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Don’t boycott our vodka, you’ve got the wrong country, say gay Latvians

Westerners are boycotting Stoli Vodka in protest at Russian LGBT rights abuses. But it’s actually not made in Russia at all
Stoli vodka is made in Riga (pictured behind), not Russia.
Photo montage.

Gay campaigners in Latvia are urging people not to boycott Stolichnaya Vodka over Russian LGBT rights abuses – explaining it is made in their country, not Russia.

Gay bars and events in the US and Europe have ditched ‘Russian vodka’ in the last week in protest at draconian anti-LGBT laws in the country and the threat to arrest gay athletes and supporters at the Sochi Winter Olympics next year.

But many Russian LGBT campaigners have called on people not to boycott the games or products including vodka – saying it is pointless and may be counterproductive.

Now the same message is coming from Latvia. Stolichnaya is labeled as a ‘Russian’ vodka and has been targeted by campaigners. But actually it is made in Riga, the Latvian capital – not in Russia at all.

In a statement from Mozaika, the Latvian association of LGBT people and their friends, sent to GSN Kaspars Zalitis urges people to drop the ‘Dump Stoli!’ campaign.

He says: ‘All Stolichnaya vodka for worldwide export is produced in Latvia. Stolichnaya is produced by the Latvian company Latvijas Balzams and production takes place in Riga.

‘As you know, Latvia was under Soviet occupation for over 50 years, therefore we are still very often mistakenly considered to be a part of Russia. Latvia is a proud member of the European Union and is striving to be an open, democratic country.

‘This campaign will only harm Latvia, Latvia’s economy and employees of the company Latvijas Balzams.

‘It could also backfire and have unintended negative consequences for the extremely fragile LGBT community in Latvia.’

The distiller has 600 employees and Mozaika hopes to work with them in the future – perhaps when Riga hosts EuroPride in 2015. All this could be undone by the boycott.

And the non-governmental organization, a key voice for LGBT people in Latvia, is urging people to do ‘careful research’ before launching similar campaigns in the future.

Mozaika has managed positive change in the last few years after a long, hard fight in face of strong political opposition and is hoping the international LGBT community will hear its plea.

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