I honestly didn't expect this diary to be necessary, but it became so when I published another diary on homophobic brutality in South Africa. Since I used the word "Russia" in the title, a Kossack decided to use the comment section to promote the idea that Stolichnaya, which claims 1) to be pro-gay and 2) to not REALLY be Russian because,the Stoli that we drink here in the U.S. is NOT made in Russia, but rather in Latvia, should be left out of the boycott. John Aravosis and Dan Savage have written eloquently about boycotting Russian vodka, and the boycott of Russian vodka is something that is not under dispute.

The question raised here is whether manufacture in Latvia despite the fact that Stolichnaya is OWNED by Russians is enough to render Stoli non-Russian. My contention is that manufacture in Latvia doesn't change the realities of company ownership and where the profits go and that Latvia has a history of homophobia that is only only marginally better than Russia's. So follow me below the Great Orange bar coaster and let's explore this attempt at face- and brand-saving.

First, ownership. Here's Dan Savage again:

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?
For me, that's game and set. But let's delve deeper into why the Latvia claim is specious.

Russia isn't the only country that has participated in what Jake Blumgart at truthwinsout.org calls legislative homophobia. In May 2012 (that's only fourteen months ago) the European Parliament issued a non-legislative resolution that

criticised [sic] EU member states Lithuania, Latvia and Hungary, as well as neighbouring Russia, Ukraine and Moldova over an upsurge in homophobia.
Admittedly, the bills that were introduced in Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia and Hungary have been tabled, but the sentiment is still there. A report prepared by the Latvian Centre for Human Rights in February 2010 concludes by noting
There are no new legal provisions and legal interpretations in [the] Latvian legal system, which could be presented as good practice to tackle homophobia and/or discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation and/or of trans-gender people, which are innovative and could serve as models for other Member states and the European Union institutions in this context.
In other words, Latvia Shmatvia.

And one more thing. The comment I referenced above included a link to an article in Reason magazine, on the board of which David Koch sits. Do I need to go further here?

Boycott Russian Vodka! ALL brands. INCLUDING STOLICHNAYA.

Originally posted to Angry Gays on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 11:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by LGBT Rights are Human Rights.

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