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UKRAINIAN REVOLUTION IN THE MIRROR OF PUBLIC OPINION IN BELARUS

Ukrainian revolution, months-long Euromaydan and the overthrow of president V. Yanukovich significantly influenced Belarusian politics. However, these events influenced Belarusian public opinion as well. During March survey respondents were asked a wide range of question concerning different aspects of their opinion on dramatic events in the neighboring country. Further we are going to comment on the results of this survey using also the results of earlier surveys. You should note as well, that questions on the events after V. Yanukovich’s deserting (particularly on annexation of Crimea and troubles in the East of Ukraine) were not included in March poll.
Overwhelming majority of Belarusians was following the events in the Southern neighbor with great attention (Table 1). Not many events in the internal social life of the country receive such attention.

 

With hindsight sympathies to opposing parties were divided almost equally in March poll with a little domination in favor of Euromaydan, while the majority of respondents expressed neutral attitude (Table 2).

 

As you can see, Table 2 contradicts popular version that attitude to Ukrainian revolution in Belarus was completely formed under the influence of Russian and Belarusian state mass media. The idea that V. Yanukovich was right and Maydan was maleficent was particularly supported by Russian mass media which tried to engraft this idea in the minds of their audience. The results of the survey don’t testify of high efficiency of this efforts, at least in Belarus.
However, there is another explanation. By the time of the survey V. Yanukovich had already spilled blood and, what is probably even more important, by that time he had already lost, moreover, according to many people, including many of his former supporters, had lost shamefully. This attitude could be projected in the past in the minds of respondents, thus decreasing the number of answers in favor of V. Yanukovich. Belarusians do not quite sympathize to losers.
In the previous IISEPS survey a question somewhat contrary to the question of Table 2 was asked (Table 3).

 

As you can see, at that time it was opposition who was the leader of responsible parties, though the second place was occupied by the government. In March, as it can be seen from Table 2, evaluations of public opinion were swapped.
Let’s get back to the results of March poll. It should be noted that, according to the evaluations of Belarusian public opinion, Russian mass media didn’t succeeded in their propaganda of conspiracy theory that all the events in Ukraine were inspired from outside (Table 4). Though it should be noted as well that A. Lukashenko, even during the last phase of Maydan and after the victory of revolution, spoke about objective reasons for it, about economic collapse and corruption which led Ukrainians to the protests. Version of the head of state, repeated many times, could have influenced the evaluations of people. If we compare the evaluations of the “orange revolution” to present results, we may note that 9 years ago public opinion was more inclined to the conspirological version. But then A. Lukashenko didn’t spoke about objective reasons for Maydan.

 

However, evaluations of reasons and even process is one thing, and evaluations of the results is quite another. If there was certain parity in the evaluations of opposing sides as it was shown above, the overthrow of V. Yanukovich was evaluated negatively by the majority of respondents (Table 5).

 

The answers to the politico-philosophical question, which substance is wider than the events in Ukraine, are quire revealing (Table 6).

 

Situation in Belarus is quiet, so the answers were given somewhat abstractedly. Probably, if there was a conflict, the results would be different. Still the crashing domination of those who think that better future is not worth the blood is quite revealing.
Answers to the question of Table 6 match the answers to a more practical question about acceptable actions of people or to some extent about the notorious “right of revolution” (Table 7).

 

As you can see, 14.1% of those who think that better future is worth the blood and 15.6% of those who recognize the right of revolution – is the approximate evolution of (quite hypothetical) radical potential in Belarusian society. This mindset against violence probably influenced the answers to the questions on different projections of Ukrainian revolution into the future of Belarus (Table 8).

 

Conspicuous is the fact that the share of respondents who wish Ukrainian events to be repeated in Belarus with all its excesses is lower than the share of those who gave radical answers in two previous questions. Transition to practice, as we may see, abates radicalism. The overall number of supporters of “Ploshcha” (Belarusian Maydan) is nearly the same as the number of opposition electorate in general. However it should be noted that there were almost no indifferent answers and the number of opponents of Maydan in Belarus is significantly higher than the number of those who are ready to vote for A. Lukashenko (39.8%).
But if Euromaydan happens in Belarus, then quite a big number of respondents are ready to participate in it (at least at the assertion level). It’s interesting that this number is almost equal to the radical potential fixed above (Table 9).

 

In other words it’s possible to presume that people who are ready to participate in Belarusian “Ploshcha” are people who are ready not only for the peaceful way of political opposition. But deeper analysis doesn’t confirm this presumption (Table 10).
Table 10. Relation between the readiness to participate in protests and answers to the question if better future is worth of people’s blood and the question about acceptable methods of changing the power, %
Variant of answer
If similar events would have happened today in Belarus, would you participate in them?
Yes, on the side of Belarusian “Maydan”
Yes, on the side of power
No
Which opinion do you agree to most of all?
If people are dissatisfied with the regime, they can change it only by means of elections
13.8
46.6
42.3
If people are dissatisfied with the regime, they can change it by means of elections and protestations, but only peaceful ones
43.1
41.0
41.1
If people are dissatisfied with the regime, they can change it by all means
39.7
5.0
11.8
Is a better future worth of people’s blood?
Yes
44.4
8.1
8.2
No
38.8
89.4
86.0
As you can see only 40% of respondents who declared readiness to participate in a Belarusian Maydan declare radical views.
At the same time very few respondents consider possible such course of events in Belarus. In Table 11 we compare the results of March 2014 survey to the results of March 2005 survey.

 

After the first “velvet” Maydan the share of those who considered possible its repetition in Belarus was almost twice as high as the share of those who consider possible repetition of Euromaydan 2013-2014. So about 13% of respondent’s don’t share A. Lukashenko’s opinion that Maydan in Belarus is impossible. If we extrapolate this figure on all adult population of the country, we get almost 880 thousand of people, and not 400 “hoodlums”, whom Presidents knows personally according to his own words. But it’s not a majority.
As for the post-Maydan future of Ukraine, a relative majority of respondents predicted a positive scenario (Table 12). Though there was no lack of negative predictions.

 

In fine it should be said that Belarusians’ attitude to Ukrainian revolution is quite contradictory, while the attitude to bloodletting and its consequences is rather negative. Bloodless solution approach to political conflicts is an imperative for the overwhelming majority of Belarusian citizens. This approach is also supported by the majority of those who are ready to participate in Belarusian protests; they think that blood is a wrong price for better future.
Table 13. Relation of evaluations of certain aspects of Ukrainian revolution to socio-demographic characteristics and political preferences, %
Characteristics
Which side had your sympathies in the Ukrainian conflict?
President of Ukraine Victor Yanukovich was overthrown from the power. How do you evaluate this course of events?
Is a better future worth of people’s blood?
Power and president Yanukovich
Opposition, Euromaydan
It’s an uprising and a power grab
It’s a just retribution for bloodletting
Yes
No
Age:
18-29
6.1
30.3
42.8
33.9
17.0
72.0
30-59
14.4
20.9
56.0
26.9
15.2
76.1
60 +
29.9
12.0
63.5
23.1
8.8
87.7
Education:
Primary
28.0
12.9
68.5
21.7
6.5
93.5
Incomplete secondary
34.0
9.8
62.7
20.3
14.4
77.8
Secondary
13.5
21.2
50.5
29.5
15.5
77.3
Vocational
13.5
24.5
54.3
30.7
15.7
74.0
Higher
11.3
24.0
54.6
25.6
11.3
79.9
Usage of Internet
Everyday
10.3
28.9
45.7
34.0
17.0
73.0
Trust to the President
Trust
27.2
9.9
68.2
19.7
8.1
87.1
Don’t trust
6.2
34.5
41.2
38.2
21.9
68.3
* The table is read across

In conclusion we specify data describing the relation of evaluations of certain aspects of Ukrainian revolution to socio-demographic characteristics and political preferences (Table 13).