Forgotten Pizza Hut advertisement revived in honor of Mikhail Gorbachev’s death

A rediscovered TV commercial for a pizza franchise featuring Mikhail Gorbachev seems to reflect to some degree his mixed legacy within his country.

Gorbachev, who died on Tuesday in Moscow at 91 after a long illness, presided over the dissolution of the Soviet Union as its last leader, an event which signaled the end of the Cold War, although the world may be facing Cold War 2.0 in the context of Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

Gorbachev left office in 1991; he filmed the ad depicting him sharing a meal with his granddaughter at Pizza Hut in December 1997, and reportedly it was only aired internationally because the ex-leader was unpopular in his country at that time. The one-minute commercial opens with Gorbachev and the youngster taking a walk near Red Square in Moscow.

Once Gorbachev sits down in a booth, a family at an adjoining table recognize him and begin bickering about his policies that historically included glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring).

“Because of him, we have economic confusion…political instability…complete chaos,” one of the actors says. Another, presumably in the role of the son, responds, “because of him, we have opportunity…freedom…hope.”

Calming down the situation, the consensus-building grandma tells her family, “Because of him, we have many things like Pizza Hut.”

This prompts the patrons in the entire restaurant to toast Gorbachev with their slices (“Hail to Gorbachev”).

“Sometimes, nothing brings people together like a nice hot pizza from Pizza Hut,” the narrator intones.


The Daily Mail contextualized the commercial: “The amusing but deeply culturally relevant advert perfectly encapsulated how many Russians blamed Gorbachev for the collapse of the Soviet Union and an 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. ”

According to the entertainment website The Wrap, Gorbachev told The New York Times that “‘If my name works for the benefit of consumers, to hell with it — I can risk it.’ He was rumored to be paid $1 million for the ad, money he put into the Gorbachev Foundation.”

The Wrap added that Pizza Hut’s parent company is leaving Russia and already sold its outlets to a local proprietor for about the equivalent of $5 million in U.S. dollars which apparently may be in response to Putin’s Ukraine aggression.

The Daily Mail also claims that Gorbachev — who apparently was no fan of NATO expansionism — was nonetheless dismayed that Putin, who has controlled Russia with an iron hand since 1999, including a stint as the country’s prime minister, has dismantled his policies which constituted his life’s work.

“Senior Russian journalist Alexei Venediktov, who was in touch with the veteran politician before he died, said at the end of July the Nobel Peace Prize winner is ‘upset’ that his reforms have been destroyed,” the news outlet noted.

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