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“BELARUS IS OUR RUSSIA”

The data of the IISEPS September opinion poll of 2010 concerning the geopolitical preferences of Belarusians testify to a slight advantage of pro-European attitudes over the pro-Russian ones. However, there is no complete unambiguousness in the answers, and some trends possess contradictory character (Table 1).

In spite of the tough gas conflict which burst out in June, of the fierce information war between Minsk and Moscow during the last months and criticism of Russia and its leadership heard from the state mass media and the most important rostrums, readiness to integrate with the eastern neighbor (in the wording of the question of Table 1) has even grown a little bit for three months. The growth was insignificant, it only slightly exceeded the coverage error, but at least it did not go down.

Table 1. Dynamics of answering the question “If a referendum on the question of Belarus and Russia integration were being held today, how would you vote?”, %

Variant of answer

12’02

03’03

06’04

11’06

12’07

12’08

03’09

09’09

03’10

06’10

09’10

For integration

53.8

57.5

42.9

46.4

43.6

35.7

33.1

39.1

32.1

29.3

33.1

Against integration

26.3

23.8

25.0

33.5

31.6

38.8

43.2

40.6

44.5

48.6

45.4

Table 2. Dynamics of answering the question: “If a referendum on the question whether Belarus should join the European Union were being held in Belarus now, what choice would you make?”, %

Variant of answer

11’06

12’07

09’08

12’08

03’09

09’09

12’09

03’10

06’10

09’10

For

36.6

37.1

26.7

30.1

34.9

44.1

40.7

36.2

36.4

42.2

Against

36.2

35.0

51.9

40.6

36.3

32.8

34.6

37.2

39.4

32.5

On the other hand, pro-European sympathy has gone up by 6 percentage points for the same three months having almost reached the record level of the previous year.

In Tables 1-2 the question about the geopolitical choice was asked separately about Russia and the European Union. In Table 3 the choice is offered as a dilemma – “either-or”.

Table 3. Dynamics of answering the question: “If you had to choose between integration with Russia and joining the European Union, what choice would you make?”, %

Variant of answer

12’05

06’06

12’07

09’08

12’08

03’09

06’09

09’09

12’09

03’10

06’10

09’10

Integration with the Rossia

51.6

56.5

47.5

54.0

46.0

42.4

42.1

38.3

42.1

41.4

37.7

34.9

Joining the EU

24.8

29.3

33.3

26.2

30.1

35.1

41.4

42.7

42.3

40.4

38.9

41.7

DA/NA

23.6

14.2

19.2

19.8

23.9

22.5

16.5

19.0

15.6

18.2

23.4

23.4

Under such choice Russia yields to Europe. During the second poll in succession the historic “Russian minimum” – the lowest index of disposition towards integration with Russia for many years of observation – is being registered in this question. A quite large share of those who altogether reject the choice between closer relations either with Russia or with the EU also pays attention to itself in Table 3. It can be supposed that this group has been replenished mainly at the expense of the disappointed supporters of integration with Russia.

The data of Table 4 describe the relations between the geopolitical choice (expressed in Table 3) and other characteristics.

Table 4. Connection of the geopolitical choice with socio-demographic characteristics and political preferences, %

Variant of answer

“If you had to choose between integration with Russia and joining the European Union, what choice would you make?”

Integration with Russia

Joining the EU

DA/NA

Is the state of affairs developing as a whole in the right or in the wrong direction in our country, in your opinion?
In the right direction

46.8

27.1

26.1

In the wrong direction

21.7

63.1

15.2

Do you trust the president?
I do

45.8

27.3

26.9

I do not

21.7

59.1

19.2

If tomorrow presidential elections were being held, whom would you vote for?
A. Lukashenko (39.0)

51.3

21.8

26.9

А. Milinkevich(6.2)

12.6

75.8

11.6

S. Sidorsky (4.4)

25.8

36.4

37.8

A. Kozulin (4.2)

23.4

70.3

6.3

S. Gaidukevich (2.3)

29.7

45.9

24.4

Z. Poznyak (1.2)

10.5

84.2

5.3

V. Neklyaev (1.1)

12.5

87.5

0

If you are familiar with the contents of the movies “The Godfather”, “The Godfather-2” and “The Godfather-3”, what is your opinion about them?
It is not true

49.2

20.0

30.8

It is mainly not true

29.1

42.7

28.2

It is mainly the truth

21.6

57.8

20.6

It is the truth

16.2

76.6

7.2

Voting at the referendum on Belarus joining the EU:
For

22.7

71.7

5.6

Against

55.4

22.2

22.4

Voting at the referendum on integrating with Russia:
For

67.1

25.1

7.8

Against

17.9

63.5

18.6

Gender:
Male

29.4

48.3

22.3

Female

39.7

36.1

24.2

Age:
18-30

22.8

57.6

19.6

31-59

32.7

45.0

22.3

60 and over

50.9

20.0

29.1

Education:
Primary

48.4

15.6

36.1

Incomplete secondary

53.2

20.5

26.3

Secondary

32.1

43.5

24.4

Vocational

33.8

46.1

20.1

Higher

26.3

52.5

21.2

As it can be seen, the link with demographic characteristics is strong and traditional: older respondents with a lower level of education and women are more inclined to give preference to integration with Russia; well-educated respondents, young people and men – to the membership of Belarus in the EU. The demographic groups which are more inclined to integration with Russia are simultaneously more disposed towards abstaining from choosing between the two geopolitical “magnets”.

The European choice is slightly more inherently harmonized and depends less on the wording of the question: 71.1% of those who had chosen the EU in the question of Table 1 remained faithful to it answering the dichotomic question of Table 3 as well. At the same time, 67.1% of those who had declared for integration with Russia answering the question of Table 1 gave the same answer to the question of Table 3.

Distribution of geopolitical choices depending on the attitude to the contents of the NTV movies “The Godfather” is extremely interesting. This rather critical towards president A. Lukashenko series shot and shown by the Russian TV company represented, in the opinion of some people, an information attack of the Russian Federation leadership against their Belarusian colleague. It is striking, however, that there is an utterly linear and quite strong connection – respondents inclined to trust the contents of the Russian series turned out to be more inclined to the geopolitical choice not in favor of the country where it had been created, but in favor of Europe. Among them there is also the smallest share of those who refused to make a choice either in favor of Russia or Europe.

As for the attitude to politicians, a strong link can be observed here, too: supporters of the incumbent president are disposed to integration with Russia, and his opponents as well as supporters of other politicians (including Prime Minister S. Sidorsky and V. Neklyaev who demonstrates his pro-Russian sympathy) – towards membership of Belarus in the EU.

This result looks rather odd against the background of the ongoing informational war between the officials of Minsk and Moscow. One might be tempted to explain the fact by inertness of the public consciousness: A. Lukashenko has been associated in it with Russia for many years, and people do not simply realize, somehow do not notice the present conflicts and Moscow attacks upon him, as well as his actions.

However, a different and more structured explanation can be suggested in this case. In 2003 leader of the Conservative Christian Party BPF Z. Poznyak wrote in his article “Belarus – Eastern Europe”: “Nothing good is expecting us in modern liberal western Europe. We are strangers there, just as we are in Russia. We are a different type of Europeans, as we have not lost our soul. Belarus is our Europe” (http://www.bielarus.net/archives/2003/12/14/63).

It seems president A. Lukashenko (and a considerable part of his adherents) could suggest a symmetrical wording: “Belarus is our Russia“. In a sense, these people display their sympathy exactly to this ideal Russia personified, according to them, in their motherland. And the real RF which is located to the east of Orsha… well, what does it have to do with all this? There are oligarchs, real mess and terrorism there; they drink hard one and all. They are not complete strangers, of course; however, they are by no means an ideal, an example or an advisor, either.

When interpreted this way, the paradox becomes not a consequence of inertness, but a rather logical result: supporters of Belarus in the form of “our Russia” perceive many actions of real Russia worse than those for whom Belarus is not ideal Russia and is not Russia at all.

In conclusion let us talk about the dynamics of A. Lukashenko’s rating for the last quarter. In the open-ended question “Whom would you vote for at the presidential elections?” a slight, but significant decrease in the share of those who answering this question wrote in the name of A. Lukashenko has been registered from June till September – from 45.6% to 39%. We shall analyze, what the geopolitical orientation of the groups at the expense of which the decrease has occurred is (Table 5).

Table 5. A. Lukashenko’s rating and the geopolitical choice

Variant of answer

06’10

09’10

Ready to vote for A. Lukashenko

45.6

39.0

Supporters of integration with the RF ready to vote for A. Lukashenko (the absolute percent)*

24.5

20.0

Supporters of Belarus joining the EU ready to vote for A. Lukashenko (the absolute percent)

9.5

8.5

An uncertain choice between the RF and the EU and ready to vote for A. Lukashenko (the absolute percent)

11.6

10.5

* The sum of values of the last three lines in each column gives the value of the first line

As it follows from the table, supporters of integration with Russia constitute over a half of the president’s supporters. It is also obvious that A. Lukashenko incurred the most considerable losses exactly among the adherents of integration with Russia: he lost 4 percentage points among them, whereas among pro-Europeans and among those who did not make their geopolitical choice – one percentage point respectively.

It should, however, be reminded, that the share of adherents of integration with Russia has decreased during the quarter (Table 3). At what expense then did the loss occur – at the expense of the decrease in the share or under different reasons? In June the share of A. Lukashenko’s supporters among “Belo-Russians” amounted to 64.9% (24.5 : 37.7), and in September – 57.3% (20.0 : 34.9). Thus, a reduction of the president’s rating among “Belo-Russians” was conditioned by the evident influence of both factors – by a decrease in the share of “Belo-Russians” among all respondents, as well as by a decrease in the share of A. Lukashenko’s supporters among “Belo-Russians”.