The first McDonald’s opened in Moscow on January 31st, 1990.
It wasn’t easy to get such a notably western business into the Soviet Union, but after a great battle the owners of the franchise managed to convince the Soviet Overlords. Many thought that this would be a disastrous investment, there was little sympathy with the West in Russia so McDonald’s was doomed to failure. However, once the doors opened the people began pouring in and haven’t stopped to this day.
While today there are McDonald’s on every corner of ever city throughout the old Soviet empire, much has changed since its opening. When it first arrived, McDonald’s was viewed as a true western restaurant, a place where families would dress up for, a place for special occasions. This feeling has since died, but as you can see by the pictures people felt very strongly about this at first.
The first set of photos are of the first McDonald’s as they opened. The lines were incredibly long, all for a taste of a western hamburger.
With the first restaurants success, a second was built three years later on Stari Arbat (the Old Arbat). To get the word out, people dressed in the McDonald’s uniform carrying signs of the new restaurant would wander the streets of Moscow making sure everyone knew. By this time, the Soviet Union had collapsed and Russia was a country of its own. Other western restaurants soon followed, but McDonald’s remained the prime restaurant. In the next set of photos, you can see a McDonald’s advertising team carrying a sign about their second store, followed by photos of patrons. Note, people go to McDonald’s in their furs, they dress as if to the theater because to many the expense is quite comparable.