The End Of Moscow Time For The Rest Of Russia

I sort of feel that with this tidbit of logic, Russia is losing a bit of its endearing quirkiness.

But first a brief history of time in Russia:

  • Russia used to have 11 time zones, but then two time zones were removed.  Sadly, this did not shorten flights between Moscow and Vladivostok.
  • In 2014, Russia abolished daylight savings time.  There was talk of how the changing time twice yearly was upsetting to the dairy cows.  No, I’m not making that up.  On the positive side, every spring, Russia gets just a little closer to America.
  • Also, if I were president, I would unilaterally make decrees concerning the time, all of the time.  Because I could.

But I digress.

Over the years, if you were to purchase an airplane ticket in Russia, often the booking would include this curious phrase: “Arrival and departure times are local”.  You might think that this is obvious.  I mean, why would your airplane ticket with an arrival into Jakarta, show the local time in Mumbai?


This local train will remain within Moscow time for the duration of its journey.

But there was a very good reason for this word of warning.  You see, the entire Russian train system (formerly spanning 11 time zones, then reduced to 9) was all run on Moscow local time.  So, when I lived in the city of Perm, a 2 hour time difference from Moscow, if the train was leaving at 1 p.m. local time, the ticket would show that it was leaving at 11 a.m. Moscow time.  So, if you had spent your life riding trains and were flying for the first time, it would be logical to assume that the time listed in the ticket was Moscow time.

I did witness a mishap or two over the years regarding folks who calculated the two hours the wrong way, or became confused on days with an 11 p.m. ticket Moscow time, which would be a train that was leaving at 1 a.m. on the next day.

I guess I always felt a little smug at having mastered the Moscow time system, as a foreigner.  And maybe that is also why the train system now moving to local times on the tickets also makes me a little sad.  I won’t be able to strut my Moscow time calculation skills like I did back in the nineties.

But I guess I shouldn’t be so cocky.  Because a two hour time difference is child’s play.  I once caught the 7 and a half hour flight from Moscow to Khabarovsk and from there needed to catch a train to Blagoveshchensk.

There I was, bleary-eyed and jet-lagged in the train station, working out the 7 hour time difference on my ticket in relation to local time.  If I remember correctly, the sign on the ticket window stated that they would be closed for lunch at 6 a.m. Moscow time.

If you’re an old hand at Russian travel, don’t get caught flat-footed with your travel plans because you are working around the old Moscow time system.

Yes, of course, it makes sense to make the change, but I will miss the old way of doing things that was both charming and peculiar.



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