Russia frozen in time by plan to brighten the bleakest winter



There's not much that the Kremlin can do to get rid of the long and difficult Russian winter – but it has decided that it can abolish "winter time", in a move announced this week by President Dmitry Medvedev.

The clocks will go forward to summer time as usual this spring, but they will not change back to winter time in the autumn. Mr Medvedev argues that changing the clocks twice a year causes "stress and illness" among Russians. "It's just irritating. People either oversleep or wake up early and don't know what to do with the hour," he explained.

Some critics wondered whether Mr Medvedev, who has promised to reform Russia but has delivered precious little nearly three years into his presidency, might not have more pressing issues to worry about. But for many years the issue of time changes in Russia has been a hot topic. When Mr Medvedev mooted the idea during one of his first major political addresses, it got a louder ovation from the assembled officials than any other policy.

The move has won support among Russian doctors, who claim the clock changes disrupt natural body rhythms. The head paediatrician at Russia's Ministry of Health, Alexander Baranov, was "fully supportive" of the President's decision this week. "Moving the clocks here and there has a bad influence on people's health, on their moods, and on their capacity to work," he said. "Children suffer particularly, when they have to be woken up ahead of time."

A posting on the Kremlin's website quoted top government aide Arkady Dvorkovich saying the move would result in between 7 and 17 per cent more daylight hours in various Russian regions. Winter days in many Russian cities are depressingly short – in some parts of the north the sun does not rise at all for two months. The new move means the afternoons will be longer, but also that the mornings will be darker.

Some wondered whether extra hours in the evening were really worth paying for with the misery of dark and gloomy mornings. Academics in St Petersburg said that the city would now be two hours ahead of its "natural" time zone in winter. And from the end of this year, when people cross Russia's border with Norway during the winter, they will have to move their clocks forward by three full hours.

It is not the first time that Mr Medvedev has meddled with time. There have also been a number of changes in individual regions, aimed at bringing the vast landmass of Russia closer together. Last year, the country was compacted from 11 time zones down to nine, with regions in the very far east of the country moving from nine to eight hours ahead of Moscow, to help ease local governance and communications with the capital.

With talk in the air of an impending further one-hour cut, there were protests in the far-eastern Kamchatka Peninsula last year, with thousands taking to the streets shouting "Give us our time back!".

Authorities tried to ban a New Year's Cinderella panto in the region's capital, Petropavlovsky-Kamchatsky, as they suspected that a scene where the King changes the time to allow Cinderella to remain at the ball was a subversive jibe aimed at the Russian government. Further time changes are planned this year, with several Siberian regions clumped together, wiping out time differences between them.

But while time changes remain controversial, a survey showed that 60 per cent of Russians support the abolition of winter time. "We will have prolonged daylight and I think this will be healthy for our country," said Mr Medvedev.

In a final justification for the move, he employed a folksy farmyard metaphor of the kind his political rival Vladimir Putin likes to use, though people were left unsure exactly what he meant. "I'm not talking about unhappy cows or other animals who don't understand the time change and don't understand that the milkmaid is going to milk them at a different time," said the Russian President.

David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Administrative Assistant

£60 - £75 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Administrative Assitant Hertford...

Web Application Support Manager

£60000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reigate...

** Secondary History Teacher Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £165 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

** Secondary Geography Teacher Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments