Yuri Bilinsky, New Pathway – Ukrainian News.
It took the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario), an Ontario government enterprise and one of the world’s largest buyers and retailers of beverage alcohol, just one business day to pull a Romanian-made Stalinskaya Silver Vodka off its shelves after the backlash from the Ukrainian Canadian community.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress as well as other community organizations and individuals wrote letters and complaints about the vodka to the LCBO on Saturday, June 19. In his letter, UCC’s CEO and Executive Director Ihor Michalchyshyn said that UCC is appalled that the LCBO decided to sell a vodka named after Joseph Stalin, a murderous Communist dictator, on whose orders the Holodomor Famine-Genocide in Ukraine was carried out. The letter continued, “During his deadly reign, Stalin ordered the execution of millions of innocent people, condemned to the Gulag millions more, invaded and dismembered sovereign states, and presided over a three-decade reign of terror against the captive nations of Europe and Central Asia. Stalin is rightly remembered as one of history’s most hideous tyrants. […] The fact that the LCBO would carry a product named after this murderer is a disgrace.”
On Tuesday, June 22, UCC received a letter from Abhay Garg, LCBO’s Vice President, Merchandising, stating that, effective immediately, Stalinskaya Silver Vodka will not be available for sale through the LCBO. The letter also said, “At the LCBO, we are taking a leading stance with respect to the ethical, social and environmental practices of the beverage alcohol industry, and are committed to driving and supporting meaningful change in our business, for our partners, and ultimately for our consumers and the communities.”
Garg said that with the new information brought to their attention, the LCBO undertook an additional review of the Stalinskaya and found that the name and label do not meet the LCBO’s standards.
Controversies around merchandise bearing Soviet and communist symbols arise from time to time in Canada and internationally. In 2018, the U.S.-made Hammer+Sickle vodka was pulled off the shelves in Alberta. There have also been interventions by Ukrainian Canadian Congress related to the Bolshevik Bastard beer in Ontario, as well as merchandise carrying Soviet symbols sold on Amazon and Walmart websites.
At the moment, there is still a lot of Soviet-branded merchandise sold on Amazon. In his commentary for New Pathway – Ukrainian News, UCC’s CEO and Executive Director Ihor Michalchyshyn said that it remains troubling that Amazon has not addressed this issue, and UCC will continue to press them and other companies on it.