When Boris Yeltsin Knew The Soviet Union Was Dead: “If The People See This There Will Be A Revolution”. A Trip To An American Grocery Store Changed Everything.
In 1989, Boris Yeltsin, 58, was elected to the new Soviet parliament and the Supreme Soviet, where he was a leader of the reform bloc.
He was the former Mayor of Moscow, and was already well known in the United States after he became the first person in history to resign in protest from the Politburo.
On September 16, Yeltsin and his parliamentary colleagues had an usual request. They had just finished touring the Johnson Space Center in Houston and there was free time in the schedule.
They wanted to see a typical American grocery store. They had heard “rumors”, and wanted to see it for themselves. They soon arrived at nearby Randall’s Supermarket.
He walked down every aisle and stopped to inspect numerous products.
He had many questions for the store manager about the wide variety of products. He asked about shortages and waiting periods.
Yeltsin was told there was nothing unusual about Randall’s, and its customers were not “the elite.”
The New York Times said he was constantly nodding his head in amazement.
“He marveled at the produce section, the fresh fish market, and the checkout counter.
“He looked especially excited about frozen pudding pops. The fact that stores like these were on nearly every street corner in America amazed him.”
Yeltsin said that if the Soviet people, who had to wait in line for most goods, saw the conditions of U.S. supermarkets, “there would be a revolution. . .
“Even the Politburo doesn’t have this choice. Not even Mr. Gorbachev.”
Yeltsin’s official biography was published in 2001, one year after he left office as the first elected President of Russia.
The biographer wrote about the Houston visit and said that on the plane ride to Yeltsin’s next destination, Miami, he was despondent. He couldn’t stop thinking about the plentiful food at the grocery store and what his countrymen had to subsist on in Russia.
In Yeltsin’s own autobiography, he also wrote about the experience at Randall’s, which shattered his view of communism. Two years later, he left the Communist Party and began making reforms to turn the economic tide in Russia.
Yeltsin wrote “When I saw those shelves crammed with hundreds, thousands of cans, cartons and goods of every possible sort, for the first time I felt quite frankly sick with despair for the Soviet people.
“That such a potentially super-rich country as ours had been brought to a state of such poverty! It was terrible to think of it.” The Houston Chronicle commented “You can blame those frozen Jell-O Pudding pops he was given at Randall’s.”