Update: Russia will most likely make a final decision on time zone changes in the fall (autumn) of 2010, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov announced on Friday, April 30, 2010. There are currently three time zones in the Russian Far East, and the presidential envoy to the federal district, Viktor Ishayev, believed that one more should be dropped.
Starting Sunday March 28, 2010, Russia will have nine time zones instead of 11. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin recently signed decrees to abolish the time zones of four Russian regions.
Getting Closer to Moscow
Of the four affected regions, the Samara Oblast and the Udmurt Republic will now be in the same time zone as Moscow (UTC+3). These two regions are currently the only federal subjects in Russia in the Moscow+1 time zone (UTC+4).
The two other regions, the Kamchatka Krai and the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, which are the easternmost regions in Russia, will join the time zone of the Magadan Oblast (UTC+11). The time difference of these two regions with Moscow will now be eight hours (Moscow+8) instead of nine hours.
The decrees will come in effect on March 28, at 2am (02:00) local time. While most Russian regions will take their clocks one hour forward for the Daylight Saving Time (DST), the four regions will not adjust for the DST. This will enable them to reduce their time difference with Moscow and change time zones.
President Calls for Fewer Time Zones
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev suggested reducing the number of time zones across Russia in November 2009. Speaking to the Federal Assembly last year, Medvedev said time zone differences across Russia have a negative impact on the country’s efficiency and require the use of expensive technology.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed three decrees (number 166 for the Udmurt Republic, number 170 for the Samara Oblast and number 171 for the Kamchatka and Chukotka regions) between March 20 and 22 to enact the change in the four regions.
The Russian ministry of industry and trade prepared the decrees, following the application of local parliaments to change their time zones.
A Mixed Reaction
Explanatory notes accompanying the decrees stated that most residents of the four affected regions welcomed the change, RIA Novosti reported. However, some Samara residents announced this week they plan to protest the decision. A demonstration against the time zone change in Samara is scheduled on March 27, although the local government says the dissenting voices are a minority.
Advocates of the change say the reduction of time zones will help Russia’s regions to better coordinate their business and political activities with the rest of the country. According to the governor of the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Roman Kopin, the time zone change will enable his region to work more effectively with neighboring regions as well as Moscow.
“The shift in the time zone will broaden the opportunities for the Chuktoka population to receive information from federal TV channels and will make educational TV programs more accessible to our students, which is very important given the informational isolation of our area”, Kopin said.
Another Russian region, the Kemerovo Oblast, will also change its time zone on March 28. The Russian government made the decision to change the Kemerovo Oblast’s time zone in September 2009 but postponed its implementation until this year.
Russia currently has 11 time zones, from the Kaliningrad Oblast, a Baltic enclave in the west, to the Kamchatka Krai in the Far East. When the easternmost regions move to the Magadan time zone, their time difference with Kaliningrad will be reduced to nine hours.
Note: All times are given according to the standard time. During the Daylight Saving Time period, Russian time zones’ difference with UTC increases by one hour.