FeaturedOpinions and Rants

Stoli CEO Issues Letter To Gays To Stop Boycott, Queer Nation Replies: Marketing Is Not Support

Queer Nation

In case you missed it.  Stolichnaya Vodka CEO Val Mendeleev wrote an open letter to the LGBT community yesterday in hopes of stopping a boycott of it’s product.

Luxembourg, July 25, 2013

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

The 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 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.

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

Today the LGBT organization Queer Nation responds via press release

A Statement From Queer Nation; Marketing Is Not Enough

Val Mendeleev, the chief executive officer of SPI Group, the owner of the Stolichnaya brand, confirmed in an open letter on July 25 that SPI produces this vodka in Russia and that SPI has offices and operations in Russia. Stolichnaya is a Russian vodka that is owned by a company that was founded in Russia in 1991.

On the same day that SPI released its open letter to the Advocate, we learned that Russian thugs, emboldened by Russia’s anti-gay law, have taken to gay web sites to lure gay people to supposed encounters where they are viciously beaten. This is just the latest in a series of violent attacks against LGBT Russians and foreign LGBT nationals in Russia.

This violence follows news reports of Russian police and prosecutors targeting LGBT people and groups in Russia for arrests and trials. At least two Russian LGBT groups have gone underground as a result.

In the open letter, Mr. Mendeleev cited a few LGBT events where SPI promoted its Stolichnaya brand as evidence of the company’s support for our community. Mr. Mendeleev, marketing will not save LGBT lives.

A single open letter that was discreetly placed with a single gay publication in the US will not help LGBT Russians nor will it have an impact on the Russian government’s anti-gay campaign. This and your refusal made in an earlier statement to confront the Russian government’s anti-gay bigotry make clear that you are not the fervent supporter and friend to the LGBT community you claim to be.

By its own admission, SPI Group operates in Russia and pays taxes to the Russian government. That money funds these continuing attacks on LGBT people and organizations in Russia. Queer Nation will continue its boycott of Stolichnaya and other Russian vodkas until this anti-gay law is repealed and the Russian government guarantees the safety of its LGBT citizens and foreign LGBT nationals in Russia.

We will not help you fund the Russian war on LGBT people.

Queer Nation

To me it’s amazing that companies like Stolichnaya find it so hard to understand that people might not wish to fund their own persecution and that sponsoring a few American gay pride parade and giving money to Queerty and GayCities is not a “committment” to the community. It is marketing.

Every dollar that our enemies lose is a gain to our long-term success. And companies that want out money must have the integrity and commitment to do the right thing.

The  people who dislike boycotts in our community on principle are nothing more than entitiled,  lazy and jaded and expect others to do the work for them.  In  reality a well implemented boycott can have profound positive results.

Boycott Stoli and all Russian Vodka

Boycott Enders’ Game and OSC. 

Boycott Russia.

And think twice about how you spend your money abd who you support..

If Stoli doesn’t support the Russian government’s actions, they have an option — pull out of Russia.  Otherwise, they are doing nothing more than aiding and abetting.

I am publicly calling on Queerty.com and GayCities to sever ties with Stolichnaya vodka.  You cannot take their money while their commerce goes to Russia via its ingredients… and the businesses those ingredients are purchased through that are state owned by the Russian government.

 

Tags

Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

Related Articles

5 thoughts on “Stoli CEO Issues Letter To Gays To Stop Boycott, Queer Nation Replies: Marketing Is Not Support”

  1. There has been a lot of confusion over this issue. Thanks Will for clearing up Stoli’s real involvement.

  2. A clear and precise post, and greatly appreciated Will. It’s been apparent from the start, that Stoli would do and say anything to get the boycotters to stand down. As Al Sharpton would say “Nice try Stoli…but we Gotcha!”

  3. What’s the endgame here? Convince Stoli to overthrow the Russian government? You’re trying to force responsibility on a company that has little to do with Russian policy making. And then you poo-poo their “marketing” efforts.” And claim because they pay taxes they are responsible for hate crimes. You pay taxes as well. Are you proud and responsible for all the actions your government commits?

  4. I will not tolerate human rights abuses, as a Canadian, we stand in solidarity with our LBGT brothers and sisters. Every human being has the right to choose who they love and should be free to express their beliefs. Shame on Putin and his regime of intolerance.

What do you think?

Close