According to the results of March 2014 IISEPS survey we had noted a significant growth of pro-Russian moods in the country. After the past quarter, according to the results of June survey, level of those moods went down, though not notably. In March survey, in a choice between integration with Russia and joining the EU, Russian vector was chosen by 51.5% of respondents, while 32.9% preferred Europe. In June 46.9% of respondents answered in favor of integration with the RF and 33.1% – in favor of Europe.

As we’ve noted in March, strengthening of pro-Russian moods was the direct consequence of Belarusians’ reaction to dramatic events in Ukraine. June survey adds several important arguments in favor of this version.
In March only 27.7% of respondents considered President V. Yanukovich’s overthrow as “a just retribution for bloodletting”, while 54.7% of them called it “an uprising and a power grab”. Over the past quarter the share of negative answers only increased (Table 1).


Distribution of evaluations of the annexation of Crimea by Russia and of riots in the south-east of Ukraine has almost the same proportion (two thirds vs. one fourth) (Tables 2 and 3).



As you can see, evaluating these events majority of respondents answered in favor of Russian interpretation.
However, there are some nuances. The proportion of evaluations changes slightly in favor of the Ukrainian side, when respondents had to answer more specific questions on armed clashes in Donbass and choose between strict definitions of conflict participants. However, the ratio is still in favor of the Russian interpretation of events (Tables 4-6).




General evaluation of Russian part turns out to be even more careful (Table 7).


In this question the share of those who think that Russia influences Ukraine positively is almost the same as the share of supporters of integration with the RF.
Thus the hypothesis that there is a connection between the growths of pro-Russian moods and the events in Ukraine seems to be well-grounded. This growth is caused by the fact that many Belarusians consider Russia’s actions right and just. At the same time acuteness of the conflict in the neighboring country reinforces the readiness to make a choice. This reinforcement is not simple, however; there is no direct projection, as the share of those who believe in the Russian interpretation of Ukrainian conflict is notably higher than the share of those who are ready for the integration with Russia. But even a partial realization of the potential of solidarity leads to the growth of number of “Belo-Russians”.
Presidential elections, which were held in Ukraine on the 25th of May, and the convincing victory of P. Poroshenko in the first round, had a significant influence. But this didn’t influence Belarusians’ evaluations. The new leader of the neighboring country is evaluated quite low (Table 8).


There are twice as much of negative evaluations as of positive ones. Indifferent attitude is prevailing. The share of those who don’t consider P. Poroshenko legitimate is quite high.
Respondents’ ideas about settling crisis in Ukraine are quite revealing as well (Table 9).


First three solutions, that are the most popular ones, are exactly what Moscow desires Kiev to do. Quite revealing is the fact that the first place is occupied by the disarmament of paramilitary units born on Maidan. From our viewpoint this is a clear reflection of Belarusians’ ideas on state and revolution. They do not swear it off, but they prefer that revolution, if it happened already, quickly ate up its children and changed to order.
This thirst for order is also expressed in comparatively low shares of supporters of extreme solutions: neutralization of riots and division of Ukraine, i.e. a complete defeat of one of the sides. This can be achieved only via a big mess and it would be a big mess itself, and Belarusians do not like this.
To what extent are the above evaluations conditioned by the informational influence of Belarusian and Russian mass media? According to the survey, majority of Belarusians regularly (32.6%) or sometimes (53.8%) watch Russian news programs. Do they believe in what they see?


To a certain extent almost 52% of respondents consider the information received from Russian TV-channels objective (Table 10). It is somewhat less than the share of those who completely share the official Russian viewpoint on the Ukrainian conflict. So the influence of Russian TV-channels is high, but not everyone who shares Russian viewpoint does it under the influence of Russian propaganda.
Belarusian and Russian TV are the main sources of information on the events in Ukraine for Belarusians (Table 11).


It should be noted, that if there is certain parity between Belarusian and Russian TV, there is a clear prevalence of Russian web-sites over Belarusian ones. The contents of Russian sites is, however, not as one-sided as the contents of Russian TV-programs. Also Belarusian and Ukrainian web-sites in total prevail over Russian ones.
To what extent does the trust to informational sources, used by respondents, define their attitude to Ukrainian events? The answer to this question is in Table 12.
Table 12. Connection between informational behavior and attitude to Ukrainian events*, %
Variant of answer
“How do you evaluate the annexation of Crimea by Russia?”
“How do you evaluate the events that happened in the East of Ukraine, in Donetsk and Lugansk regions, in the first place?”
It’s an imperialistic usurpation and occupation
It’s a restitution of Russian lands and reestablishment of historical justice
It’s a people’s protest against the non-legitimate power
It’s a rebellion, organized by Russia
Do you watch Russian TV-news?
Yes, regularly
No, I don’t
How objective are the news in Russian news programs?
Completely/mostly objective
Completely/mostly biased
What were your sources of information on the events in Ukraine?
Belarusian TV
Belarusian state newspapers
Belarusian non-state newspapers
Russian TV
Belarusian web-sites
Russian web-sites
Ukrainian web-sites
* Table is read across
There is a hypothesis about the almighty propaganda. According to it Belarusians’ evaluations of Ukrainian crisis are defined only by this propaganda. Table 12 shows that this hypothesis is true only partially. Indeed, the level of support of Russian position is significantly higher among those who regularly watch Russian TV. Still, even the majority of those, who don’t watch Russian TV at all, consider Crimea annexation lawful.
It appears that people’s mindsets are as important as informational influence. Among those, who don’t trust Russian TV, who consider it biased (but still watch it sometimes), the share of those who evaluate negatively the Crimea annexation is not lower, but higher, than among those, who don’t watch Russian TV at all. One can watch it, consume information, but still make conclusions different from those suggested by D. Kiselev and his colleagues. So Russian TV is influential, but not almighty. TV forms opinions, but people choose mass media which will form their opinions, and they choose it depending on their mindsets. And their mindsets are often immune to mass media influence.
The differences between evaluations of events in Crimea and Donbass are quite notable too. Diligent consumers of Russian TV-products are less unanimous about Moscow’s position regarding Crimea than regarding Donbass. Probably, the reason is following: in June, when the survey was conducted, the focus of interest of Russian TV was on events in the East of Ukraine. “Crimea is ours” was also mentioned, but informational influence was much lower, accordingly its support was lower as well.
Among those, who turned out to be immune to Russian propaganda, the evaluations are different in another way: majority of those who don’t watch Russian TV at all, support Russia in regard to Crimea and do not support it in regard to Donbass. For majority of those, who watch Russian TV, but consider it biased, those results are inversed.
These positions seem to be contradictory from the viewpoint of consistent political discourses of both Moscow and Kiev. Still, these contradictions are another argument in favor of the theory that people are not puppets directed by mass media.
Analysis of connection between information sources and evaluations demonstrates some interesting things. It seems that the most powerful repeater of the Russian position is not Russian TV, but Belarusian state newspapers. An additional disproof of the hypothesis on almighty Russian mass media is the evaluations of those who use Belarusian independent mass media and web-sites as a primary source of information. Majority of them support Moscow position in regard to both Crimea and Donetsk. This majority is not as convincing as the majority of those who consume information of Belarusian TV, Russian TV and Belarusian state newspapers, but still it are a majority. This can hardly be explained by propaganda influence, because we are talking about people who use sources of information that are at least not unanimously supporting Russian position.
As you can see, the balance of evaluations is different only among those people who use Ukrainian web-sites as their source of information.
So the primary mindset of people and their choice in favor of certain sources of information is probably even a more important factor, than the direct informational influence.