A great part of the Belarusian elite still talks about the threat of losing independence as a real standing danger. The most probable scenario is said to be A. Lukashenko’s giving up sovereignty in exchange to his continuing the political career in Russia even at a lower post (e.g., governor of Severo-Zapadny Territory of Russia). The elite representing both the government and its opponents is unanimous in its aversion of such scenarios.

At first sight, its position on firmness of the state sovereignty almost fully coincides with the opinion of an average voter – 71.8% of respondents claim that Belarus should be a sovereign state (6.5% stood out in the opposite).
Similar results were received in respondents’ answers to the question about possible referendum on incorporation into Russia (See Table 1).

Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question: “If there is a referendum conducted this Sunday on Belarus’ incorporation into Russia so that the regions of Belarus become Russia’s regions, how would you vote?”


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As it can be seen, that same 72.1% with a different degree of confidence said that they come out against such annexation. This means that state independence has gained a considerable value in the eyes of average citizens. However, the situation turns slightly blurred if trying to define the place of state independence within citizens’ hierarchy of values. In fact, restating Z. Poznyak’s well-know statement in a different way, it is the matter of: what is more important for a Belarusian – sausage or independence? And this doesn’t give ground for optimism. Over 60% of respondents believe improving economic state of the country is more important nowadays and only a quarter made their choice in favor of country’s independence (See Table 2).

Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question “What do you think is more important – improvement of the economic situation in Belarus or independence of Belarus?”

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The results we received can be interpreted in two ways – optimistically and pessimistically. It is entirely probable that the Belarusians who have chosen the economic growth are absolutely sure that independence will not be lost, so it is time to think about daily wants.
Meanwhile, it should be admitted that most citizens still stand to firmly sensual positions and have no comprehension of a close connection between statehood and welfare achievement. The Baltic States took independence as an instrument of prosperity achievement. Although slowly but this is exactly the way the situation develops there. Gaining statehood hasn’t brought Georgia to a growing living standard. The country on the contrary fell into a deep economic crisis. It is even said that Georgia is a failed country. Every man is free to have his opinion on the issue but there are no doubts that the Georgians would answer the question “What is more important?” not like the Belarusians.
One may reiterate the well-known theses on non-development of national self-awareness, aftermath to russianization, polonization, etc. They are right but they do not reverse a real situation excellently described in V. Akudovich’s thesis: “Belarus is first of all a social state.” All other values (liberal, national, etc.) cannot so far stand a consolidating factor and those who appeal to them won’t win voters’ confidence.
This fact should not be ignored by a politician of sound judgement longing to receive electorate’s support because almost 60% of those respondents who claim that Belarus should be an independent state (72.1%) paradoxically think that the economic progress is more important than independence. Among those who spoke out against independence, there are at all 95.9% adhering to the above viewpoint (See Table 3).

Table 3. Priorities of supporters and opponents to the independence of Belarus*, %

Variant of answer
What is more important?
Improvement of economic situation (62.6)
Independence of Belarus (25.4)
Belarus should be an independent state (71.8)
Belarus should not be an independent state (6.5)
DA/NA (21.7)

* Table is read across

Exactly in the same way, two thirds of those who are ready to vote firmly against or rather against Belarus’ integration with Russia insist that improvement of economic position is by far more important (See Table 4).

Table 4. Priorities depending on the answer to the question ” If there is a referendum held this Sunday on Belarus’ incorporation into Russia so that the regions of Belarus become Russia’s regions, how would you vote?”*, %

Variant of answer
What is more important?
Improvement of economic situation (62.6)
Independence of Belarus (25.4)
Definitely for/rather for
Definitely against/rather against

* Table is read across

Another illustrative example is people’s attitude towards introduction of the Russian ruble. When the very project was launched the Belarusian authorities, apparently, didn’t plan to fulfill the agreement. First, there have been very many declarative documents signed and they all were soon forgotten. Second, while signing the agreement (in April of 2002) it was more important to ensure gas delivery at Russia’s inner prices. Some concessions concerning a single currency could be made for the sake of this, especially since the date of its introduction was to come in three years. Unluckily, the new Russian government firmly demanded that the agreements are fulfilled and A. Lukashenko finally chickened out. The state-run mass media started presenting the perspective of Russian ruble’s introduction as a dangerous step, partial loss of sovereignty, etc. Eventually, the opinions of voters divided almost equally – 42.5% of respondents to a different extent agree that introduction of the Russian ruble will make Belarus less independent while 40.7% think in the opposite way (See Table 5).

Table 5. Distribution of answers to the question “Do you agree that introduction of the Russian ruble in Belarus will make the country less independent?” depending on the priorities, %

Variant of answer
What is more important?
Improvement of economic situation (62.6)
Independence of Belarus (25.4)
Yes, I do (18.1)
Rather yes (24.4)
Rather not (27.0)
No, I don’t (13.7)
DA/NA (16.9)
All those who give preference to improvement of economic situation take the threat of independence contraction due to Russian ruble introduction as a much more minor than those who consider it more important to retain independence.
In other words, a real danger to independence loss is not that much “Lukashenko’s cynic plans” or “crafty designs of Russian militarists” – they are nothing but empty declarations and are worth little – but the views of most Belarusians who put wealth in the first place. In this regard, the threat to loss of independence may increase when/if the standard of living in Russia become remarkably higher than in Belarus and our nationals see and appreciate this. Persistent nostalgia of some part of the society for “golden” Soviet time is in many respects connected with the fact that in 60-80-ies Belarus received significant investments from the Union center. So, in the opinion of those dependant-psychology people, Russia hasn’t yet lost the chance to take the place of the former union center in exchange to which independence can be sacrificed.
From such considerations, it can be assumed that some part of respondents will be ready to give out independence in exchange to material welfare to one who will offer the best terms of such an exchange. However, it isn’t all that outright here. Answering the question on whether people live better in Russia or in Belarus, the respondents fall into three almost equal groups: those who believe that Russia lives to a different extent better (31.4%), those who believe that Belarus lives to a different extent better (28.3%) and those who believe that people in both countries live equally (31.6%). Thus, the Belarusians don’t have illusions on that comparing to Belarus Russia is a prosperous land.
On the other hand, the standard of living in the countries of the European Union and its resources in assisting new members much more exceed Russia’s standard of living and its financial resources. Nevertheless, half of the Belarusians prefer now the economic union with Russia and one third – with the EU. The ratio in favor Russia-Belarus union is even higher among those respondents who consider improvement of economic situation to be more important than independence – 60% against 28%, i.e. 2:1 (See Table 6).

Table 6. Distribution of answers to the question “If it were possible, which variant would you choose?” depending on the priorities

Variant of answer
What is more important?
Improvement of economic situation (62.6)
Independence of Belarus (25.4)
Economic union with Russia (50.4)
Belarus’ incorporation into EU (34.3)
DA (15.3)
What is the reason? Why do Belarusians give priority to the economics and the union with Russia although well understanding that it won’t be manna from heaven but not to integration into rich and democratic Europe? In our opinion, such a phenomenon is a direct result of the official policy – nine-year purposeful brainwashing. The Belarusians just don’t receive enough information to make a deliberate choice. Integration into Europe is almost never considered in the state-run mass media. If the issue is somehow touched upon with reference to our neighbors (Poland, Lithuania and Latvia), the emphasis is always made on the negative moments that are undoubtedly present. The new opportunities the integration into Europe gives are deliberately concealed and ignored. In a sense, the authorities have turned prisoners of the course they carry. The project of integration with Russia deadlocked and suggests no easy way out for Lukashenko. Assuming A. Lukashenko proclaims a course for entering the EU tomorrow, he will have to fight the mass stereotypes he has personally built. And the opposition politicians staking solely for the slogan “Belarus – into Europe!” should be ready to people’s poor awareness as well as durability of the old and the new myths, in other words – to a complicated and continuous work.