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FIASCO OF CHERNOBYL PROGRAM

Statements of A. Lukashenko about negative impact that health-improving trips abroad make on the outlook of the Belarusian children as well as his directive to take this field under state control have stirred wide response in Belarus and in those countries of the West whose charity organizations have been taking part in such projects over a long time. Most responses related to the following things. First, the aim that the authorities pursue is country’s further isolation from the outside world. Second, as a form of civil activity, charity, barely compatible with the bureaucracy, cannot stand interference of the state. If this interference does take place, it will bring to the most unfavorable consequences, first of all, for the children from the areas that suffered from the Chernobyl catastrophe. By the way, the president explained his decision with his concern about well-being of these very children. In this regard, we think it reasonable that the Belarusian citizens spoke out in the negative about president’s initiative. (See Table 1).

Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question “A. Lukashenko has recently ordered to take under strict state control health-improving trips of children from contaminated areas on the grounds that children come back after those trips with a changed outlook. What is your opinion of this?”

Variant of answer

%

I support this proposition

20.1

It makes no difference to me

18.3

I don’t support this proposition

52.0

Thus, over half of respondents said they do not support president’s initiative and some 20% spoke out in the opposite. This data can be explained in the following way: 4.5% of Belarusians that is one third of a million people sent their children abroad via Chernobyl programs and over 40% that is 3 million people have acquaintances in such families. (See Table 2).

Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question “Do you know the families whose children went abroad via Chernobyl programs?”

Variant of answer

%

My personal children went via such programs

4.5

I know such families

42.0

I don’t know

53.3

Therefore, attitude of the citizens to the very health-improving programs and to their results are based on either personal experience or information from their acquaintances. Live perception plays a key role here. If a child comes back from Germany or Italy recovered and has found new friends there (as a rule Belarusian and German families that received children establish very close relations), his/her parents don’t care about president’s fears who is afraid that after such trips young Belarusians will never believe the stories that they live in the best country of the world. Real interests of common citizens are more important for them than ideological slogans of the official authorities. Among those citizens whose children traveled abroad via Chernobyl programs, 75.9% don’t support A. Lukashenko’s initiative (14.3% supports). This ratio is 62.8 % vs 20.7% among those citizens who know such families.

When comparing two groups of respondents, i.e. those who agree with state control in the field of health improvement in foreign countries and those who object to this, we have found out that they give absolutely different estimates to the situation in the country as well as its prospects. (See Table 3).

Table 3. Attitude to various socio-economic problems depending on the attitude to A. Lukashenko’s initiative to take under strict state control health-improving trips of children from contaminated areas, %

Variant of answer

Support president’s initiative (20.1)

Don’t support president’s initiative (52.0)

Trust the president

82.4

38.7

Don’t trust the president

10.3

45.5

Satisfaction with democratization in the country:
Totally/rather satisfied

65.0

28.8

Rather/totally dissatisfied

22.7

60.4

Attitude to A. Lukashenko’s life presidency:
Totally/rather positive

64.6

19.6

Rather/totally negative

25.5

70.5

If you knew a competitive opponent to A. Lukashenko, for whom would you vote at the next presidential election?
For A. Lukashenko

11.8

46.3

For such a candidate

50.5

17.1

Attitude to the European Union:
Positive

34.4

56.6

Negative

14.9

8.9

Should Belarus become a member of the European Union?
Yes

32.8

66.4

No

66.2

30.5

Most of those who supported A. Lukashenko’s initiative trust him, almost two thirds of them agree with his life presidency, they are satisfied with the degree of democratization in the country and say that Belarus shouldn’t enter the European Union. On the contrary, most of their opponents don’t trust A. Lukashenko, are not satisfied with democratization in the country, are very negative about his becoming life president, are ready to vote for a competitive presidential contender at the next presidential election and support the idea of country’s accession to the EU.

Basically, there’s nothing surprising in these conclusions. Contacts with the outside world, access to true information about it and the place of Belarus in it directly influences people’s standpoints. In this regards, it is quite obvious why the current authorities press to “close the country” from any outer influence of either West or East. Proliferation of authoritarian regime urges the president to take the measures that would eliminate now the hazards that will jeopardize him in ten or twenty years. These are the children who suffer, yet.

However, the policy of “tightening bolts” has one significant drawback. It remains efficient unless it collides with natural boundaries like in this case the interests of millions of people. Life always wins conflict with ideology. Therefore, the more rigid an ideological framework of the power is, the higher is the probability that the power itself will promote formation of the critical mass of citizens and will eventually fail.