Savage Mistake: Russian-Vodka Boycott Misguided

On July 24, The Stranger’s Dan Savage penned a lengthy column titled “Why I’m Boycotting Russian Vodka.” In it, Savage lacerated the Russian government – President Vladimir Putin in particular – for its “escalating anti-gay pogrom.”

The piece went on to condemn Putin and the Russian parliament for making it illegal to teach children about homosexuality and for outlawing “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” among minors.

Savage proceeded to encourage bars to stop selling Russian vodka, of which he specifically singled out Stolichnaya.

“Seattle bars, gay and straight, must dump Stoli,” wrote Savage. “Seattle’s drinkers, gay and straight, must dump Stoli.” As a way of showing our solidarity with “Russian queers and their allies and to help draw international attention to the prosecution of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, trans people, and straight allies in Putin’s increasingly fascistic” argued Savage, "we must DUMP RUSSIAN VODKA.”

The trouble is, the vodka Savage cited, Stoli, is not distilled in Russia, but in Latvia. And as Time magazine reports today, “the brand’s owner has been feuding with the Russian government for over a decade.”

As Time points out, “In his column, Savage notes that the SPI Group — a Luxembourg-based export company owned by wealthy Russian businessman Yuri Shefler — controls the rights to Stoli and will handle distribution beginning on Jan. 1, 2014. But what Savage does not explain, however, is that Shefler and SPI are no friends of the Russian government.Savage has not responded to requests for comment.”

Said SPI North American president John Esposita, “Hurting Stoli in the U.S. is actually probably going to make the Russian government happy, given that they’ve been fighting us for the last 13 years. They’re probably going to be sitting there chuckling.”

Savage could not be reached for comment. “He’s on holiday,” said a receptionist at The Stranger.

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