Under the right circumstances, even the simplest things can become symbolic. An opening of a McDonald’s restaurant, for example, sounds kind of mundane, I mean there’s already a gazillion of them around the world. But the first McDonald’s in Soviet Russia? That’s something else.
The Moscow McDonald’s initiative was a joint venture between McDonald’s of Canada and the Moscow city council. A plan first envisioned when George Cohon, founder, and CEO of McDonald’s Canada, met Soviet Union officials at the ’76 Summer Olympics in Montreal. And almost a quarter of a century later, on January 31st, 1990 it became a reality.
At the time of its construction, it was the largest McDonald’s restaurant in the world. A venue with 900 seats with a staff of about 600 workers that were carefully selected from 35,000 applicants.
Reportedly, it was expected to serve around 1,000 during the McDonald’s opening day. And in the country where the average salary was about 150 rubles per month, a Big “Mak” was selling for 3.75 rubles. That, however, didn’t stop the people from getting their first taste of it. A crowd of more than 5,000 Soviet citizens lined up in Pushkinskaya Square before it even opened and about 30,000 customers passed through the door throughout the whole day.
The summer came, but the lines just kept growing. People from other cities were flocking the McDonald’s restaurant just for a single hamburger. “We stood under the melting sun for around eight hours,” photographer Mitya Kushelevich recalled. “That wasn’t so much of a problem as we were used to standing in lines for days just to get our monthly ration of sugar and tea.”
“Once inside we were blown away by the number of young cashiers behind the huge counter, smiling, moving like bees, serving one meal after another. Nothing like our fat old ladies in white gowns sitting in front of empty shelves, pyramids of dusty canned food as window dressing.”
“I still remember how insanely huge the milkshake looked and I didn’t know how to hold a Big Mac with my tiny hands.”
“Everything tasted more intense than anything I’d ever tried before. I ate and drank and chewed like it was my last meal on earth. Around ten minutes and 5,000 calories later, my body alerted me to the fact that it wasn’t quite able to digest all the fatty deliciousness and that it was probably a good time to check out how an American toilet looked like from the inside. I wasn’t alone: the queues to the toilets, especially the women’s, was almost as long as the queues outside.”
Continue scrolling and check out the historical pictures that captured the whole madness.