BY DEE-ANN DURBIN
Two months after the Berlin Wall fell, another powerful symbol opened its doors in the middle of Moscow: a gleaming new McDonald’s.
It was the first American fast-food restaurant to enter the Soviet Union, reflecting the new political openness of the era. For Vlad Vexler, who as a 9-year-old waited in a two-hour line to enter the restaurant near Moscow’s Pushkin Square on its opening day in January 1990, it was a gateway to the utopia he imagined the West to be.
“We thought that life there was magical and there were no problems,” Vexler said.
So it was all the more poignant for Vexler when McDonald’s announced it would temporarily close that store and nearly 850 others in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. McDonald’s Russian website on Monday read: “Due to operational, technical and logistical difficulties, McDonald’s will temporarily suspend service at its network enterprises from March 14.”
“That McDonald’s is a sign of optimism that in the end didn’t materialize,” said Vexler, a political philosopher and author who now lives in London. “Now that Russia is entering the period of contraction, isolation and impoverishment, you look back at these openings and think about what might have been.”