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Twelve Famous Lines Muscovites Have Long Waited In

From the Lenin Mausoleum to McDonalds, vodka and La Gioconda

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This post first appeared on Russia Insider

Russians have and will always stand in lines! For scarce clothes, bread and circuses, even for a dream or a miracle. Komsomolskaya Pravda has remembered what made people stand in kilometer long lines, squeezed into each other, crashing doors and windows, in the heat and the cold over the last half century. First we struggled just to feed ourselves and now, satiated, we long for the spiritual and the beautiful. If it’s something material, it should be about status. 

The 1970-s

<figcaption>Waiting in 1990 for a first taste of freedom</figcaption>
Waiting in 1990 for a first taste of freedom

1. Lenin’s Tomb on Red Square (1970)

Probably every person who was born in the USSR has been to the most famous tomb in the world. I vaguely remember a childhood visit. the mysterious gloom one feels in Red Square where the leader of the working class is buried in all his glory. We were not allowed to stop to stare at him, the guards hurried us along. Now, you can see Lenin without standing in line to buy tickets. The tomb is open every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

Line for Lenin’s Tomb, 1970. Photo: Lev Portera/ Russian News Agency TASS/

According to some estimates, since the opening in 1924, the year of Lenin’s death, more than 120 million people waited more than 6 hours to visit his tomb.

2. Moscow's Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts to see the Mona Lisa (1974)

The Louvre painting was sent to the Tokyo National Museum on loan and stopped in Moscow on the way back. The USSR Minister of Culture, Ekaterina Furtseva, negotiated the right to exhibit the masterpiece for two months in Moscow's Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. It cost the Soviet authorities $100 million in insurance and was shown in a special bulletproof case.

1974. Muscovites become familiar with the world famous Mona Lisa of Leonardo da Vinci (La Gioconda), exhibited in Moscow's Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Alexander Konkov and Valentin Cheredintsev/ Russian News Agency TASS/

More than 2 million people waited from 7 to 15 hours to view the most famous portrait.

3. Ilya Glazunov at the Manezh (1978)

The gallery show room was surrounded with a tight ring of those who wanted to see the paintings of the semi-banned artist. More than 400 canvas were collected for the exhibition, mostly related to Russian historical, national and religious topics.  Now many of them can be seen without crowds at the Glazunov gallery in Volkhonka Street. 

More than half a million people waited for 5 - 7 hours.

The artist, Ilya Glazunov, signs autographs

The 1980-s, When there were lines for food, clothes and gadgets all over the country.  

4. The Eliseevsky grocery for liquor (1989)

There were some items on the counter but most were under it in Gastronom №1, as the famous grocery store was officially called during the period of total scarcity. Purchases could be ordered through the catering services for celebrities and party officials.  

Marks of the end of 1980-s: number on the hand. Photo: Valery Khristoforov / Russian News Agency TASS.

Several hundred people would wait from 1 to 6 hours.

The 1990-s

5. The opening of first McDonald’s (1990)

The first American fast-food restaurant opened in the very center of Moscow – at Pushkinskaya Square in place of the former café Lira. Since then, the three large halls with seating for 900 inside and outside have never been empty. Together with Red Square, McDonald’s became a must-visit place for tourists.  

1990. Line outside McDonald’s on Pushkinskaya Square. Photo: Vitaly Sozinov/ ITAR TASS/

On the first working day, 30,000 people waited more than 6 hours

The 2000’s

6. Filming of the first Russian reality TV show: Behind the Glass in the Rossiya Hotel (2001)

This was a copy of the famous international reality TV-show “Big Brother.” The daily show about Russians living together was watched by almost 40% of TV viewers all over the country gathered in front of their TV - and in front of the hotel where the show took place. 

Over 35 days of broadcasting, 30,000 visitors waited an hour or two in line.

7. The Cathedral of Christ the Savior where the Virgin Mary’s girdle was brought (2011)

There were so many people that the Church scrapped its rules and allowed pilgrims to touch the reliquary with their hand, although not with their lips, as tradition demanded. But the line didn’t start to move faster as it spread from the Cathedral of Christ the Savior to the Vorobyovy Hills.

People who wanted to kiss the Cincture of the Virgin Mary lined up outside the Cathedral of Christ The Savior. Photo: Eugene GUSEV

About 1 million a week spent 1 to 20 hours in line.

8. To buy the new iPhone (2014)

Every new gadget by Steve Jobs attracts crowds of Apple lovers all over the world. Moscow is no exception. The line in the city malls usually took a day, but lately iPhone fans have been put off by the crisis.

Normally, more than 1,000 will stand in line for more more than 10 hours.

9. The Manezh free exhibit of ‘Orthodox Russia. From the Great Upheavals to the Great Victory’(2015)

Unique documents that had been marked ‘confidential’ and ‘top secret’ in the archives, including those of the FSB, were shown for the first time,. The exhibit was divided into several subjects: the First World War, the October Revolution, The Civil War, Stalin's repressions, Collectivization, the Great Patriotic War. Documentary footage was broadcast on a 250-meter screen. The eight biggest battles of the two World Wars were reconstructed in 3D.

Almost 17,000 people in the first two days and more than 250,000 during the three weeks waiting for about an hour (according to witnesses the line moved fast).

At the opening of the exhibition Orthodox Rus
At the opening of the exhibition Orthodox Rus

10. To buy the new collections of H&M and Balmain in the Metropolis mall (2015)

Moscovites swept up clothes and shoes from the Swedish brand and the haute couture fashion house in a couple of hours, breakng down entrance doors and shelves. Some shoppers were so badly hurt that ambulances were called. The first purchasers resold tops bought for 2,500 rubles (сirca $40) for $300 right there.  

About 300 people stood in line for about 10 hours (some people spent the night in the store’s parking lot).

11. A Valentin Serov Exhibit at the Tretyakov Gallery (2016)

Art experts called the exhibit of Serov’s paintings timed to his (NUMBER!) anniversary the most visited show in Russia for 50 years. A lot of people couldn’t make it between October 7th and January 17th. After a crowd broke down the door the day before the closing, the show was prolonged. The museum even changed its closing hours closing during the week to 9 p.m. instead of 6 p.m. and installed mobile warming centers and a kitchen truck outside the Gallery for art lovers waiting in the cold. 

The line of the connoisseurs of Serov’s art, who they had to extend the exhibition thanks to. Photo: Mikhail FROLOV

About half a million waited  from 1 to 5 hours.

12. The crowd scene of the new version of Anna Karenina, directed by Karen Shakhnazarov. (2016)

Almost half of Moscow rushed to the audition for the crowd scene announced by Mosfilm.

The famous actress Elizabeth Boyarskaya plays Anna Karenina and her husband – actor Maksim Matveev — will appear as her lover.  The filmmakers chose aristocratic-looking Muscovites for the ball.  The audition was scheduled to end for 4 p.m. but was extended by several hours. And they worked until the last ‘aristocrat’.

About 1,000 people spent from 3 to 6 hours in line.

Hundreds of aspirants were struggling for the place under the spotlights. Photo: Pavel Klokov

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