Thursday, October 18, 2012

From Perestroika to Pizza Hut

Okay, so this post is not exactly about Soviet film per se, but it does involve Russia, an ex-Soviet leader, and visual media.

I was doing some research on Mikhail Gorbachev and glasnost recently when I happened upon this:

Yes, it's Mikhail Gorbachev's all-too-famous pitch for Pizza Hut.  In the ad, the former Soviet President appears alongside his then-10-year-old granddaughter, Anastasia, while patrons fiercely debate his legacy.  According to CNN, "the commercial uses their presence in a Pizza Hut restaurant to suggest that capitalism is better than communism because it makes luxuries like Pizza Hut available."

Gorbachev's spokesman, Karen Karagezian, told the AP that Gorbachev agreed to do the commercial in order to earn money for his research foundation.

"I'm in the process of creating a library and a perestroika archive, and this project requires certain funds," Gorbachev told CNN.  "Perestroika gave impetus to Russia and to the whole world. It is very important that everything that happened be preserved in these two centers."

Gorbachev stated that he had declined offers to endorse other products, but made an exception only for Pizza Hut because pizza "brings people together."

"It's an important part of life," he said. "It's not only consumption, it's also socializing. If I didn't see that it was beneficial for people, I wouldn't have agreed to it."

Still, among many Russians, Gorbachev's legacy remains mixed, with one Muscovite stating that "once he's started to advertise Pizza Hut, the next step will be to advertise Tampax."

At the time the commercial was made, Sergei Tatosyan, the then-manager of the Moscow-based Pizza Hut where the commercial was filmed, told the AP that the ad will not be shown in Russia due to Gorbachev's unpopularity.

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