The province-owned alcohol retailer is no longer selling Romanian vodka brands due to complaints from the Ukrainian community that the name evokes memories of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) sold Stalinskaya Silver Vodka online and in its stores.
The vodka company’s website says the name was inspired by the Russian word “stal” – which means steel. Stalinskaya, he says, means strength.
But Julia Mikhailova, associate professor of Slavic linguistics at the University of Toronto, told CBC News that while the word “Stalin” can mean “made of steel,” the word “stalinskya” is a direct reference to Stalin himself. even.
âWe are dealing here with derivational morphology,â said Mikhailova, which refers to the process of forming a new word from an existing word.
“Theoretically, I would say that Stalinskaya is derived from the word ‘steel’ (stal) only because Stalin is derived from ‘steel.’ However, in fact, Stalinskaya comes from the word Stalin.”
Alison Smith, a professor at the University of Toronto specializing in the history of Russian food and drink, told CBC News that the term “explicitly refers to Stalin, even though Joseph Stalin absolutely took Stalin’s name ( his birth name is Dzhugashvili) because it was related to the word for steel and it had the connotation of strength. “
“Shock and disappointment”
CBC Toronto contacted Stalinskaya but did not receive a response.
For Ukrainians, the memories torn from the use of the name are anything but positive.
âOur first reaction was a reaction of shock and disappointment,â said Nick Krawetz, one of the many Ukrainian community members in the province who have contacted the LCBO to demand that the brand be removed from its shelves.
“It’s definitely offensive just given the history.”
Joseph Stalin ruled from 1927 until his death in 1953, sending around a million citizens to labor camps and executing around 700,000 people. His campaign to collectivize agriculture led to a famine in the early 1930s that killed millions of people in Ukraine and other parts of the Soviet Union.
Krawetz was browsing the LCBO website when he came across the vodka brand.
âIt definitely caught my attention. [It] It seems so strange that such a product is even on this website. And so it took me by surprise, “he said.
“I felt inclined to reach out and voice my concerns because I don’t think this product has a place in Ontario or any province or territory in our country.”
Ukrainian community expresses concerns
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) sent a letter to the LCBO urging that the vodka brand be removed.
“I think anything that refers to Stalin needs to be placed in the context of the fact that he is now recognized as a murderous dictator who used his communist regime to kill millions of people in Ukraine and other parts of the Soviet Union, “said Ihor Michalchyshyn, CEO and director of UCC.
The LCBO responded to the concerns, saying it had stopped selling Stalinskaya online and in its stores.
âFollowing feedback from a number of our customers, the LCBO took a closer look at Stalinskaya Silver Vodka and found that it did not meet LCBO name and labeling standards and was no longer available for sale through the LCBO, âthe release said.
Use of Soviet symbols “highly inappropriate”, says UCC
The UCC says it wants all companies to be careful when using symbols or names associated with the Soviet Union.
âUnfortunately, we have seen that people, various companies or individuals are trying to use the Soviet Union, the USSR, as a hip or cool or ironic branding,â Michalchyshyn said.
âFor us and for many other communities that suffered because of the Soviet Union, we don’t see it that way. We see it. [as] very inappropriate. “
The UCC wants to review the LCBO’s community and product standards to ensure that nothing like this happens again.
âOur job is to educate people about Stalin, the impact of his terror on the Soviet Union, on the Ukrainian people and, quite frankly, on the descendants in Canada,â Michalchyshyn said.