IISEPS News, N 1 (27), 2003



Strengthening Role of Independent Social Research and Experts’ Networks in Belarus:
Results of the public opinion polls

Open Forum:
Anatoly Shumchenko: “Our goal is true changes!”
(V. Dorokhov, Head of IISEPS Center for Documentation, talked to A. Shumchenko, leader of the new public association “Perspective”)

Alexander Gritsanov, International Project “Humanitarian Encyclopaedia”
Protko T. S. “Formation of Soviet Totalitarian System in Belarus (1917 – 1941)”
Аlexander Yaroshuk, President of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions
“Trade Unions of Belarus: Transformation and Perspectives”


Dear readers!


The next issue of the analytical bulletin “IISEPS News” offers to your attention the materials reflecting the most interesting results of the Institute’s studies in the first quarter of 2003.
Generally, the given period has been characterized by escalation of the crisis, particular the socio-economic crisis. Apart from almost regular for the Belarusians backpays of wages and pensions (over half of the population faces this problem), the people have encountered a sharp increase in tariffs for public utilities (this above all concerns 53.2% of the respondents), growth of prices for staples (51.2%) and unemployment (30.5%). The social and political crisis has been turning more evident. Although the majority of the respondents witnessed no mass violations at the election to the local Councils about which the opposition spoke much, only 45.7% of them consider they “can believe the announced results” and merely 33.8% are satisfied with the election. Foreign policy of the Belarusian government doesn’t encourage either. Mass anti-Western and, first of all, anti-American propaganda that has untwined at the background of a defiant support of Saddam Hussein’s regime looks not only inadequate after the Iraqi war but can even threaten the national interests of Belarus. The recent report of the State Department and the resolution of the UN Human Rights Committee on the situation in our country as well as the initiated discussion of the “Belarus Democracy Act” in the US Congress are the first alarms of the process able to confront Belarus with serious problems. Particularly obvious becomes the “development in the wrong direction” (this is how 63.4% of the respondents evaluate the policy of the Belarusian authorities) at the background of quite flexible and balanced Russia’s policy. Therefore, over half of the Belarusians claim “Russia has achieved greater progress in building a democratic state and a civil society” and 42.2% are ready to vote for V. Putin as Russia-Belarus president in case the two countries unify (for A. Lukashenko – 18.1%).
The chances for promoting alternative variants of the country development grow at the background of the crisis tendencies. Unexpected but impressive appeared to be attitude of the Belarusians to the activity of the Deputy group “Republic” of the Belarusian parliament. The analysis reveals that the “Union of Citizens” forming around it can become that very new force and General V. Frolov – that very alternative presidential contender long awaited by those aspiring to changes in Belarus.
The bulk of the materials represented in this issue contain the data of regular sociological monitoring of public opinion (March-April) and opinion of the elite (January-February) studied by the IISEPS for many years already. Comparing the results the readers will notice that the gap between the opinions of the elite and the electorate very characteristic of Belarus during the recent years has been steadily bridging up: not mirror-like discrepancy but similar standpoints are found on many acute issues. Apart from the information-analytical materials, we as usual present thought-provoking information without commentaries with regard to the basic social-demographic groups and also the most essential trends of public opinion.
This time our traditional rubric “Open Forum” is given to the leader of the new public association “Perspective” Anatoly Shumchenko representing the interests of the Belarusian “vendors”. Although private entrepreneurs have been under formation as an independent social and political force of Belarus and some ideas of their leader may look disputable or even naive, we consider that they have a real perspective and are noteworthy (three fourths of the participants of people’s march “For Better Life!” held on March 12 were private entrepreneurs; 46.6% of the respondents know of the spring strikes of entrepreneurs while only 4.4% know of the all-Belarusian Congress of the intellectuals).
There are two new books on our “Bookshelf” undoubtedly worthy of attention of both experts and general public. The first is the “Formation of Soviet Totalitarian System in Belarus (1917 – 1941)”. Minsk: Tesei, 2002. It has been written by Associate Professor of the History Institute at the Belarus National Academy of Sciences and Chairman of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Dr. T. Protko and is fully unique. The second book is “Trade Unions of Belarus: Transformation and Perspectives”. Its authors and compilers are V. Golubev and A. Khadyka. Minsk: Fund of F. Ebert, 2003. It is presented by President of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions A. Yaroshuk who based on his wide experience substantially studies complicated problems and the trade union development perspectives in Belarus.
We hope that the current issue of our bulletin would be interesting and helpful to you and your colleagues. We are, as usual, awaiting for your comments and requests!