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LGBT advocates target Russian vodkas in response to anti-gay legislation

Friday, July 26, 2013

LGBT activists, led by Seattle-based advice columnist and “It Gets Better” campaign founder Dan Savage, have launched a boycott of Russian vodka in response to anti-gay legislation signed by Russian president Vladimir Putin, and increased violence against LGBT citizens in Russia.

“There is something we can do right here, right now, in Seattle and other U.S. cities to show our solidarity with Russian queers and their allies,” wrote Savage on Wednesday. “And to help to draw international attention to the persecution of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, trans people, and straight allies in Putin’s increasingly fascistic Russia: DUMP RUSSIAN VODKA.”

Stolichnaya, the most recognizable name among Russian vodkas, is at the center of a boycott over Russia’s anti-gay laws.

On Thursday, Stoli posted this message to its website and Facebook page.

Stolichnaya (Stoli), the most popular brand of Russian vodka, is at the center of the boycott, with activists promoting the campaign on social media and using hashtags “#DumpStoli” and “#DumpRussianVodka” on Twitter.

Since the boycott was first suggested, gay bars in Seattle, San Francisco, West Hollywood, Chicago, and in other cities across the country, have been removing Russian vodkas from their offerings, posting signs that read, “Proudly serving non-Russian vodkas.”

On Thursday, Stolichnaya came out swinging at the Russian government with a message of support for the global LGBT community, saying it “stands strong and proud … against the actions and beliefs of the Russian government.”

“Stolichnaya Vodka has always been, and continues to be a fervent supporter and friend to the LGBT community,” Val Mendeleev, CEO of Stoli parent SPI Group, said in a statement.

“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,” the letter read.

Mendeleev attempted to distance the company from its Russian roots by saying that, while Stoli is made from Russian ingredients, they are blended and bottled at a facility in Latvia.

But activists say Stoli’s response, while highlighting it’s marketing efforts and sponsorships of pride events in the West, offers no commitments to lobbying for LGBT rights with the Russian government.

“From this letter it’s clear they’ve done and they only plan on doing squat,” said Savage.

The boycott is the second campaign targeting Russia for its treatment of LGBT citizens; gay rights advocates in the U.S. are also calling for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, also a direct response to the country’s anti-gay legislation.

On June 30, Putin signed controversial legislation that bans the “promotion of non-traditional sexual relationships” that the Kremlin says is intended to guarantee children a “harmonious” upbringing and protect them from “complexes, emotional suffering and stress.”

A week later, Putin also signed into law a bill that that sharply limits the adoption of Russian children by people from countries that allow same-sex marriage.

In the past four months, there have been several homophobic-fueled attacks on pro-gay rallies in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and two men have been killed in attacks motivated by anti-gay bias.

Earlier this week, four Dutch filmmakers were arrested and briefly detained in Murmansk, northern Russian city, on charges of “spreading homosexual propaganda” under the country’s new law.

And on Thursday, LGBTQ Nation reported on a network of Russian ultra-nationalists who are targeting LGBT youth for bullying and assault by creating fake social media profiles and gay personals to attract unsuspecting victims.

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29 more reader comments:

  1. Please drink sweedish or canadian vodka, so much better then that russian stuff.

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 7:18pm
  2. a friend of mine is a bar owner and posted the following on this: “Al Benson asked my opinion as a bar owner on the proposed boycott of Stoli vodka in response to Russia´s maltreatment of gay folks. I´ll start by saying I only approve of maltreatment of gays only if it´s done with a safe word in the way taught by Race Bannon, Frank Strona or Damon Holzum. That said, I think the proposed boycott is silly. Do American gays drink so much Stoli that a sudden decrease would have the Duma tossing aside their nesting dolls and running out to buy rainbow flags for the turrets of the Kremlin? I suspect not. 80% of Russia´s exports are timber, oil, gas and military equipment; only 7.8% of their exports come to the United States. So, if you really want to hurt Russia stop buying tanks and the accompanying fuel. Fuel which might be vodka, I´m not sure what Russian tanks consume.”

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 7:19pm
  3. whiskey is a real drink anyways

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 7:23pm
  4. All alcohol is poison. If they love you or hate you does it matter? You are buying socially acceptable poison. If you are required to drink by your job (yes this DOES exist) please keep it away from the “badder” guys?

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 7:30pm
  5. 1,100 litres (240 imp gal) of Fuel per Russia tank. There is your answer David Rorabaugh, boycotting vodka means nothing to them. They sell guns to finance wars and profit from death.

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 7:32pm
  6. To the bar owner I say: the the LGBT community are not the only people boycotting Russian vodka and I think your witty little explanation a cop out! I say do anything you can to show your support for the gay community and boycott everything you can to send the message that this treatment of the LGBT community or any other minority is unacceptable!

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 7:38pm
  7. boycott russia at all not only vodka !!!!!

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 7:42pm
  8. There´s A Reason To Be Sober.

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 7:43pm
  9. every little bit will help..since I don´t need any more tanks vodka is what I can do to show that I do not approve..

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 7:43pm
  10. I love you Dan Savage.

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 8:01pm
  11. Boycott the Vodka from Russia

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 8:06pm
  12. share to every bar owner

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 8:06pm
  13. Boycott everything from Russia

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 8:42pm
  14. I checked my Vodka, it wasn´t Russian. I wont drink Russian vodka anymore.

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 8:43pm
  15. you got that damn right! this old boy, & MOST of his friends will NOT spend one $$$ while this goes on. Is there any American Vodka!??? These fucking people wanna be like this, men and women,…Americans, don´t spend your HARD EARNED cash with THEM!

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 8:51pm
  16. Remember -stoli has always been a supporter of equality (even sponsoring pride parades in russia)

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 9:16pm
  17. just removed the bottle of Stoli from the freezer and tossed it in the bin!

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 9:32pm
  18. Finnish vodka is better!

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 9:34pm
  19. F*ck Russia.

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 9:42pm
  20. Boycotting anything they make!!

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 9:59pm
  21. There are plenty great vodkas without SUPPORTING THE RUSSIANS

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 10:16pm
  22. Great idea…..hit ´em where it hurts, in the pocketbook!

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 10:22pm
  23. Shouldn´t no longer call it Mother Russia. Thinking of going with Mother-fucker Russia.

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 10:22pm
  24. Russia needs a new political uprising! Communism was doomed to fail from the start!

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 10:33pm
  25. putin´s russia sucks.

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 11:24pm
  26. Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 11:54pm
  27. Petition to sponsors. Please consider sharing with your friends. Thank you.

    Posted on Friday, July 26, 2013 at 11:54pm
  28. Titos is amazing and made in Austin, TX

    Posted on Saturday, July 27, 2013 at 12:09am
  29. Except that Stoli does support equality and it really says something to our amount of discrimination that we´re willing to put forward while trying to defend ourselves from it – not everyone from Russia agrees with this and if such a boycott had ANY effect it would more likely hurt the workers (who in a gay friendly company, are very likely to be gay themselves) than the higher ups and certainly not the government.

    If you want to implement national change, getting your government to do something is WAY more effective than boycotts. I said it with Target and I´ll say it again – why is our first response to BOYCOTT everything. Boycotts only work sometimes, and they take a LOT of organization to be done well and the larger the company, the harder it is to make any significant change because putting people out of work who might AGREE with our cause.

    Please think before making rash decisions.

    Posted on Saturday, July 27, 2013 at 1:13am