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July 30, 2017

Incredible Photographs of the Opening of the First McDonald’s in Moscow, 1990

The Soviet Union’s first McDonald’s fast food restaurant opens in Moscow. Throngs of people line up to pay the equivalent of several days’ wages for Big Macs, shakes, and french fries.

The Soviet Union formally dissolved on December 26, 1991, but it was on January 31, 1990 that the Bolshevik dream died in all practicality. On that day, a McDonald's opened in Moscow.

The American fast food giant had petitioned the Communist Party to open a restaurant and finally received a “da” in 1988. The Moscow outlet was no ordinary Mickey D’s. It held 700 seats inside and another 200 outside and rang out customers on 27 cash registers, an appropriate super-sizing for a city of that magnitude and a rare ambassador of American consumerism. (It was the only fast food restaurant in Russia at the time.)

On the first day, the world saw that there was a demand. More than 5000 Russians lined up in Pushkinskaya Square before it opened. 30,000 customers passed through the doors on that day, setting a record for the number of patrons served by a McDonald's in a single day.

Francis X. Clines of The New York Times interviewed a pipe factory worker who said he forked over four days’ wages for a Big Mac, cheeseburger, apple pie, and two milkshakes. Customers were reportedly impressed by American customer service’s culture of politeness, a sharp contrast to Soviet stolidness.

“There is a lesson to be drawn from this for the country,'' teacher Tatyana Podlesnaya told Clines in 1990. “What is killing us is that the average worker does not know how to work and so does not want to. Our enthusiasm has disappeared. But here my meal turned out to be just a supplement to the sincere smiles of the workers.”

On January 30th of 1990 the first McDonalds eatery opened in Moscow. It was also the first one in the whole country – in the Soviet Union. They say they were holding talks with Soviet officials about opening this venture for over 20 years – since 1976. Also, they offered 51% ownership of the venture to the Soviet state.

At first, before opening the restaurant, McDonalds started building a factory to produce the buns and other ingredients. So in 1989 it was ready and over 50 million dollars had been invested in it.

Then they started constructing the restaurant itself. Canadian managers of McDonalds were key figures in making this happen, so they were coming to Moscow in person to see how the construction was going.

It was the largest McDonalds in the world at the time of the construction and even today remains the largest one in Europe.

One year earlier, there was just a regular Soviet cafe on the place of the future McD.

And now the brand new place was ready to open the doors to the public.

But before that, there was a hiring event. Over 35,000 people applied for a job in what would be the first ever foreign restaurant in the Soviet Union, and around 600 people were accepted.

Moscow’s top authorities had a stake in the venture so they came to greet the workers.

Mounting the sign.

So there was a grand opening

Even Yeltsin arrived at the launch on the first day.

And a queue a few miles long of people wanting to try something new.

You see the people line up around the park, all the way to the horizon.

Crazy amount of people.

The people outside were looking at the happy ones inside.

This for sure beats any Apple product launch event queue.

The cost of a hamburger was $1.50, which was roughly 1.50 roubles when an average salary was 150 roubles. You could buy ten loaves of bread for this money.

(via Mental Floss and English Russia)


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