Gigantic queue for first Moscow McDonald's, 1990

The opening in McDonald's in Moscow in 1990 was (at the time, anyway), a symbol of significant reforms to the Soviet system. Though in true Soviet style, a breadline stretching for blocks immediately formed in front of it.

Queue to first McDonalds in Moscow in 1990 (via How to Be a Retronaut)


    1. “It used to be a matter of no small pride to me that Moscow got its first
      McDonald’s some years before Northern Ireland did. ”
      Is that because McDonalds was seen as something just for the ‘health nuts’ in Ireland?

  1. Normally (here in Indiana, USA anyway) they will have a promotion for the first 100 people to a new store. When one opened by my house they gave a card for free breakfast 2x a week for a year.  Didn’t get one, slept in that day :( odarn

  2. I am the man who arranges the blocks, but tomorrow I think I’ll stay in bed.  The winter is cold, I have plenty of gold, and I’m standing in line for a loaf of bread.

  3. My fifteen year old self stood in this line in 1990. I was on a student exchange trip there for three weeks. We wanted something other than borscht. It could be just the fog of memory, but I recall that everyone was surprised by the quality of the food.

      1. It was really good. But then, we’d been eating a lot of questionable Russian food over the past few weeks. You never knew what you were going to dredge up from the bottom of your bowl of borscht.

  4. I was there only a couple of weeks after the store opened. Police guarded the doors and let us in one by one. It may seem crazy to Americans, but this first Russian store was a symbol of freedom – at the time. I am a Norwegian, living in Oslo, and when the fist Scandinavian McDonalds opened in Gothenburg in Sweden, we drove 350 km to get a burger! How crazy is that! At the time, it was simply – wicked and wonderful.
    Americans has to realize that so much happened in Europe and USSR or now Russia, at that time – 1980/90. The arch US symbol (freedom, capitalism, free speech, liberty and love and happiness and everything else…) represented by McDonalds was something entirely new, exciting and – ideological. 
    Of course…. things has changed. We all grow fatter and there is a McDonalds on every street corner and the excitement has gone, completely gone… it is crap and it is soooo yesterday.
    But at the time it represented something good and it gave a good feeling. Funny enough.
    And the feeling of having a Big Mac in Moscow at the time was priceless. Uncle Joseph was kicked  over…

  5. “And the feeling of having a Big Mac in Moscow at the time was priceless”

    buying a BigMac wasn’t: It cost the equivalent of $15…

  6. Reminded of the “Burgers ‘n’ Borscht” (name?) restaurant at the end of “Watchmen,” the restaurant that takes the place of the Gunga Diner.

  7. I remember footage of that on the news.  How odd.  I also remember a McDonalds ad involving chopsticks celebrating something, but I can’t remember what now.

  8. If the U.S. really wanted to end the Castro regime we should have just ended that silly embargo and sent in the meat clown. (Philosophers may debate which approach would ultimately prove more humane.)

  9. If there was a fast food joint here in the US that sold holubtsi and pierogi and blini, I’d eat there all the time.

  10. I ate there that year; it was a sight to behold!  It tasted nearly the same as a US McDonald’s. The Russian (Soviet) clientele treated it more like a special occasion meal. I remember marveling at the size of the place, it was huge, something like 30 registers wide.

    1. Presumably you are referring to the discredited “No two countries with McDonalds ever fought a war” legend. You don’t have to go as recent as the Russian/Georgian spat of a couple of years ago to discredit that. The US invasion of Panama to oust Noriega already invalidated it in 1989.

      1. Yeah — Of course I’m sure Panama was an “International Policing Action by a Willing Coalition of One against Illegally Combative Defenders” or some such thing, but Russian McDonald’s just jogged my memory.

  11. I went to that same McDonald’s two years later and my biggest surprise was that they sold the little ketchup packets.. and people used to cut the top of them and dip each fry on them.

    Definitely a shock when you are exposed to this little details for a young western.

    I remember a street vendor bartering a “White Sox” hat that my older brother was wearing for a lot of USSR Military memorabilia!

  12. $15 Big Mac?!?! Selling ketchup packets!?!?!

    This can only mean one thing:
    In Soviet Union, Hamburglar robs YOU!

    (Can not buh-lieve you missed that Glorious Joke of the People, comrades.)

  13. this place was lined up for ages and ages – there were stories of people from towns and cities hundreds of miles away who would come and buy a hundred cheeseburgers and take them back home in the trunk and sell them on the corner, cold and days later, for profit.
    concerning the ‘sense-of-freedom-becomes-just-more-junk-food’, I’m reminded of a great Russian joke:
    what is difference between optimist and pessimist?
    Optimist does not have all informations yet.

  14. Same thing happened in Mexico City sometime around the mid-eighties.
    In a few years’ time, McDonald’s franchising had picked up speed and was all over the country.  Inevitably, the national burger chain (called Burger Boy) went out of business.

  15. Confidential to people outside the U.S.: There are tons and tons of places in the U.S. that make much better hamburgers than McDonalds.

  16. My wife and I ate there right after we got married in 2000 (we were in Moscow getting her visa).  I don’t know how it is now, but even in the Summer of 2000 it was still considered a big deal to eat at McDonalds.  People dressed up for it.

  17. I was in Moscow in 1994 and was surprised (appalled, actually) that my host wanted to drag me to a big McDonalds one evening.  Apparently to young, hip, western-thinking muscovites the place was a night club in all but name, since it was open long after other places closed (I don’t remember if you could get vodka with that quarter-pounder, but since you could at just about every other location where cash traded hands, I wouldn’t be surprised).
    The other surprise was that there seemed to be an active after-market in Big Macs.  Entrepreneurs would buy them and resell them from their news kiosks blocks away, or even to motorists waiting at traffic lights.

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