Russians, Gays and Booze – Does Boycotting Stoli Make Sense?


“Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, has declared war on homosexuals. So far, the world has been mostly silent,” wrote Harvey Fierstein, in his op-ed piece in the July 21 edition of the NY Times.

The war has been going on for sometime and gets more ugly each week. There is a law banning the adoption of Russian born children to gay couples and — get this — any couple living in a country where marriage equality exists in any form. The police in Russia are allowed to arrest tourists and foreign nationals they suspect of being homosexual, or “pro gay.”

Earlier in June, Putin signed a bill that classifies “homosexual propaganda” (whatever the hell that is) as pornography. The stupidity and narrow-mindedness of that law, makes it a prosecutable offense for anyone describing homosexuality as not evil. Anyone – parents, teachers, judges, etc.

The discrimination has become an issue for the 2014 Winter Games in Russia as to whether gay athletes will be safe there. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has provided some lame reassurances, but if history is any indicator, there is reason for concern.

Speaking of history, in the early 1980s at the height of the cold war, two events roused the public anger against Russia and the then Soviet Union. One was the shooting down of the Korean Air Line passenger plane and the other was the boycott of the US Olympics in Los Angeles.

The response by consumers in the US was to boycott Russian products. Since Russia’s main exports were (and still are) caviar and vodka, it was not surprising to see news photos of bartenders pouring Stoli down sewers. Other than increase the awareness of Absolut (which was struggling at the time) the boycott had little effect.

Now we have history repeating itself with gay activists and bars boycotting Russian vodka and aiming their ire at Stolichnaya. A recent article in reported:

“Dan Savage, columnist, author… published an article in Seattle’s independent newspaper, The Stranger, titled ‘Why I’m Boycotting Russian Vodka,’ urging gay bars to stop serving the brand and others like Russian Standard, Shustov, Starka, and Stolichnaya.”

Now, just hold on a minute. I understand the anger and desire to send a message to Russia, but why Stoli. The brand and its owner and managers, are supporters of the LGBT community and have been for some time. Further, the Russian government has no ownership interest or control over the Stoli brand, which is privately owned by the SPI group whose headquarters are in Luxembourg.

So, targeting Stoli is misguided. I doubt that Putin gives a shit other than to laugh at the effort.

Want to send a message? Organize a boycott of the viewing of the 2014 Winter Games by letting NBC and their advertisers know how you feel. Send a message by letting the Russian leaders know that the viewership of their Olympics will be the worst in modern history.

Boycotting Stoli is as meaningless as boycotting caviar.

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