«

»

THE LULL AT THE GEOPOLITICAL FRONTS

In September 2012 IISEPS registered an appreciable decrease in sentiment in favor of integration with Russia in comparison with the previous period. The data of the December opinion poll show that, paraphrasing Remarque, “All Quiet on all the Fronts” (Pict. 1-3).

However, some changes can none the less be noted. In the “unilateral” question about integration with Russia (where the question was asked without connection with integration with the EU) there is a decrease in the number of “Euro-Belarusians” and an increase in the number of opponents of the Eastern integration vector. The number of the latter has graded up to the record number registered last summer at the height of the crisis.

However, no changes in the level of either pro-Russian or pro-European intentions occurred in the answers to the dichotomic question of Pict. 3.

Such sensitivity of answers to the wording of the question about integration with Russia reflects, in our opinion, the multi-aspect, ambivalent nature of Belarusians’ attitude to their Eastern neighbor.

As it has been already mentioned in IISEPS materials more than once, the overwhelming majority of Belarusians feel a higher cultural propinquity with Russians than with Europeans. On the other hand, exactly in relations with Russia Belarusians might fear that they can lose their national identity, dissolve in the “Russian sea”. Finally, relations of Belarus and Russia are far closer and more institutionalized than relations of Belarus with the EU. Closeness and complexity of the relations are fraught with various surprises which at times exert an unexpected influence on the attitude of Belarusians to Russia.

One of such quirks of fate became the conflict concerning “thinners and solvents” that flared up already in summer. The data of Pict. 4 show that respondents were not well-informed about it.

At that exactly the “Euro-Belarusians” – supporters of Belarus integration with the EU – were informed about the conflict to the fullest extent (Pict. 5).

A geo-political choice proves to have a somewhat closer impact on the assessments of the economic climate – “Belo-Russians” appraise it higher than adherents of Euro-integration (Pict. 6-7).

* FSI – Financial standing index (the difference of positive and negative answers)

* EI – expectation index

The dependence is obvious; the question is only over the direction of the connection – what depends on what? Either the people who, e.g. work at the enterprises with Russian sales markets really get a higher income in comparison with the rest of the population and feel sympathy for the “provider” – for Russia – to a greater degree, or Belarusians favoring integration with Russia are inclined to appreciate the native socio-economic model and its practical results higher for ideological reasons.

Studying the dynamics of the connection partly gives an answer to the question. A correlation analysis of the results of the last ten opinion polls held by IISEPS (from December 2010 to December 2012) showed that correlation factors of the number of “Belo-Russians” and various indicators of the economic condition assessments are rather small (less than 0.2 according to the absolute value) and insignificant. The financial standing and expectation indices, as well as the shares of those who answered that their financial standing had improved for the quarter and that the socio-economic situation in Belarus was going to improve within the next few years were chosen as such indicators.

In other words, changes in the assessments of the economic situation prove to be not connected in any way with changes in the shares of “Belo-Russians” and “Euro-Belarusians”. Although “Belo-Russians” are inclined to appraise the economic condition of the country higher than “Euro-Belarusians”, improvement of the condition and accordingly an increase in the share of those who register the improvement is not accompanied by a growth in the number of adherents of integration with Russia.

This testifies to the fact that people are disposed to integration with Russia not because it is accompanied by or can supposedly be accompanied by some improvement of their financial standing, but vice versa – choosing the Eastern vector (conditioned by cultural, ideological and other reasons) causes in its turn more optimistic assessments of the economic condition.

Particularly, it follows from here that overcoming the crisis ensured in no small measure with the help of Russia not necessarily gives rise to a growth in pro-Russian sentiment. Insignificant (and sometimes considerable) deviations in the direction of one or the other geopolitical magnet occur appreciably less frequently than preservation of a fundamental balance among supporters of the geo-political choice in favor of Russia or the European Union.