IISEPS News, N 1 (31), 2004



Strengthening Role of Independent Social Research and Experts’ Networks in Belarus:
Results of the Public Opinion Polls

Open Forum:
Nikolay Zlobin
Americans Will Seriously Reckon the Situation in Belarus

Irina Bugrova, Ph.D., Project Manager of IIPS
“Belarusian Year Book 2003. Collection of Reviews and Analytical Papers on the Development of the Situation in the Republic of Belarus in 2003”

Valer Bulhakau, Publicist, Editor of the “Arche” journal
“Belarus-Russia: Neo-Soviet Phenomenon of Integration”


Dear readers!


This issue of the analytical bulletin “IISEPS News” offers to your attention materials reflecting the most interesting results of the Institute’s studies in the first quarter of 2004.
Although the challenges Belarus has faced during this period are not new, their scale and important have considerably increased. In mid February, Russian natural gas monopoly Gazprom temporarily cut off gas delivery to Belarus and its transportation to Europe via Belarus. Consequently, a large international conflict broke out. President of Belarus called those actions of the Russian part “the act of terrorism on the highest possible level.” In its turn, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that “the provoking statement made by President A. Lukashenko points out to that he ignores interests of the Belarusian people and leads to aggravation of relations with Russia.” This unprecedented conflict not only resulted in that Belarusian, Russian and foreign experts took a new look at the integration process but it seriously affected opinions of millions citizens in both countries. Significant changes are taking place in the West as well: seven new countries, Latvia and Lithuania among them, entered NATO late March and will become full members of the European Union in May. Thus, Belarus appears between two powerful geopolitical forces influence of which will steadily increase.
At that same time, critical events have been taking place in Belarus. Almost all political forces started preparation to the autumn election to the House of Representatives. Democratic parties and NGOs are uniting into various coalitions and blocs, relations between them being quite complicated. The authorities make inspection of electoral bodies and revise procedures, increase propaganda of “Belarusian model”, selectively concentrate resources for increasing living standards. One of such procedures is “peopleware for ideological work” a new presidential decree specially pertains to. The course of the election campaign can be as well influenced by external factors, in particular the report on notorious disappearances in Belarus widely discussed in the Council of Europe.
This nation opinion poll conducted by the IISEPS in March of 2004 pertained to these very problems. This issue represents its results supplied with detailed commentaries. Some of them prove the trends found earlier (for example, waning interest towards integration with Russia and growth of A. Lukashenko’s rating), others reveal new trends (consolidation of democratic electorate, overlapping chances of electoral and nomenclature developments of regime change), yet the third ones sound just like a sensation (victory of the Belarusian side in the “information war” with Russia in the recent gas conflict, obviously outsiderlike “single state ideology”, the scale of influence of the information about notorious disappearances on public opinion, etc). Well aware of that our interpretation of the survey results is not always accepted, we traditionally offer to our readers not mere analytical materials but also bare figures in the form of essential trends and findings with regard to basic social-demographic groups.
This time our “Open Forum” is given to a rare guest. In February, representatives of leading independent Belarusian analytical and research centers participated in the program of US Department of State “Influence of think tanks on US foreign policy”. They got introduced to the achievements of noted American think tanks including the Center for Defense Information in Washington where Head of the IISEPS Center for Documentation Vladimir Dorokhov interviewed Dr. Nikolai Zlobin, Director of Russian and Asian Programs at the CDI. In the interview, the noted American expert gave his estimate of the Belarusian opposition, Russia’s role of in possible changes in Belarus and West’s readiness to assist the democratic forces of Belarus. We assume that this interview will be of great interest to many readers.
On our “Bookshelf” recognized political scientist Irina Bugrova reviews Belarusian Year Book 2003 – collection of reviews and analytical papers on the development of situation in Belarus published in Vilnius by the Institute of Belarus jointly with “Social Technologies Association”, the center NOVAK Laboratory, and political writer and editor of “Arche” journal V. Bulgakov – a new book of the Analytical center Strategy “Belarus-Russia: Neo-Soviet phenomenon of integration” that, in our opinion, will be of interest for not only researches and analysts but also journalists, politicians, diplomats and all those concerned about the future of this country.
All comments and requests are, as usual, welcome!