President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues,
We have a very interesting subject on our agenda today, an issue that I raised in the Presidential Address [to the Federal Assembly], and that sparked quite active discussion. The issue in question is the reduction of the number of time zones in Russia and the expediency of daylight saving. This subject is more apt than ever right now as we are about to put the clocks forward to daylight saving time in a few days.
I remind you that most countries establish time zones using a guideline, drawn up at some point, in accordance with which the number of time zones is calculated based on the span of the country’s territory in relation to the basic meridians 15 degrees apart. This form of calculation gives Russia slightly more than 11 time zones, and it was on this basis that our country was divided in its time into the 11 time zones we have today. In the general geographical sense everything was perfectly in order then, but this does not mean that there have never been any problems with this system.
Russia is indisputably the country with the greatest span of territory in the world, with the biggest regional and administrative divisions, and with population density differing greatly from one area to another. That’s not to mention the various aspects of managing the country in general. Then there is the fact that a large part of our country is located in the north. The governors of a number of these northern regions are present here today.
A number of regions have proposed optimising the time zone system, and such proposals were made before I raised this issue in my Address. In these regions’ view, cutting the time difference between them and their neighbours would help to inject new activeness into business life and encourage new economic ties and projects. These proposals have received the overall backing of experts, who say that one way to help manage the country more effectively would be to do as I proposed and reduce the number of time zones. As far as world experience goes, it is varied, as we know.
Cutting the number of time zones would also resolve a number of transport and communications problems, and it could help to strengthen Russia’s position as a link in the global information infrastructure. In any case, a number of countries have already taken this road as a means of resolving various problems. As I said, they have taken varied approaches in this area.
The reason I brought you all together is that I think it essential to hear the regions’ point of view and act strictly in accordance with our citizens’ interests. Acting on my instructions, the Government has already approved a number of orders on moving Kemerovo Region into the fifth time zone (Moscow time plus three hours, instead of plus four, as is the case now) from March 28. From the same date Udmurtia and Samara Region will move into the second time zone, that is to say, they will be in the same time zone as Moscow; Kamchatka Territory and Chukotka Autonomous District will move into the tenth time zone, that is to say, Moscow time plus 8 hours. This will bring the total number of time zones in Russia from 11 down to 9.
Other proposals have come from specialists and scientists at the Russian Academy of Sciences on merging the time zones of the Urals and Siberian regions. This is possible, but such decisions can be made only after first estimating all possible consequences. We need to organise monitoring of all factors, including the medical and biological aspects and also the economic and international impact. As I say, such a step is possible, but we first need to study it very thoroughly.
I also want to address the related issue of daylight savings time. This has been a subject of debate in the country ever since we returned to the daylight saving system in the 1980s. Who can recall exactly when daylight savings time was reintroduced?
Response: In 1981.
Dmitry Medvedev: In 1981.
Response: It changed often.
Dmitry Medvedev: No, not so often at all. It was introduced in the early Soviet years, then it was abolished, and then it was reintroduced in 1981. I remember it well, I was still in school then and it was a big event.
What do we need to do now? We need to study the economic impact these changes would have, because there are a huge number of differing opinions. No matter who I speak with, on the everyday level people think daylight saving is a bad thing. No one has ever said to me that they think it is good and that these decisions make them feel so much better and more alert. But there are also economic arguments that I have heard on many occasions from our big companies, our energy companies, and these arguments too need to be taken into account. We need to weigh up all of these different aspects in making our decisions.
I think we could set a certain time period, leave some more time for thinking the issue over and presenting more precise calculations of the advantages in daylight saving, if they exist. This is a subject that requires more thorough study. If we do reach the conclusion that there is little to be gained, we can of course decide to abolish the daylight saving system. This is not a simple issue, as we know, and most countries in Europe and elsewhere around the world are working on this matter. It is not just a question of the economic impact, but also that if we do decide to abolish daylight saving we would be placing our territory outside the general world norm. Of course, there are many countries that have decided not to use daylight saving, including among our closest neighbours, the independent states formed by the former Soviet republics.
So, let’s discuss this issue.