Not only is that a meaningful question, it has a perfectly good answer. Until Peter the Great’s calendar reform, Russia counted its years from the creation of the world, which the Russian Orthodox church reckoned as having happened in 5509 BC, and celebrated New Year’s Day on September 1; thus Peter was born in the year 7180, or 180 as they often referred to it (early 1672 by our calendar). Once Peter took full power he began making drastic changes in the Russian way of life to imitate the Western European countries, and along with cutting off beards and banning caftans he updated the calendar, decreeing in late 1699 (or early 208, as it then was) that January 1 would be the New Year, and it would be the beginning of the year 1700. So 7208, which had begun on Sept. 1, only ran for three months before giving way to the newfangled Western year 1700, producing documents with phrases like: “In the years 207 and 208 and in the present year of 1700…” I love this stuff.
What I don’t understand is why he didn’t go all the way and adopt the Gregorian calendar, which had been around for over a century and was used in the Western countries he wanted to emulate. For over two hundred years Russia remained 10 or 11 days behind, and Peter didn’t like being left behind. Strange.


  1. Adopting the Gregorian calendar would have entailed adopting the Gregorian Easter (at least, at that time it would have; some Orthodox churches have gone the hybrid route since), and that would have been Heterodoxy.

  2. Cuconnacht says:

    And it would have involved submitting, in this one instance, to the judgment of the Pope, which I think is why Protestant Europe resisted the the calendar for a couple of centuries.

  3. Traditional Russian agriculture was built around feast days celebrated according to traditional calendar of Russian Orthodox Day.

    Moving to Gregorian calendar (ie, by 11 days) meant that all traditional calendar events and associated wealth of traditional knowledge (meteorological, for example) would become useless for agricultural purposes.

  4. SFReader: That seems improbable. The whole point of moving to the Gregorian calendar was to preserve the relations between specific dates and the Sun, from which the Julian calendar was slowly but steadily departing. No, the reason has to be religious: “better to be wrong with the Sun than right with the Pope”, as the English said during their period of resistance (1582-1752).

  5. It will start preserving later (at a rate of one day per century), but immediate effect would be total erasure of traditional agricultural calendar.

    Russian peasants were supposed to start sowing on “Spring” St.Nicolas Day (Никола вешний) which is celebrated on May 9 (May 22 according to Gregorian calendar), so moving to new calendar will result in harvest sown on May 9 and it will be lost to frost quite soon and everyone will starve.

  6. I’m guessing the peasants were not so wedded to tradition that they would starve themselves, however. Are there any records of such a famine?

  7. Russian Orthodox Church kept its old calendar despite Lenin’s decree, so there was no problem.

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