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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.
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.
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,
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."
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