Russia replaces time belts with time zones

From the beginning of this autumn Russians have begun to live in new time zones. On September 1 the country abolished the time belts that have existed since the Soviet era. Instead, there have been created time zones. The time gap between them is determined in a fundamentally different way. Before that, back in March, Russia shifted to “eternal summer time.” The annual ritiual of resetting the clocks back and forth was canceled. Experts are in no mood to overestimate the importance of this reform, though.

Instead of the nine time belts (before March 28, 2010 there were eleven of them), now there are nine time zones. Under the government’s decision Russia is now divided into the Kaliningrad, Moscow, Yekaterinburg, Omsk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Yakutsk, Vladivostok and Magadan time zone. Moscow was used as a reference point. The Kaliningrad time zone is one hour behind. The farther to the east, the more hours are added. The eastern-most zone includes the Magadan Region, Kamchatka, Chukotka, and Sakhalin. When in Moscow it is 15:00, the clocks there show 23:00.

The essence of the latest modernization is many regions have a narrower time difference with the capital, and every region now has its own time. For example, whereas before huge Yakutia had three time belts, now the time zone’s boundaries are identical to the border of the republic.

The idea to revise time zones in Russia has been discussed for a long while. In 2009, President Dmitry Medvedev addressed the Federal Assembly with a proposal for reducing the number of time belts – there were too many of them. A country with fewer time zones can be run more easily and efficiently, the president said.

It is noteworthy that the regions themselves declared they wished to be closer to Moscow. A year ago, the regional legislatures expressed their wish to reduce the difference in time with the capital. In November 2010 the State Assembly of Yakutia addressed the country’s leadership with the initiative to introduce in the territory of the republic two time zones instead of three, and in December it said that even one would be enough.

The Legislative Duma of the Khabarovsk Territory asked to consider the issue of reducing the time difference with Moscow from seven hours to six. A similar question was considered at a meeting of the relevant committee of the Legislative Assembly of Primorye. “We had consultations with experts and scientists and studied the public opinion. The authorities support the resetting of the region’s clocks an hour closer to Moscow time,” said Sergei Darkin, the governor of Primorye.

Experts, however, are largely reserved in their comments on this decision.

“The only territory that will stand to gain from the expansion of time zones is Yakutia, because reduction in the number of time zones in one territory is effective from the standpoint of management and good governance. Such a solution suggested itself long ago,” Novyie Izvestia quotes the director of the Center for Post-Industrial Studies, Vladislav Inozemtsev, as saying. The expert sees no benefits for the Maritime Territory and the Irkutsk Region. “I do not see any economic sense of such a decision. The issue of widening the time zones still remains controversial. We see a lot being done just for the sake of simulating activity.”

Others argue that the “simulation of activity” may adversely affect the Russians.

“The time zones corresponded to the biological rhythm of the people, now they will have to re-adjust themselves,” the periodical quotes a research assistant at the Institute of Astronomy, Vladislav Leonov, as saying.

“We will need some time to adapt ourselves to the new time,” Komsomolskaya Pravda quotes the director of the Institute of Social Policies at the Higher School of Economics, Sergei Smirnov, as saying. “We kept setting the clocks forward and backwards for 30 years and coped with it pretty well. Technologically such a temporal “contraction” of the country is convenient, it will be easier to make schedules for trains and planes. Banking transactions will be easier, for instance, getting money transfers in time. To squeeze our large country into one time zone will be impossible, of course, but the reduction of the number of such zones will be good for the economy.”

MOSCOW, September 2

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