Soviet Calendar

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History of the Calendar Under the Soviets

When the Tsar was in power, there were several discussions and petitions involving changing the calendar; however, it was not until the Bolsheviks came into power that a change was made. Lenin decided that Russia should join the world in switching from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. To fix the date, February 1st 1918 was changed into February 14th 1918. This means that the dates of the first thirteen days in February 1918 do not exist in Russian history. Naturally, the change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar would have caused some confusion, but this was the least confusing change that would be made to the calendar by the Soviets.

With the autumn of 1929 came the most drastic change in the calendar. The Soviets called it the ‘Soviet Eternal Calendar’. The weeks were changed from seven to only five days long, and the months became six weeks long. Because of the religious associations with Saturday and Sunday, those two days were removed. The remaining five days, which by our reckoning are Monday through Friday, had their names changed. Each one was given a color. The first day was yellow, the second orange, the third red, the fourth purple, and the fifth green. Each person had one day a week on which he did not work. Five national holidays were also declared on which work was prohibited.

Besides the natural confusion of the drastic changes in the calendar, there were several other problems with the new system. The first one was that not everyone had the same days off anymore. In the past, people would have the weekend off, but under the new system, people would be assigned a day during the week. This meant that not all families and friends would have the same day off. This created problems for when people wanted to get together and do activities together.

There was another reason for switching to the five day week. By getting rid of the weekend, work could be carried on continuously without any stops in order to increase production. Since the workers had one day off during the five-day week, that meant that at any given time about eighty percent of workers would be at work and twenty percent would have the day off. This created a problem though. With the machines being run continuously, there was no time to stop and have repairs made on the machines. The plan of increasing production backfired; production continued to sink lower under the new work system.

During the calendar reforms, there were national holidays on which no one worked but they still got paid for them. The actual holidays changed a few times though. When the Soviets took over in 1918 the six national holidays were on: January 1st (New Year), January 22nd (Day of January 9th 1905-Old Style), March 12th (Overthrow of the Autocracy), May 1st (International Workers’ Day), and November 7th (Day of the Proletarian Revolution). Until 1929, local governments could declare up to ten holidays on which no one worked, but they would also be unpaid days. In 1925, another paid holiday was declared: January 21st (Death of Lenin). In 1929, when the Soviet Eternal Calendar was introduced, the national holidays also changed. Three holidays were eliminated, and Lenin’s Day was merged with the 22nd of January. The new five national holidays stood as thus: January 22nd (Bloody Sunday and Lenin’s Day), May 1st-2nd (International Workers’ Day), and November 7th-8th (October Revolution).

After three years of the five-day week system, the Soviets finally decided that a new change needed to be made. In 1931, the week was extended by one day, making the week six days long. They changed the names of the days once again; instead of being named colors, they were just given numbers. Included in the six day week was a rest day, but it was not the same as the Christian Sunday.

This did solve the problem of families not being able to spend time together, but unfortunately this did not end up increasing the efficiency of production. In addition, the effort to eliminate the names of each day by renaming them was a hard habit to break. It was too rooted in peoples’ minds. Further, the people who worked with foreign contacts had to use the Gregorian calendar because that was the most widely accepted calendar type. Opposition to the six-day week also came from the farm workers. They continued to live by a seven-day week, not the six declared by the government. They would do this by holding markets every seventh day, according to the old system. This created quite a problem since the population was split into two groups: the urban societies having a six-day week, while the rural societies held to their seven day week.

They stuck with the six-day week until 1940. But the confusion and the opposition simply became too much, so in June of 1940, the Soviets decided to change back to the Gregorian calendar. The change back really pleased many groups of people: the religious folk now officially had their Sabbath days back, the workers had longer weekends to spend time with their families, and the factory owners were happy because the machines were no longer running continuously so there was appropriate time to fix problems, which helped to increase production. The changes made were ridiculous and unneeded in the first place though. They did not end up achieving one of their initial goals: to increase production. Despite all of the changes made, production did not increase dramatically, as was hoped. The change back to the Gregorian calendar was the right move for Russia.

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Works Consulted:
Bourgoing, Jacqueline. The Calendar- History, Lore, and Legend. New York: Harry N. Abrams,
Inc., 2001
Parise, Frank. The Book of Calendars. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1982.
Rosenburg, Jennifer. "Soviets Change The Calendar”. 20th Century History. Web accessed. 8 Oct. 2010.
Ross, Kelly L. “The Orthodox and Soviet Calendar Reforms”. Successors of Rome: Russia 862-
Present. Web accessed. 8 Oct. 2010.
“Soviet Calendar Encyclopedia of Plants”. Encyclopedia of Plants. Web accessed. 8 Oct. 2010.