Why Mikhail Gorbachev starred in a Pizza Hut commercial

According to BBC, Gorbachev was hesitant to appear in the commercial at first, conflicted by what further showing support for an American corporation would do to his reputation. But ultimately, he needed the money and agreed to be in the commercial on two conditions: he wouldn’t eat pizza on camera and he would have final sign-off on the script. The result is a one-minute spot that highlights how divisive he was as a leader.


In the TV spot, one pro-Gorbachev diner takes on an anti-Gorbachev diner while eating in a Pizza Hut; the duo debate the pros and cons of the former Soviet leader as they eat. But then a third person at the table chimes in, noting that without Gorbachev, they wouldn’t have Pizza Hut. Her sound argument prompts the entire restaurant to raise a slice while shouting “Hail to Gorbachev!” Gorbachev himself, meanwhile, sits at a table in the corner, serving his granddaughter a slice of pizza (though his own plate remains empty).

Image for article titled Mikhail Gorbachev, Pizza Hut Spokesman
Screenshot: YouTube

The commercial was controversial enough to Russian audiences that it never actually aired in the country but was instead shown internationally. Because of that, it acted more as a political statement than an advertisement for Pizza Hut, its message settling somewhere between “Business relations between Russia and the United States are good” and “Pizza is good.”

Ultimately, though, the artifact stands nearly 25 years later as an encapsulation of Gorbachev’s legacy and the continually differing views on what that legacy really meant for Russia. It’s also a reminder that in times of political turmoil, pizza from a hut can really bring people together.