Belarusians’ ability to adapt to gradual worsening of their financial standing is illustrated by the results of Graph 1. “Gradual” is the key word here. Over 11 months of 2015 real disposable incomes of people dropped by 5.4%, but for 55.4% of respondents maintaining of the current situation in the country is more important than changing it. In 2011 incomes dropped by 1%, but 70.1% of respondents supported changes, i.e. by 14.7 points more.

This inconsistency can be easily explained. Over 2011 dollar rate jumped from 3.000 to 8.500 Belarusian rubles and inflation amounted to 108.7%. Slumping devaluation of the national currency in March-April 2011 provoked panic, and this led to a drop of social indices down to a historical low. Unfortunately, quarterly surveys are too rough of an instrument to register panic moods. That is why the ratio of answers to the question of Table 1 in December 2011 is quite mixed. It reflects social opinion during the decline of mood of panic.

  1. Lukashenko’s supporters are six times more inclined to maintain the current situation than his opponents – 61.8% vs. 11.3%. They are used to settle for less, so gradual decrease of real incomes doesn’t provoke any protest among them and doesn’t lead to distrust to the head of state.

Supporters of Belarusian stability undoubtedly should be satisfied with the dynamics of the answers to the question “Do you consider fundamental changes in internal and external policies of Belarus possible in the next five years?” (Graph 2). Over the last year the share of those, who assume that fundamental changes are possible, decreased by 6.9 points (from 34.4% to 27.5%), i.e. economic crisis in “post-Crimeaisours” conditions didn’t increase the expectations of changes. This is one of important distinctions between the current crisis and the crisis of 2011.

There is a direct correlation between the belief in possibility of changes and desiring them to happen (Graph 3), which is confirmed even mathematically: the share of positive answers dropped by 7 points (cf. the drop of 6.9 points in Graph 1).

The share of change supporters in all age groups in the span of 18-49 years old exceeded 50%, but among Belarusians of 40-49 years old it amounts to 43.8%, and among those older than 60 years it amounts to only 25.5%.

Table 1 results permit us to evaluate the ratio of statists and liberals in Belarusian society. It is close to 1, and it hadn’t changed over the last year. Therefore, the crisis didn’t led to a reevaluation of the role of the state in the life of society, and this can be seen as another illustration of Belarusians’ adaptation ability.

Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question: “Some people by fundamental changes in internal and external policies of Belarus mean a strengthening of state’s role in social life, others on the contrary mean a diminution of this role. What do you mean by this?” depending on the attitude to A. Lukashenko, %

Variant of answer 12’14 12’15 Attitude to A. Lukashenko
Trust Don’t trust
The state should strengthen its role in society and give more support to its citizens 46.4 47.2 71.8 21.5
The state should diminish its role in society and let people act more freely 44.1 45.0 21.4 72.0
DA/NA 9.5 7.8 6.8 6.5

Distribution of answers in the groups of supporters and opponents of A. Lukashenko is mirror-like. Amid the low level of trust to market institutions in the peripheral social groups (villagers, retired people, people with low level of education) all hopes on maintaining the current standard of life are laid upon the state. As for economically active social groups, they see excessive care of the paternalist state as an obstacle for their personal aims.

State paternalism can successfully function only under the condition of maximal simplification of social reality perception, because paternalism is an archaic construct, which doesn’t allow complex forms of exchange and communication. Presidential elections, which demonstrate the unity of people and their ability to make the “right decision” is one of the mechanisms of simplification.

However, social unity is only demonstrated in state mass media, which don’t want to notice the split social reality. But judging by the December survey of IISEPS, each part of the split Belarusian society keeps to their convictions, and this is the maximal effect which could be expected by the organizers of the Elections-2015 campaign amid the current situation. And they had achieved this maximum.