«

»

WHO BELIEVE IN INDEPENDENT STATEHOOD OF BELARUS?

They use to install billboards in Belarusian cities promoting national prosperity where Belarusians of all ages (from babies to gray-haired veterans) are portrayed at the background of a short and eye-catching slogan “For Belarus!” rather than billboards with toothpastes and bright packages with detergents. This is not surprising. Despite globalization, the national axis remains a central axis in the beginning of XXI century and the most pressing problems in any society are concentrated around it. The power is aware of this and this is why it lashes out on advertising. Speaking on the results of the past five years at the third All-Belarusian Popular Assembly, A. Lukashenko deliberately opened his speech with the following words: “For the first time in its history our people have built a sovereign country which is the Republic of Belarus. Nowadays our sovereignty is a real factor of world politics, the factor which cannot be neglected. We managed to make this country not only sovereign but economically independent which is by far more difficult.”

Yet, an official statement from the platform is one thing and comprehension of the vague concept like national sovereignty by the majority of citizens is quite another. Let’s have a look at the data of the nation opinion poll conducted in late October of 2006 (See Table 1). We shall make a small remark before we start. In the line with other questions respondents were asked the question “Some people place themselves among supporters of the current power and other – among its opponents. In what group do you place yourself?” According to the answers we received, supporters of authorities make 47.8% and opponents of authorities – 15.5%. Another 26.2% said they never thought about this and it doesn’t matter to them, and 7.4% found it difficult to answer.

Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question: “Has Belarus become a really independent state over the past 15 years?”, %

Variant of answer

All population

Supporters of authorities

Opponents of authorities

Indifferent to politics

Yes, it has

68.8

86.9

44.3

59.7

No, it hasn’t

20.5

6.6

44.4

24.7

DA/NA

10.7

6.5

11.3

15.6

Thus, those respondents who answered in the positive to the above question are threefold more than those who don’t agree with such a conclusion. We will give proper assessment to this result if compare it with the data of the opinion poll conducted by the All-Union Centre for Public Opinion Research in spring of 1991 yet before the collapse of the USSR. Fifteen year ago, 69% of ethnic Belarusians considered themselves in the first place the citizens of the USSR and only 24% – the citizens of the BSSR. Of course, the public mentality has undergone deep changes over the years of independence, but splitting of opinion poll results into opinions of supporters and opponents of authorities as well as of those indifferent to politics will help us extract additional information for analysis.

As it goes from Table 1, Belarusian statehood did take place for supporters of authorities, first of all. This is their government, and they trust it and support most of its decisions. Cabinet and statehood are indivisible in Belarus. In fact, Cabinet is the only agent of politics in this country. At least it claims for this. Concerned in the formation of national identity, it at the same time intensively fights against any civil initiatives it doesn’t control. Those who dare to propagate their personal views of Belarusian nation formation and in particular those who take some steps in this direction are labeled with a ‘nationalist’ label. In accordance with the official version, these are exactly the nationalists who broke the great country by cutting apart the fraternal peoples. That’s them who ruined the economy and took the majority of their fellow citizens to poverty.

The state in Belarus was formed before the national identity developed and this is why it took the initiative and strives to unite the customer, the architect, the foreman and even the skilled bricklayer in one person at the major Belarusian construction site. All others are given the role of unskilled workers bringing bricks and taking out bags with construction waste.

However, as it goes from Table 1, such distribution of rights and duties doesn’t suit everyone in the country. The percentage of those who don’t believe in independence of the Belarusian statehood built with such a technology is six-fold higher among opponents of authorities as compared to supporters of authorities.

Is there any connection between recognition/non-recognition of independent statehood with people’s personal benefit? A third of the polled found it difficult to answer the question. (See Table 2). Usually, this is a very seldom variant of answer (please compare it with the same column in Table 1). However, it shows some positive aspect in this particular case. Independent statehood itself is value for many citizens and it is not related directly to personal benefit or loss.

Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question: “Have you personally benefited or lost from that Belarus has become an independent country?”, %

Variant of answer

All population

Supporters of authorities

Opponents of authorities

Indifferent to politics

Benefited

49.8

62.8

39.9

37.5

Lost

15.6

12.7

21.3

16.7

DA/NA

34.6

23.9

36.3

44.3

Data in Table 3 well illustrate no connection between per capita income in a family and the percentage of respondents who feel any personal benefit/loss from the formation of independent Belarusian state. It should be noted that such unanimity is not often registered in Belarusian opinion polls. The well-know Marxist statement that social being determines consciousness doesn’t work all the time and this gives us optimism.

Table 3. Distribution of answers to the question: “Have you personally benefited or lost from that Belarus has become an independent country?” depending on the average per capita income in the family, %

Variant of answer

Below 170,000 BYR

170,000-260,000 BYR

260,000-500,000 BYR

Over 500,000 BYR

Benefited

49.1

50.5

50.0

48.4

Lost

19.2

16.1

13.3

17.0

DA/NA

31.7

33.4

36.7

34.6

This conclusion is indirectly proved in the results of the opinion polls conducted in December of 2003 and in August of 2006. Thus, answering to the question “What is more important for you, improvement of economic situation in Belarus or country’s independence?” in 2003, 62% of the polled chose improvement of economic situation which is much more than the number of those who chose independence (25%). Three years after, the number of no-nonsense men has gone down considerably (48.5%) while supporters of independence have grown to 41.9%.

Of course, all’s not that simple. Real wages and pensions in Belarus have risen over this period. Economic problems moved to the background for the majority of citizens. It is now time to think about the problems of other level. Why can’t the rich understand the poor? This is not because the rich have fewer problems but because these are the problems of a different level.

Belarusian nation will prove to exist if the majority of citizens have a national idea in their hearts and minds. In any country the government does participate in the formation of this idea. There’s nothing bad about this. It is bad when the state strives to become the only player on the national field. One player can move in his/her personal interests only. Comparing official national ideas of authoritarian states, one may see that they all are the same and focus on consolidation of people around the figure of the president (“father”, monarch, emir, ayatola, etc.)

Solidarity of people is a compulsory condition here. This is why in his curriculum article “Once Again about Ideology” A. Rubinov, First Deputy Head of Presidential Administration, singled out this condition as basic: “developing the idea of the Belarusian nation as a single solidarity within the sovereign Belarusian state.”

This is very simple. Unified people should have one common interest, which it will entrust to express to the nation-chosen man. This expounds for the incredible voting results for A. Lukashenko and the figures which only grow as the date of election goes more and more in the past. Thus, the level of support to the president he himself announced in March in Havana was 95%. Who will dare to say that this is his limit?!

In real life, there is no consensus on interests including national. They are peculiar for every social group and they tend to change as the time goes. Also, there doesn’t exist any final solution to the national problem. Nationalism is the environment which is changing constantly. The problems which seemed already settled may arise again as well as new ones may emerge, and they have no final solution.