January 31, 1990: American fast-food restaurant McDonalds opens its first Soviet store in Moscow, marking a symbolic post-Cold War entry of a staple of capitalism into a society emerging from communism. Muscovites queued for hours near Pushkin Square for their first taste of a Big Mac in what was at the time the biggest of the chain’s restaurants in the world. Other records were smashed on the first day: with more than 30,000 customers walking through the doors,, it set a worldwide opening day sales record for the company. For many hungry and curious clients, a meal there cost the equivalent of half a day’s wages. The McDonalds corporate culture – including the have-a-nice-day customer service – was as an alien to many Soviets as the taste; one young man told TV reporters of his surprise when, after he spilt his milkshake, he was given a top-up instead of being evicted from the premises. Like it or loathe it, McDonalds franchise restaurants are today present in 119 countries, although remain absent across most of Africa and large parts of central Asia.
Also on January 31: Guy Fawkes is executed for plotting to blow up the English parliament (1606); Leon Trotsky is exiled by the Soviet Union (1929); US president Harry Truman announces a plan to develop hydrogen bombs (1950).
Born on January 31: Norman Mailer (1923), Jean Simmons (1929), John Lydon (1956), Justin Timberlake (1981).