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Boycott of Russian Vodka Targets LGBT-Friendly Non-Russian Vodkas

Flag_of_Russia.svgAnd now for the next ill conceived and likely ineffective boycott. Various members of the LGBT Community are urging a products manufactured in Russia and especially of Russian vodka. Dan Savage began this by publishing an article in The Stranger entitled “Why I’m Boycotting Russian Vodka”. In it, he urged gay bars to stop serving various Russian vodkas like Russian Standard, Shustov, Starka and Stolnaya.

In the article, Savage writes “[T]here 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.”

Chicago’s largest gay bar, Sidetrack, is apparently answering the call saying that they will remove Stolichnaya and other Russian brands despite the fact that Stolichnaya, while manufactured in Latvia and Russia, is from the Luxembourg-based SPI Group, whic has been not only opposed to Russia’s anti-gay policies, but been fairly pro-gay in their stances including past endorsements of Pride events and LGBT organizations.

Val Mendeleev, the CEO of SPI, told The Advocate that “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.”

Mendeleev also noted that “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.”

He finished by saying “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.”

Ultimately, this may be another ill conceived boycott given the global nature of companies like SPI. Instead, what needs to happen is political pressure on Russia by Europe and the United States. The question is, would they actually have the clout to do it.

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