The boycott follows Russia’s anti-gay law, which bans “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations”, which includes no longer talking to children about homosexuality. US sex writer Dan Savage called for a Russian vodka boycott and created the Twitter hashtag dumpstoli. According to a report in The Guardian newspaper, six bars in Chicago have stopped selling the brand.
SPI CEO Val Mendeleev has condemned the Russian government’s actions, calling them “dreadful” and stating that the vodka brand “firmly opposes such attitudes and actions”.
In an open letter, Mendeleev said: “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 Gaycities.com and Queerty.com 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.”
The letter goes on to state other examples and ends with a note on the vodka’s ownership.
“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.”
Mendeleev concluded: “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.”
You can read the full letter here.