When it first opened its doors in January 1990, 30,000 Russians who had lived under the iron fist of Soviet rule queued patiently to get their first taste of McDonald’s Big Mac.
The fast-food giant’s first outlet in Russia opened in Moscow’s Pushkin Square, and caused such excitement that some people joined the queue without knowing what it was for.
By the end of the day the store had set a new opening-day record for the company and more than 27,000 people applied for waiter jobs. Only 600 were hired.
The famous Golden Arches, which were iconic in almost every corner of the globe, had finally reached beyond the Iron Curtain and soon became a symbol of Soviet acceptance of American capitalism.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall months before and the vast Soviet Union beginning to crumble away, the McDonald’s store had became an unlikely cultural touchstone that would represent a thawing relations with the end of the Cold War.
McDonald’s announced yesterday that it is temporarily closing all of its outlets in Russia – including its famous original outlet following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Their move followed similar withdrawals made by Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Starbucks, plunging Russia further into international isolation – after three decades of engagement with the West.
The BBC’s Steve Rosenberg, who was in the queue at the Moscow McDonald’s when it opened said its closure was ‘hugely symbolic’.