December 2013 opinion poll shows that Belarusians’ geopolitical preferences once again had a swing away from Russia. A new historic minimum is recorded in the answers to the question about voting on a hypothetical referendum about integration of Belarus and Russia (Table 1).


At the same time the decrease of pro-Russian moods didn’t lead to an increase of pro-European moods. This is not the first time that it happens like this. A direct question about the attitude towards joining the European Union showed a decrease of the share of “Euro-Belarusians” as well (Table 2).


However, a certain increase of pro-European moods was documented in the answers to a question with a dichotomous choice between integration with Russia or the EU, while there was no significant change of pro-Russian moods (Table 3).


The “potash conflict” was one of the most important topics in Belarusian-Russian relations, and its brightest manifestation was the arrest and imprisonment of Uralkali CEO V. Baumgertner (Table 4).


The share of those who approved the arrest of the Russian businessman equals almost to a half of respondents, and it is 1.5-fold higher than the share of those who found the arrest unfair (Table 5). As for the conflict itself, much more of respondents lay the blame on Moscow than on Minsk, and this is exactly as it happened before more than once. Although, a relative majority thinks that both parts are guilty.


The attitude of respondents towards the “potash conflict” is related to their geopolitical preferences in a quite counterintuitive way (Table 6). As it has already happened in IISEPS surveys more than once, it’s not the adherents of the integration with Russia but their geopolitical opponents who are ready to take the part of Russia (see, for example, Table 2).
Table 6. Connection between geopolitical choice and evaluations of various aspects of the “potash conflict”, %
Variant of answer
If you had to choose between integration with Russia and joining the European Union, what choice would you make?
Integration with the RF
Joining the EU
Attitude to the arrest of V. Baumgertner:
It’s a fair, legal measure
It’s an unfair, illegal measure
Who’s to blame in the “potash conflict”?
Belarusian part
Russian part
Both parts are equally guilty
What calls attention is the ten-fold (!) spread between the shares of those who lay the blame for the conflict on the Belarusian side in the groups of adherents of Euro-integration and of those who preferred to elude the geopolitical choice.
The ethnic conflict in the Moscow district Biryulevo is one of the most important events of the social life of Russia over the past few months. It doesn’t affect Belarusian-Russian relations directly, but we can discuss its projection on Belarus in two ways (Table 7). Firstly, the deepening of integration with Russia may lead to similar conflicts in Belarus. Secondly, there is an inner potential of similar conflicts in Belarus. Almost 40% of respondents leave open the possibility of repetition of Biryulevo in their country.


If we take into account this quite high level of apprehensions of ethnic conflicts, the reaction of respondents on the generous invitation of A. Lukashenko to Russians is not surprising: “We need not 10, but 20 million people. We can easily nourish them. If a Russian person from any region wants to move to Belarus, you’re welcome, we will only greet this”.
It’s hard to say if the invitation was sincere, but a considerable part of Belarusians is not ready to welcome a massive arrival of Russians to Belarus (Table 8).


The connection of the two latter subjects to the geopolitical choice is quite natural: the supporters of the European way more than others apprehend the ethnic conflicts and negatively regard the invitation to Russians (Table 9). However there is a certain paradox to it. Modern Europe rests on the openness to “others”, but “Euro-Belarusians” are not so open to the “others” from the East.
Table 9. Connection between geopolitical choice, evaluation of the possibility of repetition of Biryulevo in Belarus and attitude towards the invitation to Russians, %
Variant of answer
If you had to choose between integration with Russia and joining the European Union, what choice would you make?
Integration with the RF
Integration with the RF
Integration with the RF
Recently there were ethnic clashes between Russians and Caucasians in the Moscow district Biryulevo. How do you think, are similar events possible in Belarus?
It’s inevitable
It’s mostly probable
It’s possible, but hardly probable
No, it’s impossible
How do you regard the invitation to Russian people to come to Belarus for a permanent residence?
Positively: Belarus needs working hands
Negatively: there shouldn’t be a lot of strangers
It doesn’t matter to me
The idea of Belarus joining the EU is supported by 35-45% of respondents, as follows from Table 2 and 3. But certain forms of Euro-integration are approved by a bigger share of respondents, constituting an absolute majority (Table 10).


40% of respondents in one way or another don’t support the initiative of cancelling entrance visas for the EU. This fact denies the popular belief that all Belarusians without exceptions are dying to at least visit Europe. A proper, self-sufficient world, ending on the Bug river, is more than enough for many of them. But what calls attention is the fact that only an insignificant part of Belarusians feel a harsh, probably ideologically charged, rejection of the idea. The majority of those who don’t need Europe are just indifferent to it.
The Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius turned out to be somewhat of a watershed: Georgia and Moldova made a solid step towards the integration with the EU, Euro-integration became a subject of a harsh political conflict in Ukraine, Armenia, for safety reasons above all, opted for the Eurasian integration, Azerbaijan made an official statement on the undesirability of the advanced forms of cooperation with the EU.
Belarus had never been an excellent “student” within the partnership. After the presidential election of 2010 Minsk-Brussels relations were in fact suspended. But a relative majority of respondents does not consider this normal and desirable, and this is documented in the survey (Table 11).


Answering the question of Table 11 respondents spoke not only in favor of rapprochement between Belarus and the EU (this can be achieved due to the Europe’s concessions, and this is what A. Lukashenko is for) but in favor of changes in the Belarusian policy, which would make this rapprochement possible.
In Table 11 the question is only about an abstract idea of rapprochement and doesn’t mention specific forms like association. This form became a reason for a political “storm” in Ukraine. But the results of the survey don’t mean that the unwillingness of official Minsk to change its policy and to approach Europe will cause a Belarusian Euromaidan. However these results show that a major part of the society will appreciate the decision of power to change its policy.
Probably not all Belarusians are convinced Europeans, but there not so many of conceptual Eurasians, firm in their beliefs, among them.