Weird History

Here’s What Happened When The Soviets Changed The Calendar To Get Rid Of Weekends  

Genevieve Carlton
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On September 29, 1929, the USSR had its last Sunday for 11 years. In an effort to boost productivity and eliminate religion, Josef Stalin instituted a new Soviet calendar, known as the Soviet Eternal Calendar. Under the Soviet Union's continuous working week calendar, the USSR eliminated weekends. Instead, workers operated on a five-day week.

Each day, 80% of the workforce showed up to work while 20% stayed home. Workers received a color code corresponding to their day off. Husbands and wives often worked opposite schedules, meaning families lost their shared day of rest. The move was incredibly unpopular, with one letter in Pravda complaining, “What is there for us to do at home if our wives are in the factory, our children at school, and nobody can visit us?”

The five-day week wasn't the first change to the Russian calendar, but it had the greatest impact. The new Soviet Union calendar tore families apart and wiped out religious communities. Yet one group ignored Stalin and continued to follow a Soviet Union calendar with weekends - while still taking off the new state-sponsored revolutionary holidays.

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Stalin Eliminated Weekends To Boost Productivity In 1929

Maximizing productivity was a top agenda item in the USSR, and in 1929, Yuri Larin came up with a revolutionary plan. Instead of closing the factories on Sundays, why not switch to a continuous work week? With machines running every day, the Soviets could surely meet the production goals of Stalin's five-year plan. 

Josef Stalin loved the idea. By August of 1929, the Council of People's Commissars ordered a five-day work week, completely eliminating Saturdays and Sundays. The new calendar went into effect just weeks later.

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The New 'Continuous Work Week' Completely Changed Life For Soviets

Known as the nepreryvka, or "uninterrupted" work week, the new calendar changed life radically in the Soviet Union. Under the new Soviet Eternal Calendar, the USSR divided the year into five-day weeks, with six weeks in each month. The government added five holidays throughout the year to equal 365 days. 

Every Soviet worker clocked in for a four-day shift each week, with one rotating day off. But the plan never considered how the staggered rest days would change life for Soviet workers.

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Workers Used A Color-Coded System To Rotate Days Off

To help workers adjust to the new system, the USSR introduced a color-coded system. Each day came with a color: yellow, peach, red, purple, or green. All the green workers took that day off, while the red workers took off red days.

The Soviet Eternal Calendar also carried new symbols for days of the week, since the Soviets no longer recognized old names like Monday or Tuesday. Instead, a red star and a military cap symbolized different days of the week. 

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Husbands And Wives Often Worked Opposite Schedules, Making It Impossible For Families To Take Time Off Together

When the Soviet Eternal Calendar went into effect, husbands and wives were often given opposite schedules. While one spouse might have first day off, the other might take fifth day off. Under the system, spouses barely shared any days off in a year.

After several months operating on the Soviet Eternal Calendar, the government finally considered granting simultaneous breaks for spouses. Families could petition the government for the same day off, but there was no guarantee of approval.