Time Will Stand Still On Sunday Morning

Originally published in The Moscow Times on October 30, 1999

While many Russians look forward to gaining an extra hour of sleep Sunday morning, Alla Shutova just wishes the country's time commission could make up its mind.

This Sunday at 3 a.m. time will skip back to 2 a.m., as Russia completes its second decade with Daylight Savings Time.

Twice a year the time changes, and twice a year Shutova suffers from jet lag - without ever leaving her home in a Moscow suburb.

"The more I age, the worse it gets. When I was young I could cope more easily," said the 59-year-old epidemiologist.

"Now in October it's not too bad, but in the spring, it takes me ages to fall asleep."

The practice of "springing ahead and falling back," the main purpose of which is to save energy, has been observed by most Western countries for decades.

But until 1981, Russia didn't bother and people like Shutova slept soundly.

For most of its history, the Soviet Union was the only country in the world to use a "decreed time," that is, a fixed time for all the time zones in its territory. In 1930 Russian clocks were turned forward one hour - and left that way for five decades.

"Maybe that's why we can't get used to it. I was born and have lived mostly under a different system," Shutova said.

Professor Nikolai Blinov, head of the time department at the Schternberg State Institute of Astronomy, remains a staunch defender of the decreed time, which he says "solved all economic problems."

"If you had to draw a graph of a man's life, you would see that it's better to force him to live during the daylight," he said.

Under the decreed time, people would always get up when it was light out, he said.

Vladimir Labinov, head of the Agriculture Ministry's time service, said…

Read the full text at The Moscow Times.