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Symbols of America

mcd

For the past few weeks, Ilya Varlamov has published posts incorporating photos from Moscow in the late 1980's - early 90's. I love these! Amazing to see how the country looked right before the collapse of the USSR. In today's post, I saw this photo from 1990. A massive queue to enter the first McDonald's in Moscow! I can't imagine such a scene, or how this fast food chain symbolized so much to people at that time. In 1990, I was 17. A senior in high school, getting ready to graduate and enter university, and closely following events overseas.

What other places, items and things did Soviet citizens associate with America before the collapse? My aunt visited Russia in the early 1980's, and she told me stories about locals asking her for bubble gum and wanting to buy her Levi's, straight off her body. This is no joke.

This is what makes Russia so fascinating to me - very rich and diverse history, constantly shifting and changing. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Not sure how most Russians feel about the current direction in which Russia is moving...I hope you feel for the better, because it's depressing and sad to live in a place where you feel absolutely no hope or prospect for the future. I have never once felt this way about my life in America...

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sineglazzka2301
Dec. 2nd, 2014 05:30 pm (UTC)
Jeans, bubble-gum, Coca-cola, whiskey:)
As for the direction, I have an impression that Russia is not moving, it's just drifting who knows where:(
peacetraveler22
Dec. 2nd, 2014 05:34 pm (UTC)
Whisky! I didn't know this. :)) Interesting. I can't believe people would wait in such a long line for a horrible tasting hamburger. But we all know it wasn't really about the food. Anyway, if I could enter a time machine, I would definitely wish to travel to Moscow around 1989. Honestly, based on what I've seen during my trips, life in the provinces hasn't really changed that much since Soviet times.
(no subject) - onkel_hans - Dec. 2nd, 2014 05:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Mussolini ha sempre ragione! - onkel_hans - Dec. 2nd, 2014 06:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Mussolini ha sempre ragione! - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 2nd, 2014 07:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Mussolini ha sempre ragione! - onkel_hans - Dec. 2nd, 2014 07:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
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vasylkivska
Dec. 2nd, 2014 05:32 pm (UTC)
In the last two sentences you have summarized the whole ideology of Ukraine's revolution and the pora-valit movement in Russia...

I remember McDonald's in Moscow. Imagine marcians landing on Earth and opening a shop where you can buy edible marcian food - one single store on the whole planet. That's what MacDonalds was at the time.
onkel_hans
Dec. 2nd, 2014 06:01 pm (UTC)
Yes, you are right.

In your second sentence, I would replace the word Martians with the word Humans.
It was Humans landing in the USSR, and the human food.
(no subject) - vasylkivska - Dec. 2nd, 2014 06:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
It is exactly the case - onkel_hans - Dec. 2nd, 2014 07:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Gogol, Humans and HOME - onkel_hans - Dec. 2nd, 2014 08:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Gogol, Humans and HOME - vasylkivska - Dec. 2nd, 2014 08:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - vasylkivska - Dec. 2nd, 2014 08:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
onkel_hans
Dec. 2nd, 2014 05:57 pm (UTC)
The idea of McDonald's is for Americans to feel everywhere at home.

Once, in Milano, I skipped the lunch in the proper time. I was in a strange part of the city. I felt very hungry and could not find a good place to eat. Then bingo! there was a Wendy's. I confidently wen in and had the same as at hometown. (Not to say that I never visit fastfood at home).

The Russian cuisine has been destroyed by Communists. I only know about it from the classic Russian literature. The eateries that existed under Communists are undespicable. Even expensive restaurants did not serve decent meals. There purpose was to serve costly booze and get the customers stoned. This was called "chic".

So the first McDonald's presented Russians decent food they could have the first time in their lives.
The second reason was what the Communists officially called "cringing before the West"

elena_88888
Dec. 2nd, 2014 06:20 pm (UTC)
Russian cuisine has been destroyed by Communists
What do you mean under Russian cuisine? Dishes served at beau monde or at common people - teachers, doctors, and even peasants? In restaurants or at homes? There was and there is big difference between them even in France that is a well-known country by its attitude to delicious food
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 2nd, 2014 06:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - elena_88888 - Dec. 2nd, 2014 07:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 2nd, 2014 07:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
I keep reading:) - klava_17 - Dec. 12th, 2014 01:16 am (UTC) - Expand
1way_to_english
Dec. 2nd, 2014 06:06 pm (UTC)
I adore this video: music and images

peacetraveler22
Dec. 2nd, 2014 06:20 pm (UTC)
Wild scene, but a true sense of freedom! :)
elena_88888
Dec. 2nd, 2014 06:07 pm (UTC)
We are of the same age approximately.
When I was young I was overfilled with propaganda - of Soviet way of living, of attitude to people, of WWII etc...
And nevertheless I heard conversations of my parents, their friends, other people and due to them we felt some kind of different piece of pie can be in that devil's M :))) As every kind of threat it could be very seductively...

Moreover it wasn't the case when you take a piece of bread in an enemy's home - they came and they are here... And yesss! It was just a common curiosity - who are these Americans that they frightened us with them...

P.S. We haven't it in our town till today))) And today I visit it when I'm in Minsk in one case only - when I need to find a restroom :))

Edited at 2014-12-02 06:21 pm (UTC)
peacetraveler22
Dec. 2nd, 2014 06:48 pm (UTC)
It's really interesting what you said - "who are these Americans that they frightened us with them..." Because sadly it seems Putin's current agenda is to revert Russian mentality back to this state. Where ordinary Americans are seen as evil, barbaric and lacking all sense of values. I say this because I was recently so shocked to read about a current program on Russian news which claimed US parents routinely indoctrinate children with gay themes/porn. If this program was really shown to Russians, it's frightening because it is so completely false!! http://www.vox.com/2014/12/1/7313025/russia-gay-propaganda
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andrey_kaminsky
Dec. 2nd, 2014 06:16 pm (UTC)
Мне стали слишком малы мои потёртые джинсы...
Then i was indifferent to the jeans, sneakers and L&M cigarettes. Then i loved the classic American fiction, Isaac Asimov, Clifford Simak and others. I started reading Kurt Vonnegut as a science fiction writer, and only then discovered that he was really great.
peacetraveler22
Dec. 2nd, 2014 06:19 pm (UTC)
Re: Мне стали слишком малы мои потёртые джинсы...
So you've always been a nerd, with your head buried in a book? :)) I don't even know what L&M cigarettes are! But I've never been a smoker, so it's not surprising.
ambival
Dec. 2nd, 2014 06:24 pm (UTC)
Yeah! Indians selling Manhattan ...
sergechel
Dec. 2nd, 2014 06:25 pm (UTC)
jeans, bubble-gum, coca-cola, pepsi, disney cartoons, tom&jerry, video games ("Dendy"), lots of "new" movies.

"it's depressing and sad to live in a place where you feel absolutely no hope or prospect for the future" - yes, thats a sad truth.
peacetraveler22
Dec. 2nd, 2014 06:48 pm (UTC)
Tom&Jerry...yes, it's an American classic. :) My favorite cartoon as a child. I do not like Disney. I believe it's very evil.
Очень точная мысль! - andrey_kaminsky - Dec. 3rd, 2014 05:18 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Очень точная мысль! - sergechel - Dec. 3rd, 2014 06:34 am (UTC) - Expand
krasnogorr
Dec. 2nd, 2014 06:25 pm (UTC)
У каждого человека своё понимание свободы и перспектив в будущем. Для кого то достаточно макдоналдса и джинсов. А кому то нужно бесплатное образование, медицина и безопасность на улице.

Вот у меня вопрос, вы готовы пожертвовать всеми фаст фудами и джинсами ради того, что бы в стране не было бездомных? А готовы ли вы пожертвовать личным авто, что бы каждый мог бесплатно посетить дантиста?
peacetraveler22
Dec. 2nd, 2014 06:52 pm (UTC)
To me, freedom is the ability to live life as I please. To not feel burdened with the chores of everyday life. To constantly feel like there is opportunity to grow as a human being, and I feel all these things in America. Always have. Regarding free dentist, and safety, both exist in America. Do you know how many clinics there are that offer free medical services for the poor? Or how many American and Western doctors volunteer their skills to help the needy? Not only in America, but all over the world. Perhaps a lot of Russian doctors also do this, I'm not sure. I've never had to to deal with Russian medical or health services during any of my visits to Russia. Although I've certainly fallen on the ice and snow and busted my butt many times. :)
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Free education and safety stay. - xpo_xpo_xpo - Dec. 7th, 2014 10:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
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ambival
Dec. 2nd, 2014 06:31 pm (UTC)
I adored American way of life since my school bench. But after barbaric bombings of Christian Serbian towns. ... All was over. I understood.
peacetraveler22
Dec. 2nd, 2014 06:36 pm (UTC)
Such bombings have absolutely nothing to do with the way ordinary Americans live. And you think I personally authorized that bombs be dropped anywhere in the world? It's always amazing to me when Russians start saying stuff like this. You've never counted or considered the number of people killed at the hands of your nation, including many of its OWN citizens during Stalin's regime. Anyway, the post is not about politics. It's about ORDINARY people and their thoughts, which is what I always focus on in this blog.
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mercibo
Dec. 2nd, 2014 06:47 pm (UTC)
The main difference of Soviet era is that it was “economics of demand” in contrast of capitalistic “economics of offer”. So while in capitalist world to serve is privilege, in socialist world to get service was a privilege. Every capitalist merchant seeks how to attract customers. He puts up shiny signs, lavishly lights restaurant windows, trains the staff to smile. Soviet restaurants even the fanciest looked more gloomy and basic, that’s why the first McDonald’s was so attractive. Another reason: most of Soviet people had no chances to travel abroad and to see anything different from their everyday life, and ta-dam! ‘abroad’ came by itself!
peacetraveler22
Dec. 2nd, 2014 07:08 pm (UTC)
I can imagine the curiosity and amazement of something new when you have been chained to the same ideology/location for so long, without the ability to explore or consider anything different or revolutionary. Btw, it seems sometimes that the socialist mentality regarding work/service is still alive and well in present day Russia, at least based on my interactions with workers in the retail sectors during my visits (restaurants, gas/parking attendants, hotel workers, etc.). Hopefully this will change in the future.
(no subject) - mercibo - Dec. 2nd, 2014 08:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
harlampiev
Dec. 2nd, 2014 07:34 pm (UTC)
For me it was simbol of crushing of my country. In center of the capitol - simbol of the enemy- winner. Hate mcducks till now. All food there smells by carton,that packed by. But they make wonderful coffee, its true.
peacetraveler22
Dec. 2nd, 2014 07:37 pm (UTC)
American people - we are not your enemy. Never have been, and never will be. Yes, McDonald's has decent coffee. It's the only thing I will order there. :)

Edited at 2014-12-02 07:37 pm (UTC)
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alsh4ka
Dec. 2nd, 2014 08:26 pm (UTC)
Jeans, bubble-gum, coca-cola. Tom&Jerry, Backto the Future and Star Wars)))
peacetraveler22
Dec. 2nd, 2014 08:28 pm (UTC)
Back to the Future - it's one of my favorite American film series. :) I wish there was a real time machine! It would be so cool. :)
(no subject) - harlampiev - Dec. 2nd, 2014 08:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
All the Sovier children liked Freddy! - xpo_xpo_xpo - Dec. 7th, 2014 10:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Just playing cards. - xpo_xpo_xpo - Dec. 7th, 2014 11:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
harlampiev
Dec. 2nd, 2014 08:38 pm (UTC)
My aunt visited Russia in the early 1980's, and she told me stories about locals asking her for bubble gum and wanting to buy her Levi's, straight off her body. This is no joke.

It was a good business, called FARTZA. Even little gum could be selled for good money. And real Levi*s be priced like month salary.
If you have interest, I could recommend you good russian film-musicle СТИЛЯГИ оr this humour story http://www.lib.ru/WELLER/fim_bl.txt. In online traslator should be readаble.
kremlin_curant
Dec. 3rd, 2014 12:10 am (UTC)
Yes, it was amazing seeing the American staples in the Russia in those times. But all in Moscow, never in the remote places like Ivanovo where I lived.
In late 80-th Russian people stopped trusting communist's propaganda and lot of Russians got loved the American way of life.
Unfortunately Russian president Boris Yeltsin got moronic onto the end of his last term in the Office and when NATO started the war against Miloshevich clique he used it as a pretext for reviving the old-style anti-american sentiment.
Now under mr. Putin's rule this sentiment got much uglier and abnormal.
peacetraveler22
Dec. 3rd, 2014 02:48 am (UTC)
I think one of the main McDonald's in Moscow recently closed. I remember seeing some posts about this on LJ. Unfortunately, I believe you're right that a very strong anti-Western sentiment is encouraged in Russian media. This makes me sad, that relations between the countries are going backward rather than forward. Apparently a lot of Russians are completely okay with this, as Putin's approval ratings remain high.
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One problem with Soviet propaganda... - xpo_xpo_xpo - Dec. 7th, 2014 10:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
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