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Russians watch Gorbachev pizza ad _ but as humor, not advertising

December 24, 1997

MOSCOW (AP) _ Russian television viewers got their first glimpse of a Pizza Hut ad starring ex-Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev on Tuesday _ and needless to say, it won’t inspire them to dash out for a slice.

Gorbachev is widely derided here as the man who destroyed the Soviet Union and the ad, previewed on the evening news, merely reminded many viewers of a man they’d prefer to forget.

Anatoly Lukyanov, a former Gorbachev ally who served as chairman of the Supreme Soviet, blasted the spot.

``I would suggest that in the ad, he take a pizza, divide it into 15 slices like he divided up our country, and then show how to put it back together again,″ Lukyanov said on the independent NTV network.

Still, some Russians are less acerbic than amused by the West’s adulation of Gorbachev, and to them the ad is uproariously preposterous _ another example of outsiders’ skewed interpretations of all things Russian.

In the glossy ad, Gorbachev is shown leading his granddaughter Anastasia into a Pizza Hut restaurant on Red Square.

Inside, his presence causes a stir. Some denounce him for creating ``complete chaos″ in the country, others praise him for bringing ``hope.″

The dispute is resolved by an older woman who suggests a compromise: ``Because of him, we have many things _ like Pizza Hut.″ The patrons join in a chorus of ``Hail to Gorbachev!″

Gorbachev does not say a word. He responds by raising a slice of pizza in salute.

Fortunately perhaps, Pizza Hut has no plans to use the ad inside Russia. It is scheduled for release in the United States on Jan. 1.

The former Soviet leader was paid a reported $160,000 to promote Pizza Hut’s product. He has said he is giving the money to his education foundation.

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