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    MOSCOW, October 30 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is switching back to the `winter time` in the small hours of Sunday, October 31, the Federal Agency for Metrology and Technical Regulation reports.

    "The `summer time` period comes to a close on October 31, 2004. Accordingly, all clocks are to be put one hour back across the Russian Federation at 3 a. m. (local time) on October 31, 2004," says a statement released by the Agency.

    More than 110 countries across the world resort to the practice of switching to `a summer time mode` every spring. It was Great Britain that pioneered the practice as early as 1908. Many other countries followed suit afterwards. Russia first introduced the switchover to "summer time" in 1917. The practice, however, was subsequently abandoned to be reintroduced only in 1981.

    In 1996 the UN European Economic Commission recommended that the `summer time` mode should last until the last Sunday of October. The European countries consider an annual switchover to `summer time` as economically advisable and medically safe.

    In Russia, a switchover to the `summer time` mode allows the country to annually save about two billion kilowatt-hours of electric power and nearly 1.5 million tons of coal used for power generation. Moreover, the switchover results in a substantial decrease (about 50,000 tons) of hazardous substances polluting the atmosphere through coal-burning practices and lead to a tangible (about 400 tons) decrease in the amount of soil-contaminating industrial wastes.

    The switchover to `summer time` yields the most economic benefit in terms of energy costs and consumption. But even when Europe reverts to the `winter time` mode the positive economic effect continues to make itself felt, albeit on a lesser scale.

    The debates over the expediency of the `summer time` switchover caused a temporary suspension of the practice in Russia in 1991.

    "The departure from the `summer time` mode, however, entailed a significant rise in power plants' loads due to a sharply increased power consumption in the country. By the end of the year, the energy situation grew so serious that on January 19, 1992 the Government had to revoke its earlier decree on abolition of the annual `summer time` switchover in the country," Alexander Bondarenko, the chief traffic supervisor of the Unified Energy System's Main Traffic Control Office, told RIA Novosti.

    In turn, medics finally ascertained that an annual switchover to the `summer time` mode and back is not hazardous to human health.

    "Extensive research has proved that the human biological clock ticks off on a 25-hour basis, revealing that we are always short of one hour. Bearing this in mind, the annual one-hour switch to `summer time` and back causes practically no inconvenience for humans," Viktor Zotov, a biorhythm researcher, says.

    At the same time, medics acknowledge that individual reaction to regular one-hour switchovers can vary on a large scale.