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It's Time For Ukraine To Get Real


Ukraine can't quite let go of Russia, even when it comes to time.

Ukraine can't quite let go of Russia, even when it comes to time.

"It’s not for us, this foreign Moscow time." So went a song by a popular Ukrainian bard in the late 1980s, a time of growing national awareness in Ukraine.

It would appear that his song was heard. Ukrainian authorities decided that Moscow time was, indeed, not for them and opted to be closer to Europe by a whole 60 minutes.

But now they’ve changed their minds. Not completely, but almost.

Ukraine's parliament, seemingly motivated by a 62 percent increase in heart and circulation problems during the first week of going over to daylight saving time, and by a 130 percent increase in children’s ailments, has decided to do away with the change completely.

Those statistics were quoted to RFE/RL by Regions Party deputy Oleh Nadosha, the man behind the latest time change. When pressed as to where such figures had come from, he would not say.

“There is no politics behind this decision,” he reassured. “We will continue to have an hour’s difference with Russia, but we have, in fact, brought our time closer to European time.”

Well, er, not exactly Mr. Nadosha.

While the difference with Russia will, in fact, remain one hour, during the late autumn and winter months Ukraine will have a two-hour difference with Europe. In summer, that difference will be only one hour.

What does all this mean? Will cows really be happier as a result? Will they give more milk? Will Ukraine save energy? Will all those hypochondriacal Ukrainians who suddenly develop heart and circulation problems when daylight saving time kicks in feel better and not run off to polyclinics? Will our biorhythms improve? Will children’s ailments decrease?

Highly unlikely.

I suspect that what this really means is that Ukrainian parliamentarians have nothing better to do than to mess with time. And looking over their shoulders and mimicking Moscow. The Regions Party, in particular, is very good at this. For them, Moscow is the only capital that counts, far closer to their hearts than Paris or Rome.

Or their very own Kyiv, for that matter.

In February, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev abolished daylight saving time in the Russian Federation. Russia still moves its clocks forward one hour at the end of March, as does Western Europe, but when European clocks fall back on the last Sunday of October, Russia's will stay where they are.

Anyone who has ever spent winters in Ukraine knows what a dreary time it can be. Snow is not cleared from the streets or sidewalks, icicles fall and kill people, apartments are oppressively hot, with no possibility to turn down thermostats. The fashionable outside entrances and stairs of refurbished buildings lined with shiny ceramic tiles turn into deadly skating rinks. The grit that is spread to stop everyone from slipping and sliding turns into mud, which is traipsed into homes. And then there are those terribly short days.

I, for one, really appreciated that extra hour and will miss it terribly.

But it seems to me that this latest decision concerning time is primarily an indication of the mindset of Ukrainian politicians. They are a little bit in Europe, yet they continue to be somewhat joined at the hip with Moscow. They want to be European, but they either don’t know how to let go of the eastern connection, or are afraid to do so.

Consequently, timewise, from October through March they will be closer to Russia than to Europe. For the rest of the year they will have an hours' difference on both sides.

I, for one, think that it would be much wiser to simply switch over to Central European Time once and for all and be done with it. After all, one of the geographic centers of Europe -- the city of Rakhiv -- is in Ukraine.

This would not only simplify things for all concerned, but at least timewise would allow Ukraine to be enveloped in a European embrace.

-- Irena Chalupa

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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