For The Record

READ: An Open Letter From Stoli Premium Vodka’s CEO To The LGBT Community

[Editor’s note: In the last 24 hours, there has been talk of boycotting Russian products due to the nation’s dire and reprehensible attacks on LGBT equality. In the spirit of full disclosure, Queerty and our sister site GayCities are producing The Original Stoli Guy program with SPI, which makes and distributes Stoli Premium Vodka worldwide and is headquartered in Luxembourg in Western Europe. We are posting this open letter to the LGBT community from SPI .]

Luxembourg, July 25, 2013

An Open Letter from the CEO of Stolichnaya Vodka to the LGBT community.

stoli175_wdrink_new__44351__01694.1358534178.1280.1280The recent dreadful actions taken by the Russian Government limiting the rights of the LGBT community and the passionate reaction of the community have prompted me to write this letter to you.

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 Americawhich 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 and 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.

Some great examples from other parts of the world are the support to the Durban Gay Pride, in South Africa, the Pride Parade in Vienna, in cooperation with HOSI and CT, the largest LGBT communities in Austria and the Tel Aviv Pride Parade.

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.

Stoli’s production process involves both Russia and Latvia. Stoli is made from Russian ingredients (wheat, rye and raw alcohol) blended with pure artesian well water at our historic distillery and bottling facility Latvijas Balzams in Riga, Latvia (formerly part of the Russian Empire and then of the Soviet Union). Latvijas Balzams did not recently become part of the Stoli heritage, but has been one of its main production and bottling facilities since 1948. This has allowed the brand to deliver the outstanding quality it is recognized for consistently across the years. What changed in the last years is politics, with Latvia becoming an independent state part of the EU.

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.

Sincerely yours,

Val Mendeleev, Chief Executive Officer SPI Group

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  • Charlie in Charge

    Good for them.

  • Medchi

    Missing the point. They are using Russian ingredients; and Latvia doesn’t have a much better track record with treatment of gays.

    From Wikepedia- Additionally, there have been reports of police abuse of detainees and arrestees, poor prison conditions and overcrowding, judicial corruption, discrimination against women, incidents of violence against ethnic minorities, and societal violence and incidents of government discrimination against homosexuals.[74][83][84].

    The one good point- this has gotten the attention of the company.

    P.S.- Chicago evening news is covering the boycott of Russian vodka at Sidetrack right now.

  • Todd Norris

    It’s always heartbreaking when an innocent corporation finds itself in the middle of a nasty boycott. My heart goes out to Stoli, and I hope it will ultimately come out of this stronger than it was before the boycott. But, until the Russian government takes direct action to protect LGBT youth from persecution and even torture in Russia, and until it unequivocally affirms the human rights of LGBT people, a boycott of Russian products is the most effective way the LGBT community can make its voice heard. I look forward to the day when Putin is removed from office and human rights are respected in Russia. I’ll celebrate with a bottle of Stoli.

  • balehead

    Boycotts rarely work except for promoting the fame of fading media hoes/organizations…If they did work…then all the religious boycotts of the 80/90’s would have had a chance…think about it..

  • luvchristopher

    I feel like if I get mired down in responding to people who feel bad for corporations or are simply defeatest side-liners who are all too comfortable in their ease and privilege I will also be missing the point, which is this: Stoli and SPI need to be THE most forceful voice (contacting Russian officials, asking for statements of condemnation by the US State Dept, EU, etc.) and active supporter (e.g. legal support, money, publicity) of LGBTQ Human Rights INSIDE of Russia if they want to be both identified as Russian AND supported by the broader LGBTQ community outside of Russia. Period. Otherwise we should actively seek the removal of their products from business and events that carry them AND start boycotting the things they sponsor too, like Queerty and Gay Cities. These organizations can not claim to support LGBTQ Equality while at the same time take money from and promote the brands and businesses of a nation that brutally oppresses us. Othewise, Stoi and SPI, AND ANYONE THEY DO BUSINESS WITH WILL BECOME RADIOACTIVE in the LGBTQ community. Everyone will seek a minimum safe distance from them, and feel really good about it. We as consumers will feel we are doing our part. What Stoli/SPI does to foster LGBTQ Equality outside of Russia is important, but they do or DO NOT do to help those people who are suffering INSIDE of Russia is much more important right now.

  • Jimmy

    Who Owns the Company? It is my understanding it is a wealthy Russian Man. Plus it says Russian Vodka right on the label,

  • Danny

    Queerty, We know that Gaycities is working with Stoli. We understand that agreement was created long before Russian Rules changed against the LGBT community.
    Sadly, this will have to be chalked up to poor business practice and trying to defend your position is just in bad taste. Sorry that this has happened to your company but this is where proper research is needed before signing agreements.
    Bottom line is…Profits from the sale of Stoli Vodka goes to a very wealthy business man from Russia. That wealthy Russian has the power to change/influence the Russian Government to change their ways.
    We in the States have the power to influence his pocketbook.

  • Jimmy

    from thier website


    The genesis of the SPI Group was the deal, in 1997, to buy a formerly-privatised intellectual property business that owned the brands to a number of historic Russian spirits.

    Yury Shefler, a young Russian businessman, had a vision of building an integrated spirits business – controlling everything from production to distribution and sales. Through a series of deals he added distilleries, a retail network in Russia and the Baltic states and significantly developed an international distribution arm. The plan was straightforward: to pull together the tremendous expertise in the production of spirits that was available in these Russian companies and then grow the brands in the rapidly expanding western market.

    Yury Shefler was the driving force behind the establishment of the SPI Group. After leaving the Russian army in September 1987, he studied at the Russian Academy of Economy before starting a business career which has included running one of Moscow`s leading shopping malls and heading Vnukovo Airlines. In 1997 he bought a company that became the heart of what has grown into SPI today.

    There was a lot of work to do. Under the previous owners, quality had suffered and little thought had been given to a coherent marketing approach with serious investment behind it. As a result, market share was under attack from other international vodka producers and export volumes had begun to fall. Through the investment of tens of millions of dollars, we re-built the expertise needed to improve quality. We acquired modern production lines and the highest quality equipment for our laboratories. With those improvements we were able to reverse the fall in export volume development.

    We have reorganised the disparate parts of the business to ensure quality management discipline and the enforcement of the best business practices. We have taken a fresh look at our business partnerships and our marketing to ensure that all the brands are positioned for growth. Simultaneously we have taken great steps to stop counterfeit and illegal production under our brand names.

    Through the transactions led by Yury Shefler and the work carried out since, SPI has become a leading spirits company and one of the most important drinks groups in the world. Our agriculture interests mean we are one of the leading forces in Russian agriculture whilst property development has brought a whole new focus to the group.

  • andy_d

    @Medchi: I concur. Stoli needs to find other countries to supple them. Until they do so, I say boycott them.

  • Joetx

    @balehead: Tell that to South Africa. People boycotted that country & its products, leading to the end of apartheid. To take a line from you, “think about it.”


    Sorry, but “support and endorse your objectives to fight against prejudice in Russia” is NOT the same as actively working to end prejudice in Russia.

    Thus, I will continue my boycott of Russian products, including yours, Stoli.

    And, as Medchi stated above, Latvia is not far behind Russia in homophobia.

  • johnozed

    Boycotts rarely work except for the MOntgomery Bus Boycott, the Coors/Gay boycott and a few others.

    But they ‘rarely’ work…think about it.
    I guess it is better to do nothing and let them run roughshod over us.

  • johnozed

    @Joetx: Right on Joetx. Also the Coors boycott, the Montgomery Bus Boycott where people were beaten for their boycott.

    (don’t) Think about it…

  • jwrappaport

    @Todd Norris: “Innocent corporation.” That ranks up there with, “corporations are people, my friends.” Corporations are amoral at best given that the only consistent obligation governments have foisted on them is to make money for their shareholders.

    In any case, corporations care about us (or really any issue or people) to the extent that our interests intersect with their financial interests. To speak plainly, Stoli knows who butters their bread, and they’re sufficiently worried to write a letter about it. Unless there’s evidence that they’re helping further anti-gay causes (which there may be), I see no legitimate reasons to boycott them simply because their company has a Russian name and uses Russian products to make their vodka.

  • HeroQueero

    There is a wonderful silver lining here, folks. This letter is an example of the power that the people truly possess. Out ability to cut off financial support to a major corporation through sales is so powerful that it gained the attention and respect of those who tend to listen only to profit margins instead of people. Imagine what else we can accomplish with more of this kind of unity and purpose.

  • hf2hvit

    @balehead: Ask the Coors family about the 80’s…they weren’t real happy with homos

  • hf2hvit

    Sorry…the money still goes to Russia.

  • Doug Flynn

    I happen to speak Russian. FYI to all of you non-Russophones, Stolichnaya Vodka, simply means “table vodka.” There was never anything premium about it. Back in the USSR, they had a deal with Pepsi. They bartered soft drinks for the hard stuff. In the CCCP, Coca-Cola didn’t exist. Only Pepsi. I say this just in case it comes up at a FAB GAY dinner party. :-)

  • Jackhoffsky

    “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.”

    Except Wikipedia cites this “Since 2001, the Stolichnaya trademark has been an object of a dispute between the SPI Group and the government of Russia. In 2002, a Moscow court ruled that the Government of Russia would get back the rights to the Stolichnaya brand name from SPI Group, once their licensing agreement runs out, with no automatic right of renewal.”

    It cites this article (I posted earlier) from the BBC News

    While the rights are “in dispute”, the Russian government STILL has claim to some finances. Meaning, until that battle is 100% won in court (New York or Russia) by SPI, the Russian Government is still staking claim to the rights of ownership.

    And even if that wasn’t an issue… SPI still does commerce with Russia via its ingredients… and the businesses those ingredients are purchased through are state owned by the Russian government. So either way by purchasing Stoli, you are funding laws against our gay brothers and sisters in Russia either directly (rights still not resolved) or indirectly (businesses in Russia that sell ingredients from which Stoli is made).

    I TOTALLY understand where it sucks for them to be a (as it’s labeled in it’s country of origin… BY SPI) “Russian Vodka” and still want to get some of the expendable income gays have so much of… but there’s no winning with this.

  • greyhound1954

    @doug105: Thanks for posting this. It is bad enough to read about the vigilante abuse of LGBT people, but even more disturbing to see graphic evidence. I’m not quite sure what I can do, but at least now I’m motivated to find ways.

  • Larkin

    @Todd Norris: are corporations ever innocent?

  • stvrsnbrgr

    If boycotts don’t work, then why is SPI in a panic? Because they know that boycotts do work. When we choose (for whatever reasons) to avoid an item (Florida orange juice) or a company (Walmart) or a state and its exports (North Carolina) or a nation and its exports (Zimbabwe), we avoid it for awhile. Maybe a long while. And in the meantime, we generally find a replacement – which can become permanent. That’s what SPI knows. It also knows that the makers of non-Russia-related vodkas smell blood in the water. I would expect a slew of country-of-origin ad campaigns from any or all of the premium/super-premium vodkas, starting… now. Absolut (Sweden), Skyy (U.S.), Grey Goose (France), Ketel One (Netherlands), Belvedere (Poland), etc. Wouldn’t you? A significant percentage of people who stop ordering Stoli (and other Russian vodkas) and who switch to another country’s brand, will never return to their old vodka.

    I don’t have much sympathy for SPI. This company’s ties to Mother Russia are long and deep. It may be based in Luxembourg – but its product is made with Russian raw materials in a Latvian plant. Budweiser is owned by AB-InBev, but no one would call it a Belgian brew. Indeed – SPI labels Stoli with the prominent words “RUSSIAN VODKA”. Here’s the thing: St Petersburg (Russia’s “European city”) enacted a draconian anti-gay law in March 2012, and promptly began arresting people. That was nearly 18 months ago. Can SPI produce a single letter, email, ad or any other proof of its claim that “Stoli firmly opposes such attitude and actions… Stolichnaya Vodka has always been, and continues to be, a fervent supporter and friend to the LGBT community.”

    Russia’s anti-gay resurgence has been in the news, globally, for well over a year now. I have seen no evidence of SPI/Stoli’s opposition to these hideous laws, nor any real support to the LGBT community. Selling vodka by the tankerful to gay bars around the country is a business transaction between seller and customers – not a friendship. Take a stand for what is right, SPI. You might be surprised how good that can be for business.

  • RichardWad2U

    Consumers choosing not to consume Russian alcohol products is all fine and dandy, but do you know a single gay bar or restaurant following suit? In NYC the number is ZERO. Are we just as willing to hold them accountable for supporting and selling Russian products? Let’s see if the boycotting gay community is REALLY willing to put its money where its mouth is and stop frequenting they’re favorite establishments that serve these beverages.

  • chicagomec

    To answer RichardWad2u’s question, Sidetrack video bar just dropped Stoli. Sidetrack is Chicago’s largest gay bar. On Weds they posted this online:

    Tonight you might notice that Sidetrack has removed Stolichnaya Vodka from our shelves. Sidetrack cannot support a brand so associated with Russia at a time when Russia is implementing (against strong world criticism) it’s anti-gay law that bans gay “propaganda”. The Stoli story is complicated by decades of lawsuits whereby the actual Government of Russia has laid claim to the Stolichnaya brand name. Very soon the Russian government itself, which bans positive portrayals of LGBT people, may be the beneficiary of the goodwill earned by Stoli’s distributors and bars over the years. So starting immediately we will not sell Stoli or any other Russian products at Sidetrack.

    Every trend starts with a few….

  • erikwm

    As long as Stoli is using Russian grain, then they are fair game. Russian farmers are making a living off selling their crop to Stoli and that helps the Russian economy. A healthy economy helps the Russian government.

    Stoli is guilty by association.

    Dump Stoli. Boycott Russia.

  • beachcomberT

    Well, it’s easy and requires no effort or thinking to boycott one product with a Russian name. Why not, instead, pressure Obama and Kerry to take some meaningful action, such as cancelling or postponing Obama’s upcoming trip to Russia. Or filing a complaint with the UN Human Rights Commission? But, of course, Obama doesn’t want to upset Russia because he’s bent on capturing Edward Snowden, dead or alive. If Obama equivocates, then how about the various presidential candidates already prepping for 2016? This is a chance for the Clintons to redeem themselves from the shame of DOMA & DADT. Also, U.S. churches and the World Council of Churches could start pressuring the Russian Orthodox Church, which is setting the tone for this anti-gay frenzy.

  • erikwm

    @RichardWad2U: The Eagle in NYC just announced on Facebook it is joining the boycott. Others will follow.

    There are a lot of vodkas. Stoli is hardly the best. Boycotting Stoli is painless for us, but it won’t be painless for them.

  • Matt G

    First, a boycott is low-effort for the consumer (buy another decent vodka) and high impact for the company (lose massive market share). They also raise awareness to the clueless- someone tries to order a stoli, the bar doesn’t have it, “Don’t you know why we don’t have that? google it. Here’s an Absolut”

  • johnozed

    @beachcomberT: Why not take matters in our own hands and wait for the administration to catch up?

  • Rob_NJ

    If they are really so supportive yank the plug on anything they get from Russia and start doing business elsewhere. Continuing to support the Russian economy is just being two faced.

  • Sibarwick

    Having a European HQ is standard practice for multinationals wishing to pay minimal tax for their European businesses, it does not imply Stoliichnaya is not a Russian owned and operated company. Personally I choose to not buy this company’s products and instead will choose to buy those of alternative vodka-producing countries.

  • CaptainFabulous

    @balehead: I think boycotts work very well when you’re on the right side of the argument. The fact these companies are coming out and defending themselves (much like how Lionsgate is defending Ender’s Game) means they’re concerned. And if boycotting had no effect there would be no reason to be concerned.

    It’s boycotts from people like One Million Moms that carry zero weight and are ignored because they do not have the clout and are clearly on the wrong side of the issue.

  • SamP

    From the research I’ve done, it’s very complicated. As I understand it, Stoli was owned by a man named Yuri Sheffler. Sheffler sold himself the rights to the name Stoli — a move Russian claimed as illegal. When Putin took power, he tried to renationalize vodka. This did not go well and Mr. Sheffler did not take this well. To get control of the vodka, Putin accused Sheffler of a murder plot against a Russian official. Sheffler fled Russia. Stoli is owned by Spirits International based in Switzerland. SPI no longer has offices in Russia since their offices were ransacked and vodka confiscated during that whole murder plot thing. On top of this, only vodka bottled in Russia can put “Russian Vodka” on the label. That’s why Stoli here says “Premium Vodka.” In fact, the trademark name of Stolichnaya has been in dispute between SPI and the Russian government. In 2002, a Russian court awarded the Stoli brand name to the Russian government. Just last year, an international court at The Hague also gave the brand name back to the Russian Federation. SPI’s current distribution contract in the US with William Grant & Sons expires at the end of this year. As I understand it, Stoli (at least the Stoli manufactured by SPI) may have to change its name when that contract expires. A boycott of SPI doesn’t seem like it will do much good.

  • Jackhoffsky

    @SamP: Except you skipped past the part where SPI buys ingredients that are Russian from businesses still within the borders of the country.

  • SamP

    @Jackhoffsky: But do you honestly think that boycotting a company who has such a contentious relationship with Putin and the Russian government is going to make the Russian government back down/change? Even if SPI stopped buying Russian wheat, it wouldn’t make a difference to the Russian government.

    The Slog article you cite completely overlooks the decision at The Hague. The Hague ruled that the brand name Stolichnaya does, indeed, belong to Russia. However, that transfer won’t happen until the current distribution agreement with William Grant & Sons (I don’t hear anyone saying we should boycott Grant — or is it because no one wants to give up their Glenfiddich?) That agreement does expire at the end of this year. At that point, the brand Stolichnaya name will revert to the Russian government. (There is a possibility of appeal, but the limitations there make it a remote possibility.) After the brand does revert to Russian control worldwide, I think it would be appropriate, at that point, to boycott Stoli. But a company that has such a contentious relationship with the Russian government and is likely to lose that brand name in the very near future seems misguided. By boycotting SPI’s Stoli, in a perverse way, you’re supporting the Russian government because it was the Russian government who falsely accused Sheffler of plotting to accuse the Agriculure Minister. It was the Russian government who ransacked SPI’s Russian offices and seized many cases of Stoli. By boycotting SPI’s Stoli, you’re saying you agree with the Russian government.

    Slog also gets a couple things wrong. Among them, “Russian Vodka” is a term like “Champagne.” Only Champagne which is made in the Champagne region of France can be technically called champagne — otherwise, it’s “sparkling wine.” The same is true for Russian Vodka. Putting “Premium Vodka” on the label is not a marketing ploy to downplay the Russian connection. They are legally prohibited from doing so unless they produce the vodka in Russia. Which, the Stoli which is distibuted in the US, is not.

    Should we be lobbying Congress now to slap tariffs against products which are actually imported directly from Russia? Yes. Currently, SPI’s Stoli does not qualify. The fact is that 90% of exports from Russia to the US are minerals (like gold) or other raw materials. Gold boycott, anyone?

    So when the brand name rights revert to Russia at the end of the year, a boycott of Stoli might be the way to go. Right now, it’s not going to do anything to persuade the Russian government to change.

  • Kenover

    Stolichnaya Vodka is owned by SPI (Soyuzplodimport) Group, which is controlled by Yuri Scheffler, a Russian oligarch who sails around the world in a $300 million yacht and is one of the 100 richest men in Russia. If you think he doesn’t have any influence with Vladimir Putin, you don’t know how the world works. The company is incorporated in Luxembourg for tax reasons and the vodka is distilled in Latvia from Russian ingredients imported from farms in Russia that SPI Group owns. If that’s not a Russian company then Honda and Sony are not a Japanese companies.

    Go ask Coors Beer and the Coors family whether boycotts work or not. For those who don’t remember, the Coors family supported right-wing, homophobic organizations and causes like the Heritage Institute and the American Enterprise Institute, which is their right, but they also tried to bust the brewery workers union and unfairly fired gay and lesbian employees in 1977 — setting off a decade-long boycott of Coors beer in the gay community. After a bitter fight and a change in management, Coors encouraged gay and lesbian workers to organize and in May 1995 Coors became the 21st publicly traded US corporation to extend employee benefits to same-sex partners — long before most other companies. Don’t let anyone tell you boycotts don’t work; they do! More importantly, they bring public scrutiny and condemnation upon the wrongdoers. Business is about making money and, as has been noted many times before, money talks.

    SPI Group understands the power of boycotts all too well, which is why they’ve mounted a major PR campaign to protect their LGBT market share. Suddenly the Stoli website has gone rainbow gay and PR flacks are shouting out the company’s support for LGBT rights. And they’re buying positive press at media outlets like Queerty by “sponsoring” events that pour cash into their coffers. They should take this money and donate to underfunded Russian LGBT organizations that are under siege and mount a media campaign against the oppression of gays and lesbians in Russia, but they don’t — because there’s no profit in it for them. So they continue funding this cynical PR campaign to keep gays in the West swilling Stoli — a mediocre vodka at best.

    I salute all gay bars who have stopped serving Stoli. But it’s not just this company. All LGBT people of conscience should BOYCOTT ALL RUSSIAN PRODUCTS AND THE 2014 SOCHI OLYMPICS. Hit them where it hurts…in the wallet and the court of public opinion. Putin is a vain little dictator who cares about this image in the world. Actions must have consequences. Make Putin, the Duma, and the Russian Orthodox Church pay for this anti-gay pogrom!

    Drink SKYY… it’s a better vodka, made with all US ingredients, and a true supporter of the LGBT community.

  • cspotjump

    To be sure, calling out homophobic officials and politicians in Russia, asking the US government put their Visas on restriction and putting Putin’s head on the international chopping block for human rights violations would be a start. However, until Stoli decides to actually put their money where their mouth is, their words are meaningless.

    You are either FOR human rights or you play a part in supporting and encouraging the hatred, fear, oppression and harm which has found it’s way into not only the current Russian culture, but into cultures around the globe. I find the dismissal of “the least among us” by anyone, to be reprehensible.

    I also, have to wonder if this is how the Nazis got their start? With the blind eyes of corporations, citizens, and the world allowing this kind of madness to spread. Their are PLENTY of places Stoli can do business. Put some power AND action into your empty thoughts and regrets.

    Add Russia to the list of the most blatant international Human Rights offenders with Uganda, Sudan, North Korea…it’s not a short list but each one is an opportunity for every corporation, every politician, every human being to decide the kind of world we want to live in.

    It would seem that people living in fear have little enthusiasm to push back. That is why they need the help of others. When one of us suffers at the hands of another, we all suffer. Ask yourself this Mr Mendeleev, if it were your sister, your son, your friends who were forced to live in this kind of fear, would you do more than say “I’m sorry”?

  • Jackhoffsky

    @SamP: I refer you to my first comment under “Leading Russian LGBT Activist Says Vodka Boycott ‘Will Not Influence Russian Politics'” and to the two comments directly above.

  • SamP

    @Kenover: So you believe that a man who Putin accused of plotting to murder the Agriculture Minister and who fled Russia because of that allegation has influence with Putin? The reason he sails around the world “in a $300 million yacht” is because he’s on the run from Russian authorities. What source do you have that he’s one of the richest men in Russia? How can he be one of the richest men in Russia if he hasn’t lived there for over a decade? Further, the Russian government just won the legal action at the Court of Appeals at The Hague. As a result SPI will be losing the right to the brand name Stoichnaya. As a result, SPI will have to change the name of what it calls “Stolichnaya.” This will cause a tremendous hit to their bottom line. So, the Russian government has accused the owner of SPI of murder, run his company out of the country and now seized the trademark on the name of its premier product cost it hundreds of millions of dollars… and you think that this company has influence over Putin and his government?

    I can’t figure out from your rant if your more upset that Sheffler is a rich “oligarch” or if it stems from your confused belief that SPI and the Putin govenment are somehow pals.

    And your analogy of the Coors boycott is not even remotely the same as Stoli. The US government didn’t accuse the owners of murder or try to renationalize the beer industry and claim trademark on the Coors name. Do you know for a fact that SPI does not extend protections and benefits to LGBT employees? If so, you need to post that evidence — then, maybe, a boycott of Stoli might make sense.

    Yes, Putin is a “vain little dictator.” His move to renationalize the vodka industry (and put the Stolichnaya brand name under control of the government) is very popular with Russians and the Russian mob. So, his success last year at The Hague to get the trademark back for the name Stolichnaya is looked on in Russia as a good thing. But you’re advocating punishing the company who just lost the rights to that trademark (which, as I understand it won’t happen until Dec 31 of this year) instead of other Russian exports. Punishing SPI now won’t do anything to help LGBT persons/supporters inside Russia.

  • SamP

    @cspotjump: How is SPI/Stoli not putting their money where their mouth is? Do we know for sure they discriminate against LGBT persons in employment and benefits?

    Who’s the “nazi” here? Stoli or the Putin and his government? I don’t think anyone is turning a “blind eye” to the atrocities against LGBT persons/supporters in Russia. If they were, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Stoli (i.e., SPI) currently does not sell its product inside Russia. It’s forbidden from doing so.

    I’m not saying we should not try to help our LGBT brothers and sisters in Russia. I’m not saying that a boycott of an appropriate industry wouldn’t be correct. What I’m saying is there is no love between SPI (who distributes the trademarked Stoli in the US) and the Russian government. So, we’d be punishing a company who has no influence inside the country and who, itself, has been a target of the Russian government’s wrath.

  • Kenover

    @SamP Are you by any chance an employee of SPI Group’s PR agency? Why do you care more about Stoli’s bottom line than the rights and lives of LGBT people in Russia? And by the way, I’m not just calling out SPI Group. All people of conscience should stop buying ALL Russian products and visiting the country that discriminates so blatantly against gays and lesbians. Whether they back Putin or oppose him, they can exert influence on the government’s policies and focus the world’s attention on this outrage. Why enrich our enemies?

  • SamP

    @Kenover: I’m not an employee of SPI. Further, I don’t drink alcohol. I just think if we truly want to make a difference in “the rights and lives of LGBT people in Russia” we should direct our anger and boycotts where they might actually do some good. Currently, SPI’s Stoli is not sold in Russia — though, from what I can gather, they have other brands of alcohol which are. However, none of those brands are distributed in the west. SPI’s relationship with the Russian government is contentious at best. We’d be penalizing a company who is an enemy of the Russian state — so, in essence, we’re taking the side of the Russian government in the boycott.

    Now, as of December 31, 2013, I understand that the Stoli brand will revert to the Russian government. It’s unclear at this point who will be responsible for distribution to the west. At that point, a boycott of Stoli (which would then be imprinted as “Russian Vodka” as opposed to “Premium Vodka”) would be appropriate for that brand.

    90% of Russia’s exports to the US are minerals and raw materials. Good luck trying to find out who uses Russian gold in the products…. I’ve tried to research it. I can’t find anything on it.

    The following companies have a large technological presence in Russia: Intel, Google, Motorola, Sun Microsystems, Boeing, Nortel, Hewlett-Packard, SAP AG. I don’t hear anyone calling for a boycott of those companies. Google was at the forefront of the Prop 8 movement. “Don’t be evil,” my ass. What about Exxon/Mobil which is anti-gay here in the US and has a large presence in Russia? I don’t hear for anyone calling for a boycott of these companies.

    And what of the Olympics? NBC? I’m not hearing boycott calls there. The head of NBC gave the most namby-pamby response I’ve ever heard… Basically, he said the network would mention it. What about corporate sponsors of the Olympics? Not hearing for boycott calls there. Silence.

    And the IOC? A bastion of civil liberties? Then why does it keep choosing countries like China and Russia who have terrible civil rights records. Evidently, the IOC has secured a “promise” that these laws won’t be enforced for visitors or athletes (but just for visitors and athletes) during the Olympics…. and just in Sochi. The rest of Russia? Oh yeah, it will still be enforce there. Further, I can find no evidence that, if an lgbt person works for the IOC, they are protected by anti-discrimination policies or extended same-sex partner benefits.

    There are better targets.

  • Spike

    Isn’t it ironic, not a single Queerty post about the Weho bars pouring Stoli’s out in the curb and no longer serving it. Must have something to do with all the Stoli advertising that constantly pops up on Queerty. Gay journalistic integrity as its best! Congrats Queerty, you have hit a new low. Maybe the new Stoli’s Guy should be one of those gay russian teens that are lured in by a CL post and end up being beat up and humiliated! That would make for the PERFECT Stolis guy.

  • telltruthtopower

    It seems the question is whether we need to boycott, which appears to be an unequivocal supporter of Stoli and therefore the Russian government. Whether to boycott Stoli itself might be a sideshow.

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