IISEPS News – ISSN 1822-5535 (Printing), ISSN 1822-5543 (ONLINE),
N 4 (54), 2009




Another difficult year
The crisis spell
Policy anomaly
Ours everything
Citizens of the family circle
Prospects of the political clericalism
Geopolitical fronts of Belarus
“Easterners” and “Westerners”
The Belarusians about the international law
Paradoxes of the Belarusian-Ukrainian brotherhood
What does it mean to be a Belarusian?
It is necessary to pay for one’s political choice

Some results of the opinion poll conducted in December


A. Yaroshuk, Chairman of the Belarusian Congress of democratic trade unions
Belarus independent trade unions amalgamate


Dr. O. Manaev, Professor of Sociology
“Belarus: 1991-2006 – The Outcome. Economy, politics, society, culture”


Dear readers!


In the regular issue of the “IISEPS News” analytical bulletin we offer to your attention materials representing the most interesting results of the Institute activity in the fourth quarter of 2009.
An analysis of the nationwide public opinion poll results proves that the economic crisis has become number one problem for the majority of the Belarusians. Thus, 81.3% of respondents consider that Belarusian economy finds itself in crisis, for 52.4% the year of 2009 turned out to be more difficult than 2008, at that for 41.8% the crisis affects the family’s everyday life very seriously, 28.7% have faced a delay in wages or pension payment for the last 12 months. Among the most acute problems our country and its citizens are facing at the moment almost 80% of respondents named the rise in prices, 42.6% – impoverishment of the population, 39.5% – unemployment, and 34.4% – setback in production, 25.5% – corruption and bribery taking. The crisis also revealed fundamental changes which had taken place in the structure of the Belarusian society for the last decade: in the opinion of almost 40% of respondents the poor and the low-income population suffered from the crisis in Belarus more than others, i.e. the very “ordinary people” who once used to be the hope and the support of the president (only 3.3% said that employees of the government agencies and officials suffered more than others). Much more of the Belarusians consider that the struggle against the economic crisis is more successfully conducted in other countries than in Belarus (42.1% vs. 30.4%). Hence, regardless of the authorities’ cheerful assurance, more than a half of the population expects crisis termination not earlier than in a year (and almost a fourth – after 2011).
The feeling of the shattered social justice which is becoming more and more acute (“the present authorities express interests of the officials and bureaucrats”) is acquiring a still more vivid political aspect – an increasingly larger number of citizens feel “out of job”. A comparative analysis shows that the feeling of “unnecessary people” is steadily spreading over the whole society: if in May of 2005 54.5% of respondents believed that they could not exert any influence on the decisions that were being taken by the authorities in our country, now there are already 71.9% of such people; if at that time 32.4% considered they could not openly express their political views, now there are 45.4% of such people; if at that time 33.1% were sure that they could not at all influence the way their life was taking shape, now there are 44.1% of such people. The increasing gap between the authorities and the people apparently explains people’s critical attitudes concerning the questions far from the “high policy”, too. Thus, almost three fourths of respondents consider that the authorities acted completely inefficiently or not efficiently enough at the time of the autumn swine flu epidemic.
At the same time one should not overestimate the protest potential of these sentiments – electoral support of president A. Lukashenko went back to the pre-crisis level: today 42.5% are ready to vote for him again as in September, 2008 (in September, 2009 there were 39.4%). Only 14.2% are ready to take part in the actions against worsening of the economic position which is 3.7% less than in March, 2008. In other words, political consequences of the economic crisis are “ripening”; however they have not come yet.
Special attention was paid in the poll to the problem of the Belarusians’ national identity. Recently the voices of politicians and experts who with the enthusiasm of neophytes “are opening” for themselves a complicated, contradictory and incomplete character of this phenomenon have begun to be heard. The paradox consists in the fact that these people exactly gave a hostile reception to such assessments and conclusions which had been suggested by the IISEPS already in 1990s (for instance, in the famous article by Yu. Drakokhrust “Belarusian nationalism speaks Russian” published in “BDG” in 1998). It is an indisputable fact today that two thirds of the Belarusians consider independence which the country obtained in 1991 a blessing (20.6% adhere to the opposite opinion). The opposition, as well as the authorities, are trying “to make their policy” on it today. However, as a rule they either leave “off screen” substantial characteristics of this “blessing” or interpret them reasoning solely from their own interests. But these characteristics in particular reveal the uniqueness of the Belarusians’ national identity. Thus, answering the question: “What is more important – improvement of Belarus economic position or independence of the country?” almost two thirds (63.4%) chose improvement of the economic position (independence of the country – 28.2%). Answering the question: “Which state symbols (the national emblem, the flag) correspond more to the historical and cultural heritage of the Belarusian nation – the ones which existed from 1991 to 1995 (with the emblem “Pagonya” (pursuit)) or the present ones (reminding the symbols of the BSSR)?” 54.7% said “the present symbols” (“the symbols which existed before 1995” – 27.7%). Answering the question whether the Belarusians, Russians and Ukrainians were different nations or three branches of the same nation, three thirds said “three branches of one nation” (“different nations” – 30.6%). When answering the question: “Which language should be compulsory for use as an official language in public offices (the government, the army, law-courts, schools, etc.): Belarusian, Russian or both, Belarusian and Russian?” 65% stated “the use of the Belarusian and Russian languages should be compulsory” (Belarusian – 16%, Russian – 14.9%). 60% of respondents mostly use the Russian language at home, 36.6% use the mixed language, 3.4% – Belarusian. Out of a dozen of modern and historical leaders the highest marks were given to Vladimir Putin (3.65 according to a five-point scale), Kastus Kalinovsky (3.62), Peter Masherov (3.57) and Catherine the Great (3.43). The last two positions were allotted to Joseph Stalin (2.63) and Zenon Posnyak (2.53). The renowned “theory” about the forced “substitution” of the “genuine Belarusians” by “contract soldiers from the East” during the period of after war reconstruction and urbanization did not prove to be true either: 82.3% of respondents have at least one granparent who was borne in Belarus, and 55.6% – three or all four.
As usual, we offer to those of our readers, who are interested in our figures more than in assessments, an opportunity to analyze on their own the poll results in the frame of the main socio-demographic groups of the population.
An analysis of the most important processes taking place in the independent trade union movement, strategy and tactics of the struggle for democracy in Belarus is presented to the readers in the “Open forum” rubric by A. Yaroshuk, Chairman of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions, a politician well-known in the country and abroad.
Collected articles “Belarus: 1991-2006 – The outcome” published recently by a group of independent experts is presented in the “Bookshelf” rubric. The reviewer, Professor of sociology O. Manaev, considers it to be “a successful combination of serious analytics and simultaneously of economy, politics, culture and our country’s society development chronicle during the years of independence and at the same time an extremely interesting “heart-to-heart talk”.
As usual, any feedback and comments are welcome!