Saturday, March 01, 2014


The 31st of January dawned cold but clear in Moscow in 1990. It had been two years since the Communist Party had given their permission to open the first McDonalds in the former Soviet Union. Located in Moscow's Pushkin Square, the largest McDonalds restaurant had 28 cash registers and seating capacity for around 700 people.

That capacity was quickly exceeded, as people stood in line for up to six hours for their first taste of Western fast food. The Moscow restaurant broke a record for first-day sales for any McDonalds in the world - they served 30,000 people that day alone.

They remain popular in Russia almost 25 years later: McDonalds controls 70% of the Russian fast-food market, and the flagship store in Pushkin Square still serves 20,000 people per day. Ironically, it wasn't the American headquarters of the McDonalds Corporation which had pushed the new branch of the franchise. It was the head of McDonalds Canada, George Cohen, who had opened the twelve-year-long negotiations with the Soviet Union.

But within 8 months of the first McDonalds restaurant opening, the Berlin Wall fell. And within two years, the Soviet Union was dissolved.

So the next time someone tries to tell you that Ronald Reagan toppled the USSR, you can tell them that, no, it was Ronald McDonald that killed the bear.

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