Someone is spending a great deal of money to buy ads in today's The New York Times saying that life in Russia just really isn’t all that bad for LGBT people. Can anyone say, “#DamageControl?”

This has Ketchum’s PR fingerprints all over it. When the opposition starts taking out 8-page advertorials you know they’re playing a defensive game. Keep up the pressing, and #DumpSochi.

Read more about Putin’s PR strategy here:http://bit.ly/1f8pXFa

Stolichnaya Admits It’s a Russian Company in New York Times Article

Russian Vodka Boycott Target Stolichnaya Admits It’s a Russian Company

New York, NY (September 8, 2013) — In a September 8 article in The New York Times, Val Mendeleev, the chief executive officer of SPI Group, the Russian company that owns the Stolichnaya brand, told the newspaper that “SPI Group is ‘not trying to hide’ its Russian roots — Stolichnaya’s formula, basic ingredients and name, which means capital, all come from Russia.”

“Having confirmed that Stolichnaya is a Russian vodka that is made by a Russian company, this makes the company a legitimate and ideal boycott target to create positive change for LGBT human rights inside of Russia,“ Queer Nation NY, the direct action group, and #DumpRussianVodka said in a joint statement.

Mendeleev told the Times that SPI employs at least 600 people in Russia at “a distillery in the Russian region of Tambov to produce raw alcohol for shipment to the vodka plant” in Latvia where Stolichnaya is bottled. The company grows the grain that is used to make Stolichnaya in Russia. 

SPI owns two distilleries in Russia, not one, as reported by the Times. It is not clear if the 600 Russian employees include those working at the second distillery. While SPI cannot market Stolichnaya in Russia, the company sells five other vodka brands there — Kaznacheyskaya, Gradus, Vodka Great Embassy, LB Vodka, and Vodka Kaliningradskaya. On its own website, SPI says Kaznacheyskaya “is a quality brand created for the Russian market, designed to evoke a sense of national status… Kaznacheyskaya is all about pride in Russia.”

Also not mentioned in the Times story were SPI’s significant Russian real estate holdings that consist of residential buildings, office buildings, restaurants, and breweries.

While arguing that it is a supporter of the LGBT community, SPI has done nothing to combat the recently enacted Russian law that effectively bans all pro-LGBT statements and demonstrations there, or the recently proposed legislation that would remove children from Russian households headed by gay and lesbian parents. The company’s non-discrimination policies in Russia do not include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes.

Hundreds of bars and restaurants around the world are known to have stopped selling Russian vodka, including Stolichnaya, in response to a July 22 boycott call from Queer Nation, Dan Savage, Cleve Jones, and other leading activists.

“Stolichnaya is an iconic Russian brand made by a Russian company,” Queer Nation and #DumpRussianVodka said. “The Russian vodka boycott has successfully focused the world’s attention on the Russian government’s attacks on LGBT Russians. That boycott will continue until that vile law is repealed.”

#DumpRussianVodka is a global boycott and protest campaign to draw attention to and help stop Russian persecution of LGBT people. The aims of the campaign are to draw attention to the LGBT crisis in Russia, focus economic and political efforts on working to create change inside Russia for LGBT people, and the repeal of Russia’s anti-gay law. www.dumprussianvodka.com Twitter: @DumpStoli

Queer Nation is a direct action group dedicated to ending discrimination, violence and repression against the LGBT community. Website: www.queernationny.org. Twitter: @QueerNationNY. Facebook.com/qn.newyork.


Response to New York Times Op Ed by Author and Queer Nation member John Weir

The Vodka boycott is already helping Russian LGBTs.

Novelist, essayist and Queer Nation NY member John Weir responds to an August 21 Op Ed in the New York Times:

“It would be a pleasure to enroll in Professor Schrad’s course in Russian politics at Villanova University, or to audit his lectures on introductory comparative politics, but no one who wanted results would ask him to spearhead a boycott. Professor Schrad’s opinion piece is strong on history but clueless about effective political action in the face of an ongoing crisis like the one currently devastating the LGBT community in Russia. Like other critics of the Russian vodka boycott called for by Dan Savage and LGBT activists in the US and countries around the world, including Russia, Professor Schrad assumes that the boycott is the whole game, and that vodka boycotters have no goal but to ruin a vodka company, in a kind of tantrum of gay consumer annoyance.

Our goal has never been to destroy the global market of Stolichnaya or to dissolve the extensive Russian investments of its parent company SPI, as if that were possible. Rather, we have meant it as a first tactic to spread news of a human rights disaster, and we know that boycotts have proven historically to be highly effective in accomplishing this aim. Indeed, in the past three weeks, the Russian vodka boycott has focused more attention on the plight of Russia’s LGBT people than any other intervention in the past two years — and the war on Russian LGBT people has been ongoing for more than two years, starting first in the legislative bodies of provincial towns and growing into a national movement.

Professor Schrad’s Op Ed piece is itself evidence that the boycott is working, because a piece about the abuse of LGBT people in Russia would not have been drafted, much less published, if the vodka boycott had not made the tragic situation a significant news item. To say, as Professor Schrad does, that Stolichnaya is not a Russian product is not just to repeat a false claim, but to exhibit naive faith in the PR department of a multi-national corporation whose press releases must be understood as advertisements, not truth. To complain that the US has long interfered in Russian affairs is to demonstrate a keen grasp of the obvious. So what? SPI’s website proclaims the Russian-ness of Stolichnaya; the US government has meddled in the affairs of every country on the planet, often for controversial reasons and with mixed results.

We are not the US government. We are a community of LGBT people who are determined to intervene against human rights abuses of our LGBT brothers and sisters around the world. To get out the news is the necessary first step.”

John Weir is the author of The Irreversible Decline of Eddie Socket and What I Did Wrong. Follow him on Twitter at @jweirdo

Queer Nation Town Hall Meeting, Wednesday, August 14th in New York

Anger has boiled over about the abuse, repression and scapegoating of LGBT people in Russia. New laws raise fears about the safety of LGBT Olympic athletes and spectators at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Already there is an active international boycott of Russian vodka.

Please come to this important Town Hall Meeting to learn more and to make plans for action.

When: 8/14/2013, 7:00 PM
Where: The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, 208 W 13th St., New York, NY 10011