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Stoli Reacts To Dump Russian Vodka Boycott With Open Letter To The Gay Community

Stoli, the Russian-owned but European-ran vodka at the center of the gay push for a boycott on Russian vodkas, has issued an open letter to the gay community in response to the campaign. 

Reads the missive from CEO Val Mendeleev:

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 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 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, taking place this weekend.

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

Still, Dan Savage, a major voice in the campaign to boycott Russian vodka, is not pleased. 

For the record: Regardless of where SPI Group's corporate offices are located, the company is owned by Yuri Scheffler, one of the 100 richest men in Russia. SPI is a Russian corporation, Stoli is a Russian vodka. And while it's nice that SPI is willing to market to homos who are lucky enough to live in Austria, the US, and South Africa, what has SPI done in Russia? The group has sponsored gay pride events in Vienna and Miami. That's nice. But have they sponsored gay pride events in Moscow or St. Petersburg? Val says that Stoli is upset and angry. That's nice. So has Stoli said anything to the Russian authorities? Has Yuri Scheffler expressed his anger in an open letter to Vladimir Putin? Did the SPI Group speak the fuck up before the Russian government passed a law that made it a crime to be openly gay and a crime to publicly support someone who is openly gay? Frankly I'm not interested in Stoli's marketing efforts in the West. I'm interested in what this Russian-owned company is doing in Russia. And from this letter it's clear they've done and they only plan on doing squat.

It is difficult not to completely agree with Dan.

This is all great and quite distracting, Stoli, but the entire boycott has been built around Russia's apprehensible treatment of its LGBT citizens? You carefully dodge any mention of what you, as one of Russia's biggest and most-recognized brands, plan to do about the international human rights issue.

What do you think? Is Stoli's open letter to the gay community enough to warrant an end to the call for a gay boycott on Russian vodka?


I agree with the general consensus, what have they done IN Russia?  What pressure have they put on President Putin or the Russian media?  If boycotting them in the other countries they are selling products gets them to advocate in support of LGBT community in Russia then Im all for it.

"effective initiative" That in itself says it all.  There is NO effective initiative momentarily when one can be jailed for simply speaking out. This company is trying to save face, it's evident. Should the ban directly affect international sales, the dent would be large enough to take notice. Ban any and all Russian products within the USA!

I agree with Dan Savage. What has Stoli done for Russian gay and lesbian people? BOYCOTT!

I always thought Absolut was the gay vodka of choice? Much nicer than Stoli u must say, and from Sweden.... Where beautiful things come from :)

When did Stoli become that great of vodka anyway??? There are plenty of other, better, options out there.

Ooh, so they sponsored Prides and are doing a photo contest with Queerty, that must make them our BFFs! Boycott 'em.

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