Russia cheerfully refutes Y2K anarchy predictions

US State Department sneers

Opinions vary on the question of whether Russia is to be plunged into darkness and chaos on 1 January as its computer clocks roll over to double zeroes.

Russian officials have made light of the problem recently, announcing publicly, and most courageously, that they "have solved the Y2K problem."

Meanwhile, a pessimistic US State Department has issued a travel advisory discouraging Americans from tramping about Russia during the periods immediately preceding and following the rollover. That certainly means no drunken revelry in Red Square on New Year's Eve, and thus a bit of a blow to the Russian tourist industry.

The Department has also released all non-essential workers from obligation to remain in country during the crucial period. The truth undoubtedly lies between the two extremes. It is rather difficult to picture the lights going out all over the country in a single stroke, accompanied by the widespread meltdowns of nuclear reactors and accidental launches of atomic weapons.

It is equally difficult to believe that a country as overconfident as Russia has proven herself to be time and again is likely to get through the rollover without a hitch. The question is which end of the scale the truth will favour. Certainly anyone up for a gamble is sure to have a surprise in Moscow on 1 January. Whether a pleasant one or not, we wouldn't dare say. ®

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