When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, it had no concept of what a free market was (with the exception of the illegal black markets). However, when the Iron Curtain came crashing down, American companies were quick to enter the new market that contained millions of new potential customers.
Gorbachev, who is often credited with the dissolution of the Soviet Union (for better and worse), embraced the idea of a free market. He even appeared in an international TV spot, pitching pizza for Pizza Hut, a commercial that I remember seeing as a kid in the late ’90’s (although he only decided to make the appearance so he could fund his foundation).
The commercial shows that the former Soviet Union, Russia especially, has gone through a huge change since its rebirth. Buying food within a Soviet Union grocery store (I use that term loosely) was likely to get you sick from food poisoning. If someone who defected to the U.S. from the Soviet Union and they were taken to an American grocery store, they would often accuse the Americans of staging the store for propaganda purposes.
However, some in the former Soviet Union and even the Warsaw Pact had a different understanding of what exactly capitalism is. In the following video, it is explained Mr. “Ivanov” sees no difference in selling condominiums and bombs because it is all capitalism.
It is clear that the old Soviet economy is out and a new, more liberal economy is in. Some may lament over the nostalgia of a bi-polar world that was split between the U.S. and U.S.S.R., but it is easier to argue that their are more winners when Russia and the rest of the former Soviet states are intertwined with the rest of the world’s economy.
The Pizza Hut commercial is awesome, I don’t remember seeing that as a kid though, and if I did it made no sense at the time. I liked how the two people were arguing valid points per side of the debate as Gorbachev was seen as both a revolutionary and detriment to the USSR.
Really informative post! I like all the sources you used. Like you point out, the difference between our grocery stores and the Soviet “grocery stores” is staggering. I could not imagine buying food in a store like that, and it’s sad that many people had to. Great sources and great post!
Awesome post on the new soviet economy. Although a lot of the posts this week were about Gorbachev’s no-alcohol campaigns, it is nice to see a post about something positive he brought to the country. For better or for worse, Gorbachev was a reformer that tried to do what was best for the USSR.
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I want to apologize for this last blog post. I’m not particularly happy with it, but the website was fighting me every step of the way, that I got fed up and posted this “half-post” just to get something out. Time permitting, I will definitely try to fix the errors and short comings of this post.
That clip of the grocery store is priceless! I’d forgotten just how grim it was, but at the same time, I got a bit nostalgic for those blue and white milk cartons. We might have to watch this one in class…..
Also, can you clarify the year that the “dirty bomb” video was made? 2007?
Loved the pizza hut commercial. And it was a smart business move for the United States to swoop into an untouched market that was the previous Soviet Union. With an already high demand the then sudden increase in supply meant tons of production and profit to be made.
This makes me think of the story about Khrushchev visiting an American supermarket and thinking it was an act set up to fool him. In a command economy, there is little choice available for the consumer. It’s no surprise that communism essentially died after 1989. As soon as economic liberalism seeped its way into eastern Europe, people were sold.
Interesting post. This reminds of the scene in the movie Lord of War when the Soviet Union collapses and the gun-dealer main character goes to a bunch of former Soviet Republics and buys all their Soviet military equipment for Western dollars now that the USSR meant nothing.
It is amazing on how much the country has changed since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Russia went from absolutely no Western influence to accepting it freely in less than a decade. The societal changes that took place must have been drastic and swift.
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