Gay activists call for Russian vodka boycott

They're aiming to apply economic pressure on Moscow over new discriminatory laws. But could such a protest work?

By Bruce Kennedy Jul 30, 2013 8:37AM

Bottle of Stolichnaya vodka (© Stolichnaya)New Russian laws that discriminate against gays and lesbians, as well as recent images of violence against gays in Russia, are prompting calls for boycotts against the upcoming Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi -- and against all Russian vodka.

And while a boycott against the Winter Games is still mostly theoretical, protests against Russian spirits appear to be gaining momentum.

The vodka boycott began with an appeal published last week by gay columnist Dan Savage, calling on Americans, gay and straight, "to show our solidarity with Russian queers and their allies 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."

Savage then listed over a dozen Russian vodkas currently sold in the U.S., including one of the market leaders, Stolichnaya.

In response, Val Mendeleev, CEO of Stolichnaya's owner, SPI Group. issued an open letter to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community denouncing the "recent dreadful actions taken by the Russian Government limiting the rights of the LGBT community," and stressing his company's opposition to "such attitude and actions."

In the letter, Mendeleev also underscored Stolichnaya's support of gay and lesbian pride events around the world, that his company has no ties to the Russian government and that it's actually produced in Latvia.

However, the Russian vodka boycott has been taken up by gay bars in Savage's home town of Seattle, as well as in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and several other North American cities.

But could such a boycott make a real economic impact? The Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. reports nearly 1.4 million gallons of Russian vodka were imported to the U.S. last year, worth more than $59.6 million. But that barely registers when you consider that just one brand, Russian Standard, a top-selling premium vodka in Russia, sold more than 5.2 million gallons globally in 2009.

And prominent Russian LGBT activist Nikolai Alekseev says a vodka boycott is at best a doomed, symbolic gesture.

"The producers, even if they become bankrupt because of the boycott (which is unlikely) will not be able to influence Russian politics and President Putin as well as the decisions of the State Duma," he said in an interview last week.

A more effective measure, according to Alekseev, would be to ban anti-gay Russian lawmakers from traveling to the U.S., European Union and elsewhere in the West.

"Pressure your governments to put the authors of those laws on the black lists for the entrance visas," he added. "They will suffer and others will think twice. Nothing else will work!"

More on moneyNOW

Jul 30, 2013 10:26AM
Just for that tantrum outburst, I'm buying Russian Vodka two fold. WTF does Vodka have to do with gay rights? Tired of this whiny political correctness B.S.
Jul 30, 2013 10:14AM
This kind of boycott crap is why so many people have a problem with gays.
Jul 30, 2013 2:34PM
Didn't this backfire with the Chic-fil-A controversy; they got a boost in sales from supporters.
Jul 30, 2013 12:58PM
can  we  get  Mr. Putin  to  be  out  president? Please.......
Jul 30, 2013 2:36PM
Why doesn't the gay community boycott all clothing manufacturers and retailers who do NOT have their clothing manufactured in a pro-gay society like America rather than continuing to have the goods manufactured in China? 
Jul 30, 2013 12:57PM
buy  more  Vodka  from Russia  !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Jul 30, 2013 2:32PM
The abnormals will fail on this one. PC isn`t in Vogue in Russia.
Jul 30, 2013 2:20PM

"Does gays drink alot of Vodka?"


 I just don't get the boycott

Jul 30, 2013 9:53AM
Jul 30, 2013 2:13PM

The problem is people. The gay people advertise the fact there gay. Big show offs.

 It's like there convincing us there gay instead of themselves.


You don't see Heterosexuality being as open with there sexual preference.

Because I like big breasts, do I tell everyone, make T-shirts, Convince people

this way is better than your way. No.


There's Angry people that believe in hurting other people. so don't advertise your beliefs on others.

 and take a vodka shoot.


Jul 30, 2013 2:56PM
Gays don't decorate my home or my body, now there will be more vodka for me, I'll have mine straight!
Jul 30, 2013 6:52PM
I want to ban the gay community from using the rainbow!!!!!!!  WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH
Jul 30, 2013 11:21PM
Whats wrong someone doesn't agree with your way of life & it's either sue ,boycott, demonstrate. get over yourselves. Adam & Eve  not  Adam & Steve
Jul 30, 2013 3:33PM
Let all the **** boycott, who cares, let them drink water. It takes a man to drink vodka.
Jul 30, 2013 2:34PM
Vodka, has been helpping tons of people get laid for years both straight and gay
Jul 30, 2013 4:25PM
Jul 30, 2013 9:46AM
BUT. BUT Vodka is good with poppers.
Jul 30, 2013 6:46PM
LGBT, I am so sick and tired of you guys complaining about someone or something, because the are ANTI-LGBT.  These companies have nothing to do with their government.  And no matter what the LGBT says or does will they change.  This is a communistic country dummies, not democratic.  I am so tired of hearing you guys whin about someone not liking you.  Guess what, I live in America and we are a democratic society, which means I can choose to not agree with you.  Cheers with my cranberry and vodka.....
Jul 30, 2013 10:09AM
Don't drink but do hate discrimination of any kind.
Jul 30, 2013 4:11PM
Sounds to me like a lot of people have way too much time on their hands.
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