IISEPS News, N 4 (30), 2003



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

Belarus-2006: Ways of Changes
(round table discussion of analysts)

Open Forum:
Vasily Leonov
Russia’s Duma Election Is a Broad Hint for A. Lukashenko

Mikhail Plisko, Editor-in-Chief of the “Adkrytae Gramadstva” journal
“National Identity of Belarus”


Dear readers!


This – 30th-anniversary! – issue of the analytical bulletin “IISEPS News” offers to your attention materials re-flecting the most interesting results of the institute’s studies in the fourth quarter of 2003.
We continue publishing commentaries to the results of the September public opinion poll and the opinion poll among elite. The materials presented reveal that reduction of Russia’s informational presence in Belarus leads to not that much the development of national information system but to even deeper ideologizing, decrease in quality and, finally, increased manipulation with public opinion. Data comparison of the nation opinion poll and polling among the elite points out to an increasingly greater coincidence in the value systems of “masses” and “biggies”. Aversion of the political course carried by the authorities has been gradually becoming “the ground for national consensus” that many believe the Belarusians have long ago lost.
Important conclusions are presented in the materials made up on the results of the nation opinion poll jointly conducted by the IISEPS with the Gallup-Baltic Surveys of Lithuania (Vilnius) in December. Thus, the analysis indicates that the information blockade and persistent discrediting of democratic forces by state’s powerful propaganda machinery are essential but not the only reasons why they don’t have a wide electoral support. Estrangement of democrats from the society will continue unless their ideological, political and personal interests veil the reality most Belarusians live in. Although the situation is gradually changing against the authorities, disappointment and discontent of Belarusians haven’t so far transformed so as to support the opposition. Thus, answers of respondents to the question “In your opinion, does A. Lukashenko understands problems and concerns of the people like you?” fell into two equal groups of 44% while the political parties gave 24.4% of “yes”-answers and 57.2% of “no”-answers. Clearly, such expectations will sooner or later get focused. But on whom? Future of the country depends on the answer to this question.
Independent statehood takes increasingly greater value in the opinion of citizens. To illustrate, 71.8% of respondents claim Belarus should be a sovereign state and only 6.5% adhere to the opposite viewpoint. However, restating Z. Poznyak’s well-know statement in a different way: “What is more important for a Belarusian – sausage or independence?” we understand that the point gives little grounds for optimism. Over 60% of respondents consider improvement of the economic position more important than country’s independence and only one fourth of citizens makes choice for the latter. So far most Belarusians don’t have comprehension of a close connection between statehood and welfare achievement. In a sense, the authorities have turned prisoners of the course they carry out. On the one hand, integration with Russia is deadlocking. And on the other, if assuming that A. Lukashenko proclaims the course for entering the EU tomorrow, he will have to fight the mass stereotypes he has personally built.
The Belarusians estimate changing in their financial state over the past year absolutely differently from the official propaganda: those who admit its aggravation are 3.5-fold more than those who state its improvement. In fact, negative estimates prevail in almost all demographic groups. A deeper analysis discloses an important regularity: the current course is approved by the groups having the lowest incomes. Evidently, the source of income and not the amount itself is crucial here: these are different kinds of transfers and not earnings they receive. As far as citizens in those groups don’t earn money but receive it from various state sources, they feel more dependent on the state and therefore support the current course. This implies a rather counterintuitive conclusion: the current authorities are not interested in the welfare growth of its citizens.
We believe that materials of our round table discussion “Belarus-2006: Ways of Changes” organized and held by the IISEPS late December will be of a particular interest to the reader. At first sight, there is no lack of estimates and prognoses on political and socioeconomic development in Belarus. Such discussions are often held in the mass media and conference halls, party and governmental offices. But a greater part of those estimates and prognoses confine to either the topic of the day (What is happening now?) or a nearterm outlook (What will happen tomorrow?). Farther outlooks usually drop out of sight. In fact this is quite natural: the farther one looks into the future, the vaguer it is and so more indefinite prognoses and estimates are. However, this is not only the present that determines the future (just like the present itself is determined by the past). In a sense, the future determines the present. This happens the most often, what people wait for. As far as the social and political analysis examines people’s awareness and behavior in a particular social environment, a grounded conception of the future, even at a high degree of uncertainty, may influence real social and political processes. Hence, well-known experts in the field of politics, economics and sociological study have made an attempt to look beyond the horizon in their discussing possible ways of transformation to take place in this country after October of 2006.
This time our “Open Forum” is given to a noted Belarusian politician V. Leonov who not only took the positions of the First Secretary of regional committee of the Belarusian Communist Party and the Minister in his career but was also imprisoned on political grounds. Currently President of the Belarus-Russia Fund For New Belarus, V. Leonov from his personal experience knows technicality of Russia-Belarus relations. He tells about their problems and prospects in the light of the recent election to the State Duma (Parliament) of Russia in the interview with journalist A. Koktysh.
On our “Bookshelf”, there’s a new brochure “National Identity of Belarus” presented by a known political analyst M. Plisko and published by the Fund of Friedrich Ebert. In our opinion, it will be of great interest to not only researches and analysts but also journalists, politicians, diplomats and all those who are not indifferent to the history, culture and future of our country.
All comments and requests are, as usual, welcome!