Staunton, December 5 – Activists in three regions, including Samara oblast, Udmurtia, and Kamchatka kray, plan to stage demonstrations next week to protest President Dmitry Medvedev’s proposal last year to reduce the number of time zones across the Russian Federation, and they have called on residents of other federal subjects to join them.
In a report on this effort entitled, “In the Regions, They Don’t Want to Live on Moscow Time,” “Kommersant” says that following Medvedev’s proposal last November to reduce the number of time zones in the country from 11 to nine, five federal subjects shifted their clocks in March (www.kommersant.ru/doc.aspx?DocsID=1551732).
These include Chukotka, Kamchatka, Kuzbass, Samara and Udmurtia, whose leaders accepted Medvedev’s argument that this would improve economic links between them and the rest of the country. But if regional leaders went along, many of the people living in these regions did not, and “actions of protest by local residents began” almost immediately.
On Friday, the Samara oblast government agreed to allow an all-oblast meeting next Saturday against the shift of the oblast to Moscow time. The organizing committee calls itself “For Samara Time” and includes representatives of Just Russia, KPRF, Yabloko, and other public organizations.
Demonstrations are also planned for Kamchatka and Udmurtia next weekend, although these will hardly be something new. In Izhevsk, the capital of Udmurtia, “Kommersant” reports, protests have been going on non-stop “since the beginning of the “time” reform. Organizers hope, however, that nest weekend’s protest will be the largest to date.
Using the Internet, the opponents of the time reform in these three federal subjects have called on all Russian citizens living in areas affected by Medvedev’s time changes to join them in an all-Russian protest against such shifts unless the powers that be in the center first survey “the opinion of the population of the regions of Russia.”
This effort highlights three things: first, the growing willingness of Russians to protest against specific Moscow moves that directly affect them; second, the increasing activism in the regions rather than the capitals in this regard, and third, the expanding use of the Internet to link together activists in regions from one end of the country to another.
Next weekend’s protests against what many in the capital may see as a relatively trivial issue – after all, Russians had long experience in Soviet times with the use of “Moscow time” for transportation and other schedules – may thus become an occasion not so much for turning back the clock as for moving it forward in ways the powers that be may find hard to stop.