Stoli CEO responds to growing gay boycott of Russian vodka

We’d written yesterday about the growing boycott of Russian vodka, and particularly Russia’s most famous brand, Stolichnaya vodka, in response to Russia’s brutal crackdown on its LGBT community, including Russia’s new focus on arresting foreign visitors who are perceived in any way to be pro-gay. #dumpstoli

It’s an ominous sign less than one year before the Sochi, Russia Olympics of 2014.

Well, it appears our boycott has gotten the attention of Stoli, which is being particularly singled out by angry gay and trans people, and our allies, worldwide.  (And contrary to some erroneous rumors, Stolichnaya is Russian.  More on that in a moment.)

Stoli CEO Val Mendeleev, issued a long letter yesterday talking about how pro-gay Stoli is in the west.  Sadly, as Dan Savage notes, Mendeleev didn’t say anything about what Stoli is doing to be pro-gay or pro-trans in Russia itself.  Though the Russian press, at least its English-language version, seems to be taking Stolis words as a harsh criticism of Putin.

As for the claims by some that Stoli is not a Russian company – good try.  As Dan notes, the company is owned by Yuri Scheffler, one of the 100 richest men in Russia.  And SPI, the parent company of Stolichnaya, is a Russian corporation.  More from a news just two months ago:

One thing that makes Stoli unique among its peers, is that the company doesn’t just own the brand, it owns the wheat fields to produce the vodka. “The Stoli Group is vertically integrated,” he explains. “The grain is 100% Russian and we have thousands of hectares of land 400 kilometres south of Moscow.” Here it is made into raw alcohol in SPI’s brand new US$100m distillery and then refined into Stoli in Latvia where the company owns a historic distillery in Riga that has been making vodka since 1948. “The system means you really know the cost structure and can ensure consistent high quality standards.”

In its trade communications, “The part ‘Russia’ plays is an essential element in our brand education. It’s where the brand was born and where our grain comes from today.”

Thanks for the clarification. But I’ve had just about enough of Russia’s over-the-top homophobia.  It’s on a par with the virulent hatred we see in parts in Africa.

Oh, and here’s an odd thing.  If you go to Stoli’s home page at stoli.com, here’s what you see:

stoli-gay-boycott

Then you click enter, and you end up on an LGBT Stoli page:

stoli-gay

Does everyone end up on an LGBT page, or is Stoli sniffing out who’s gay, and if so, I’m a bit creeped out.  Perhaps they’re sending everyone there (though I doubt it), or perhaps all people surfing in from America.  Either way, it’s a sign that Stoli is taking the boycott seriously.  Let’s see if Putin does.

And in the meantime, go to your local gay bar (or any bar) and ask them to stop serving Stoli or any other Russian vodka in solidarity with the boycott.  Probably the most famous gay bar in Chicago just pulled Russian vodka from its shelves.  They can too.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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