Forgotten advert Gorbachev made for Pizza Hut re-emerges online

When Gorbachev brought pizza as well as peace to Russia! Forgotten advert Mikhail made for Pizza Hut re-emerges online

  • A remarkable Pizza Hut advert filmed in 1998 featured the former Soviet leader
  • Many American businesses entered Russia thanks to Gorbachev’s liberal policies
  • The ad was used in schools and universities the world over to illustrate the dramatic economic shifts following the collapse of the Soviet Union
  • Gorbachev died yesterday aged 91 following a long illness in a Moscow hospital 

A remarkable Pizza Hut advert filmed in 1998 which featured Mikhail Gorbachev has resurfaced following the death of the former leader of the USSR yesterday aged 91.

Gorbachev was a incredibly liberal and amiable politician whose policies of ‘glasnost’ (openness) and ‘perestroika’ (rebuilding) helped bring about an end to the Cold War and introduce sorely needed democratic and economic reform in Russia.

But such radical changes unleashed forces beyond his control, and battles between hardliners intent on preserving centralised power and separatists set on dismantling it hastened the total collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. 

Six years later in 1997, Gorbachev filmed an advert for the American pizza maker – one of many Western companies that were able to enter Russia in the years following the breakup of the USSR, largely thanks to the former leader’s policies.

The end result was used in schools and universities the world over to illustrate the dramatic economic shifts following the collapse of the Soviet Union and showed how Gorbachev was willing to open Russia up to the world, despite his enduringly communist ideals.

The advert begins with Gorbachev sitting down at a table in a Pizza Hut just off Moscow’s Red Square

The customers take notice of the former Soviet leader and quickly descend into a political debate

Supporters and detractors of Gorbachev argue over whether the former leader brought about instability or opportunity in Russia

They are interrupted by an elderly woman who says: ‘Because of [Gorbachev] we have many things… like Pizza Hut!’

The customers find common ground and stand to raise slices of pizza like wine glasses, toasting to the leader who sits in the corner and smiles back as they sing his praises

Gorbachev addresses a group of 150 business executives in San Francisco, June 5, 1990

The ad begins with Gorbachev walking across Moscow’s famous Red Square with granddaughter Anastasia Virganskaya and entering a Pizza Hut, where other customers quickly take notice of his arrival.

‘It’s Gorbachev!’, one critic exclaims. ‘Because of him we have economic confusion!’

The remark is rebutted by another diner who says: ‘Because of him we have opportunity!’

The argument quickly escalates, with Gorbachev’s detractor accusing him of bringing about ‘political instability’ and ‘complete chaos’ while his supporter praises him for introducing ‘freedom’ and ‘hope’. 

Just as the pair appear on the verge of coming to blows, a woman cuts in to declare: ‘Thanks to him we have many things… like Pizza Hut!’

After a moment of consideration the opponents, who just moments ago were at each other’s throats, both nod in agreement and break into smiles. 

The critic stands up from his table, raises a slice of pizza aloft and toasts: ‘To Gorbachev!’

He is quickly followed by the remaining diners, all of whom begin to toast and celebrate the former leader who smiles humbly in the corner as a corny American voiceover signs off: ‘Nothing brings people together like a nice hot pizza from Pizza Hut!’ 

The amusing but deeply culturally relevant advert perfectly encapsulated how many Russians blamed Gorbachev for the collapse of the Soviet Union and a uncomfortable period of rapid socioeconomic transformation, while others hailed him for affording them the freedom to express opinions and own assets – something which most Russians had never previously experienced. 

The last publicly shared picture of late Mikhail Gorbachev was released by Russian economist Ruslan Grinberg on July 1, 2022, two months prior to his death

Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev at the historic 1986 summit in Reykjavik, Iceland

Gorbachev is pictured meeting Margaret Thatcher at the Chequers country estate

Gorbachev talking to Vladimir Putin at a reception at the Kremlin in Moscow, June 12, 2002

In the years following the collapse of the USSR, Gorbachev, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for pulling Soviet troops out of Afghanistan and refusing to command his armies to use force to quell pro-democracy uprisings across Communist states in Eastern Europe, gradually settled into a second career.

He made several attempts to found a social democratic party, opened a think-tank, the Gorbachev Foundation, and co-founded the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, critical of the Kremlin to this day.

The former Soviet leader agreed to star in the Pizza Hut ad as a way of raising money for his foundation, though it is rumoured his contract contained a clause to ensure he would not be filmed eating pizza during the commercial.

Increasingly frail in later years, Gorbachev spoke out to voice his concern at rising tensions between Russia and the United States, and warned against a return to the Cold War he had helped to end.

‘We have to continue the course we mapped. We have to ban war once and for all. Most important is to get rid of nuclear weapons,’ he said in 2018.

Senior Russian journalist Alexei Venediktov, who remained in touch with Gorbachev in the weeks leading up to his death, said at the end of July the former leader was ‘upset’ that his reforms have been destroyed by tyrannical president Vladimir Putin, whose for years presided over an authoritarian and nationalistic regime before invading neighbouring Ukraine earlier this year.

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