Riga, Latvia (formerly part of the Russian Empire and then of the Soviet Union). Latvijas Balzams did not recently become part of the Stoli heritage, but has been one of its main production and bottling facilities since 1948. This has allowed the brand to deliver the outstanding quality it is recognized for consistently across the years. What changed in the last years is politics, with Latvia becoming an independent state part of the EU.

    We fully support and endorse your objectives to fight against prejudice in Russia. In the past decade, SPI has been actively advocating in favor of freedom, tolerance and openness in society, standing very passionately on the side of the LGBT community and will continue to support any effective initiative in that direction.

    Sincerely yours

    Val Mendeleev

    Chief Executive Officer

    SPI Group

    Dan Savage responded by pointing out that Mendeleev didn’t actually say anything about what Stoli is doing to be pro-gay in Russia itself.

    Regardless of where SPI Group's corporate offices are located, the company is owned by Yuri Scheffler, one of the 100 richest men in Russia. SPI is a Russian corporation, Stoli is a Russian vodka. And while it's nice that SPI is willing to market to homos who are lucky enough to live in Austria, the US, and South Africa, what has SPI done in Russia? The group has sponsored gay pride events in Vienna and Miami. That's nice. But have they sponsored gay pride events in Moscow or St. Petersburg?

    One Russian LGBT activist, Nikolai Alekseev, believes the boycott will not have any impact:

    "And what is the aim of this boycott? The producers, even if they become bankrupt because of the boycott (which is unlikely) will not be able to influence Russian politics and President Putin as well as the decisions of the State Duma [...] Just three or four persons on the visa ban list of the EU, USA, UK and several other countries will dissuade other Russian politicians to follow this path. This is the only thing which can effectively work. Pressure your governments to put the authors of those laws on the black lists for the entrance visas. They will suffer and others will think twice. Nothing else will work!"

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    Read the full open letter here.