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Gorbachev's pitch for pizza released

December 23, 1997
Web posted at: 10:07 a.m. EST (1507 GMT)
Scenes from the commercial

MOSCOW (CNN) -- The man credited by many with putting Russia on the road to democracy and capitalism has turned pizzeria pitchman, appearing in a television ad for the Pizza Hut chain released to the media on Tuesday.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev appears in the spot with his 10-year-old granddaughter, Anastasia. 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, who became the leader of the Soviet Union in 1985, is known for instituting policies that opened up a deteriorating Soviet society and restructured its economy, eventually leading to the dissolution of the USSR.

Representatives for Gorbachev said he agreed to do the commercial, news of which first surfaced nearly a month ago, only so that he could earn money for a research foundation that bears his name.

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

Gorbachev also said he would not have agreed to promote just anything. In fact, he has turned down many advertising proposals in the past, according to a written statement from the Moscow-based Gorbachev Foundation.

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But pizza is a special kind of food, Gorbachev says, because it does what he always wanted to do: It 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."

Gorbachev said he doesn't plan to appear in any more ads like this.

Entire US version
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Nonetheless, the former leader's reputation may have slipped down a slice or two in the eyes of some Russians. "I personally think that once he's started to advertise Pizza Hut, the next step will be to advertise Tampax," one Russian said.

-- Gorby's "The Edge" ad --
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The commercial is scheduled for its first U.S. broadcast on January 1 during the Rose Bowl college football game.

Sergei Tatosyan, the manager of the Moscow eatery where the ad was filmed, said it will not be shown in Russia, where Gorbachev is still widely disliked and blamed for the 1991 Soviet downfall.


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