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From 11 to 5

Nixie clock / Photo: Public domain, Wikipedia
Nixie clock / Photo: Public domain, Wikipedia

Russia is the largest country on the planet and as such faces special challenges. Who else has to organize such a vast territory that at the moment spans over 11 time zones? Did you know that the difference between Omsk Time and Magadan Time is exactly 5 hours?

To ease the burden of space and time, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev proposed to actually reduce the number of time zones in the country from 11 to 5. Pointing to the economic advantages of the reduction, he underlined benefits for communication and traveling. It’s definitely an organizational challenge if a businessman in Kaliningrad in Russia’s far west is calling a business partner in Vladivostok, which is in the far east.

Yet, time is not only in Russia a political issue – also China decided after the Communist Revolution of 1949 to abolish the up until then existing 5 time zones in favor of only one zone, of course that of Beijing. Whether or not this has helped to strengthen the central leadership and to unify the national political movements no one can say, but one can imagine what that means for the inhabitants of western China.

Changing time and its measurement goes over the powers of most politicians, as the fate of the Soviet calendar as well as of its French Republican counterpart proves. So it remains to be seen how far Medvedev’s proposal will get.

Melting Expectations

Iceberg, Alaska, photo: Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton/flickr
Iceberg, Alaska, photo: Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton/flickr

With the Copenhagen conference on climate change only two weeks away, it remains doubtful whether a legally binding agreement on climate change will emerge.  Here a run-down of the (mostly vague) pledges made by key greenhouse gas emitters in the wake of the conference:

Ready for My Close Up Mr Saakashvili

If you squint really, really hard...
If you squint really, really hard...

In what should be a record for the quickest turnaround from real life to “reel” life, the events of the 2008 South Ossetia War may be on their way to a screen near you.

According to Reuters, Finnish director Renny Harlin is currently shooting the as-of-yet untitled project in Georgia. Andy Garcia will play Tie-Taster-in-Chief Mikhail Saakashvili.

Who’s backing the project? The article says Papuna Davitaia, “a parliament deputy from Saakashvili’s ruling United National Movement” is a producer (meaning, he’s one of the money men). IMDB says “Mizra Davitaia.” I’m going to assume Papuna and Mizra are one in the same.

Now remember, the EU found that both sides bore equal responsibility (or at least shifting), for the conflict. But with Georgia money shoring up the production, should we guess who’ll wear the white hat?

But there are more important questions to ask, like who will play Putin.

I vote for Bruce Willis.

Medvedev?

Tom Cruise. They’re about the same height.

Want to know more about South Ossetia without the lights, cameras and action? Here you go.

Images: Garcia by Mireille Ampilhac/flickr, Saakashvili by Vladimer Shioshvili/flickr

Commemorating the General

For the first time since Tsar Alexander I in 1819, a Russian head of state is visiting Switzerland. Today, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is coming for an official visit to the small Alpine country.

The main purpose of Medvedev’s visit is to celebrate the 210th anniversary of Russian General Aleksandr Vasiliyevich Suvorov’s victorious military expedition across the Alps, which resulted in the defeat of Napoleon’s occupying forces in Switzerland. Following Switzerland’s liberation from the French, the modern Swiss Confederation (more or less within today’s political borders) came into being.

Suvorov crossing the alps / Wikimedia Foundation
Suvorov crossing the alps / Wikimedia Foundation

Many Swiss living in the mountainous areas through which Suvorov’s triumphant troops passed remain deeply grateful to the Russian general, who is said to have never lost a battle and is seen as one of the greatest military geniuses ever to lead an army. He also coined phrases such as “To surprise is to vanquish”, ” Train hard, fight easy” or “Speed is essential, but haste harmful”. Both the Swiss and the Russian consider the Russian general a military hero. No questions asked.

ISN Weekly Theme: The Truth About ‘Truth’ Commissions

Photo: Athena Workman/flickr
Photo: Athena Workman/flickr

Truth commissions are usually formed to examine a country’s history, bringing to light the good, the bad and the ugly.

But, history belongs to the victors. Truth commissions can also be used to forward a particular political stance. In our weekly theme, “The Truth About ‘Truth’ Commissions, Ariel Cohen examines the new Russian ‘Truth’ Commission with a critical eye, stating that it has been intentionally designed to stop the pieces of history that would damage the carefully crafted image of today’s Russia from coming to the surface.

The ISN’s Linda Popova gives background information on truth commissions and offers evidence that bureaucracy can hinder even the most earnest attempts at finding the ‘truth.’

And as always, check our site throughout the week for more on the topic.