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Calendar Reform

It is obvious that the eloquent demand of our century and of modern life will not stop before any difficulties, and therefore undoubtedly a practical solution of the calendar question is near.
—Leo Tolstoy


Russia's Difficulties
by Elisabeth Achelis, Journal of Calendar Reform, 1954

RUSSIAN CALENDAR HISTORY is no exception to that of other calendar histories of the past; it has been a varied one with many trials and errors. Eventually the Gregorian calendar was adopted by the government to conform with the greater number of other nations.

Dr. Vera Rossovskaja, astronomer of the Research Institute at Leningrad, wrote a notable book, The Remote Past of the Calendar, published in 1936, in which she stated that up to the end of the fifteenth century the Russian year began on March 1. Years were counted from the "creation of the world," an event that was placed in the year 5509 B.C. Then for a brief interval the Moscow government began the calendar year with September 1, until about A.D. 1700, when Peter the Great introduced January 1 as the beginning of the year, adopting at the same time the reckoning of the Christian era. This aroused the opposition of the Eastern Church.

In 1709 the calendar (the Julian calendar) was first printed in Russia, more than 127 years after the Gregorian calendar had been introduced in Europe.

In the nineteenth century, because of the almost world-wide acceptance of the Gregorian calendar, the Department of Foreign Affairs used the Gregorian style in its relations with foreign countries; the commerical and naval fleets too were obliged to reckon time according to the Western calendar; and finally sciences, such as astronomy, meterology, etc., which had a world character, were compelled to follow the new system. All this caused considerable complication.

In 1829 the Department of Public Instruction recommended a revision of the calendar to the Academy of Science. The Academy proceeded to petition the government to accept the Gregorian calendar. Prince Lieven, in submitting the plan to Tsar Nicholas I, denounced it as "premature, unnecessary, and likely to produce upheavals, and bewilderment of mind and conscience among the people." He further declared that "the advantage from a reform of this kind will be very small and immaterial, while the inconveniences and difficulties will be unavoidable and great." The Tsar, being apprehensive, wrote on the report: "The comments of Prince Lieven are accurate and just."

From thence onward frequent attempts were made to remove the ban, but to no avail. In 1918, after the Revolution, Lenin raised the question of calendar reform and, after an investigation of the subject, published a decree directing the adoption of the Gregorian style "for the purpose of being in harmony with all the civilized countries of the world."

The adoption of the Gregorian calendar necessitated a cancellation of 13 days, instead of ten days, because in the interval three centurial years had been counted as leap years. Although the government officially accepted the Gregorian calendar, the Russian Eastern Orthodox Church still clung to the earlier and more familiar Julian. This is the reason, for example, that the observance of Christmas, on December 25 in the Gregorian calendar, comes in the Julian calendar on January 7.

These paragraphs convey a common misunderstanding of a
Soviet policy on the work week.—RMc

In 1923, a radical change in the calendar took place. Soviet Russia abolished both the Julian calendar, used by the Russian Orthodox Church, and the official Gregorian calendar that had been installed by Lenin. A new calendar was introduced, in which the weeks were changed and all religious feasts and holy days were replaced by five national public holidays associated with the Revolution.

The "Eternal Calendar" went into effect on October 6 . . . , giving five days to the weeks and six weeks to the months, so that there were 12 months of 30 days, plus five holidays with national names instead of weekday names.[note] The chief objective of the "Eternal Calendar" was to increase production, and special color cards were distributed to the workers. Rest-days became staggered. It was not realized at the time that such an arrangement would cause real hardship to family life. After several years of trial, in 1931, the five-day week and staggered rest-days were replaced by another system.

This new plan provided for a 12-month year with the same holidays as before and the same extra day for leap years, but a new week of six days was introduced wherein the rest-day came regularly on the 6th, 12th, 18th, 24th and 30th of the month, in addition to the five national holidays.

Through all these changes decreed by the Russian government, the Church still clung to the Julian calendar, and farmers and peasants continued to work and plan according to the seasons, months and weeks, as had their forefathers.

To historians and statisticians these various calendar changes bring real difficulties. Reference to the Russian Julian calendar must be made previous to 1918,

from 1918 to 1923 the Gregorian calendar was in use, from 1923 to 1931 the five-day Russian Revolutionary calendar must be consulted, and from 1931 until 1940 the Russian calendar with the six-day week was in effect. From 1940 onward, official Russia returned to the Gregorian calendar with its seven-day week, using Sunday as a rest-day.By this latest action the government returned to the idea of Lenin, and Russia is once more using the same calendar as "all the civilized countries of the world."

Leo Gruliow, editor of The Current Digest of the Soviet Press, recently wrote: "A combination of factors appears to have swung Russia into the growing list of supporters of calendar reform. Whether the Soviet will go beyond its present cautious endorsement of study of The World Calendar Association proposal remains to be seen. That the development of the Russian studies will lead to beneficial results is definitely assured."

A note from Chris Carrier:

The starting date of the Soviet "Eternal Calendar" that she claims was used as early as 1923 was actually 1929 October 1, according to The Seven Day Circle, by Evitiar Zerubavel. Also, I remember reading that the five epagomenal days of the Soviet Eternal Calendar corresponded to January 22 (Bloody Sunday), May 1 and 2 (May Day) and November 7 and 8 (Revolution Day) in the Gregorian Calendar. The five-day calendar week with the staggered days off was abolished in 1932, in favor of having everyone take off on the 6th, 12th, 18th, 24th and 30th. The Gregorian Calendar was brought back in 1934, but the seven-day week was not brought back until 1940. Between 1934-40 the restoration of the Gregorian Calendar but not the seven-day week created a problem: what to do on the 31st? Depending on where a Soviet worker worked, the 31st was either an overtime day with pay or another day off. Also the lack of a 30th day of February caused some Soviet workplaces to give March 1 off, but others ran for nine (in leap years 10) consecutive working days.


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