Photos of Russians Enjoying McDonald’s for the First Time in 1990

The Soviet Union’s first McDonald’s fast food restaurant opened in Moscow on January 31, 1990.

Many people waited in long lines in order to pay the equivalent of several day’s wages for the world famous hamburgers and fries. The icon of capitalism was readily received by the Russians who were ready for social change.

An American journalist reported the customers were the most amazed by the “simple sight of polite shop workers…in this nation of commercial boorishness.”

The arrival of McDonald’s in Moscow was a small but certain sign that change was on the horizon. In fact, less than two years later, the Soviet Union ceased to exist as a nation, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as leader of the country, and various Soviet republics proclaimed their independence. As the American newsman reported, the first Russian McDonald’s customers “had seen the future, and it works, at least as far as their digestive tract.”

On January 30, 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, McDonald’s 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.
Construction on the interior of McDonald’s.
Future site of the first McDonald’s in Moscow.
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 McDonald’s.
Then they started constructing the restaurant itself. Canadian managers of McDonald’s were key figures in making this happen, so they were coming to Moscow in person to see how the construction was going.
And now the brand new place was ready to open the doors to the public.
Moscow’s top authorities had a stake in the venture so they came to greet the workers.
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.
And a line a few miles long of people wanting to try something new.
Borris Yeltsin arrived at the launch on the first day.
Children waiting in line and looking at the menu, excited to have their first taste of freedom.
Cutting the ribbon at the grand opening.
Mounting the Golden Arches.
People line up around the park, all the way to the horizon.
All the news crews came out to document the event.
Capitalism had finally entered the Soviet Union and the demand was high.
Employees handing out McDonald’s flags to the excited crowds.
Entering the McDonald’s. vintages