Merge 11 time zones into 4? Russia's Medvedev asks, Why not?
Merging 11 times zones into four would boost efficiency, says Russia's Medvedev. Russia spans nearly half the world's circumference.
MOSCOW – President Dmitri Medvedev hasn't enjoyed much success in efforts to reform Russia's top-heavy political system since he entered the Kremlin more than a year ago, but he might have better luck at tweaking the laws of nature.Skip to next paragraph
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Russians can't seem to stop buzzing about a seemingly oddball idea tossed out by Mr. Medvedev in his recent State of the Nation address, in which he suggested that major political and economic benefits could be achieved by slashing the number of time zones that delineate Russia's vast expanse from the current 11 to as few as four.
"It has been customary for Russians to take pride in the number of our time zones, which seem to us a vivid symbol of our country's greatness," Medvedev said. "But have we ever stopped to think seriously about whether dividing our country this way makes it harder to manage it effectively?.... We should examine the possibility of reducing the number of time zones."
The proposal has drawn praise from some, mainly government officials who view time differences as an obstacle to smooth administration. Others hoot with derision, including many scientists who say they can't see why a politician should try meddling with timekeeping.
"The Earth rotates and the sun rises and sets" according to astronomical laws, says Nikolai Kasimov, dean of the geography faculty at Moscow State University. "We've been living with this system for some time, and I haven't heard anyone complaining about it. There is no public movement demanding that time zones be changed."
Russia, the world's largest country, sprawls around nearly half the Earth's circumference. That strongly suggests that its gluttonous portion of time zones is deserved on geographical grounds.
"Our time zones respond to our needs," Mr. Kasimov says. "This isn't some kind of mechanical construction project; changes here could have lots of unforeseen social, economic, cultural, and biological consequences."
But supporters of the idea argue that Medvedev isn't trying to be a modern version of King Canute – the medieval English monarch who tried to command the waves to cease – but that he merely wants to streamline an unwieldy system.
They point out that while it might sound logical for the world to have 24 time zones, it actually has 40 of them, and the diversity is almost everywhere the result of political choices. China, for example, lived within five time zones before the Communists came to power but today the entire immense nation operates in just one bracket, known as Beijing time.