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

Friday, July 26, 2013
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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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