Due to objections from the Ukrainian community that the name recalls memories of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, Ontario's provincially owned liquor retailer is no longer carrying a Russian vodka brand. Stalinskaya Silver Vodka was being sold by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) both online and in its stores.
According to the vodka company's website, the name was inspired by the Russian word "stal," which means "steel." It is said that Stalinskaya means "strength." However, for Ukrainians, the use of the name evokes negative recollections.
"Our initial reaction was shock and disappointment," said Nick Krawetz, one of several in the province's Ukrainian community who called the LCBO to demand that the brand be removed from the stores. From 1927 until his death in 1954, Joseph Stalin reigned, incarcerating approximately a million civilians and killing approximately 700,000 people. In the early 1930s, his attempt to collectivize agriculture resulted in a famine that killed millions of people in Ukraine and other parts of the Soviet Union.
Krawetz was surfing the LCBO website when he came across the vodka brand. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) wrote to the LCBO requesting that the vodka brand be withdrawn.
"I think anything that mentions Stalin needs to be put in the perspective of him now being very much acknowledged as a terrible tyrant who used his communist dictatorship to kill millions of people in Ukraine and other parts of the Soviet Union," said Ihor Michalchyshyn, CEO and director of the UCC.
The LCBO replied to the concerns by stating that it no longer sells Stalinskaya online or in its stores.