There is nothing natural about time, as self-evident it may seem to us. Ways to measure, organize, and celebrate the course of time reach deep into the cultural make-up of a country. Calendar reforms always elicit complex and consequential representations about cultural and national identity. And this not only in Russia. This talk will analyze the rationale behind the various projects of calendar reform Russia has considered or undertaken since Peter the Great, who decided in 1700 to count the years from the birth of Christ and move the beginning of the year to January 1, yet without adopting the Gregorian calendar. These reforms often hinged on specific ideas about Russia’s presumed and desired position in the world and about what makes Russia unique, even when they marshaled “scientific” arguments. They also presumed various models of the role of religion in society. This talk will thus shed light on the political and cultural ramifications of calendar reform and evaluate the extent to which the calendar has contributed to Russian exceptionalism.
Andreas Schönle is a Professor of Russian at the Queen Mary College, University of London. He received his doctorate from the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University in 1995.