Judging by independent mass media, it’s easy to make a conclusion that Belarus is a typical police state. Information about arrests of oppositional activists comes in on almost daily basis. It would seem that amid the developing economic crisis, which cuts government’s ability to buy people’s loyalty, we should see an increase of the repressive constituent of stability maintaining. However, March survey doesn’t confirm this hypothesis (Table 1).

Table 1. Dynamics of answering the question: “Have you been treated badly by representatives of government bodies over the last three years?”, %

Variant of answer 03’05 03’08 06’11 03’13 03’16
No, I haven’t 73.8 57.4 61.1 68.1 76.1
Yes, many times 7.2 6.8 4.8 3.3 2.9
Yes, several times 13.6 18.1 17.8 11.4 8.4
Yes, once 5.2 13.1 11.1 12.1 12.5
Total share of badly treated people 26.0 38.0 33.7 26.8 23.8
DA/NA 0.2 4.1 5.2 5.1 0.1

Starting from summer 2011 the share of “offended” people constantly decreases, reaching an absolute low of 23.8% in March 2016. Traditionally, we divided respondents into supporters and opponents of A. Lukashenko and added up people who said that they were treated badly (rows 2-4). The results are as follows: supporters – 14.7%, opponents – 32.8%. In other words, every third opponent of the head of state was treated badly by government bodies over the last three years!

This ratio one again permits us to establish conclusion that Belarusian variant of “the state for the people” interacts with people in a very selective way.

All of above-mentioned is relevant for analysis of answers to the question “According to you, does militia cope with their duties (enforcement of public order, advocacy of rights and interests of citizens) rather well, acceptably or badly?” (Table 2). The principle “My militia takes care of me”, declared by poet Vladimir Mayakovski in the thirties, is used by Belarusian militia very selectively, and this is registered by the difference of positive answers between supporters (40.5%) and opponents (8.6%) of A. Lukashenko.

Table 2. Dynamics of answering the question: “According to you, does militia cope with their duties (enforcement of public order, advocacy of rights and interests of citizens) rather well, acceptably or badly?”, %

Variant of answer 06’10 03’16
Rather well 19.1 22.5
Acceptably 48.1 47.7
Badly 26.9 24.1
DA/NA 5.9 5.7

Over 6 years the assortment of unlawful actions of militia significantly decreased, according to respondents’ evaluation (Table 3). We suppose that this significant leap in perception of militia’s work won’t be easy to explain for those who suppose that IISEPS’s results are “drawn on a napkin” or even made for “thirty pieces of silver”.

From our part, we make an assumption that “responsibility” for the decrease of unlawful actions of militia should be lain, above all, on the deepening atomization of society. Amid developing economic crisis private strategies of survival become more and more important. People become unsociable and try to come into contact with the state as rare as possibly, including militia.

Table 3. Dynamics of answering the question: “If you (or people you know) have ever endured illegal actions from the side of militia, what were those actions?”, % (more than one answer is possible)

Variant of answer 06’10 03’16
Reluctance to react to complaints, refusal to accept statements 24.8 10.6
Lack of professionalism 21.5 16.4
Ungrounded arrest 19.6 12.2
Gratuitous violence 15.1 5.9
Extortion 7.0 2.7
Other 3.5 3.7
DA/NA 16.9 50.2

Number of non-guilty verdicts in Belarus doesn’t exceed 0.3% from the number of all verdicts, while in Russia this share amounts to 3%, in Europe – 6%, in the U.S. – 20%. “Partisan republic”, according to A. Lukashenko, is an island of honesty and justice: “It’s not just me who thinks so. It’s not just you who think so. People as far as thousand kilometers from our borders think so too. And by no means we, and I above all, shouldn’t spoil this image of honest and fair country” (Independence Day lecture, June 2012).

Nevertheless, even when the share of non-guilty verdicts is measured by tenths of percent, absolute majority of Belarusian believe that it’s possible to obtain fair and just solution via the court (Table 4). It should be noted, that over the last 12 years the share of optimists increased by 14%. Socio-demographic characteristics of optimist are predictable. A. Lukashenko’s supporters’ prevail over his opponents (70.3% vs. 38.3%), women prevail over men (32.1% vs. 20.5%), people over 60 years old prevail over young people of 18-29 (68.6% vs. 48.1%), and people with primary education prevail over those with higher education (85.1% vs. 46.1%).

Table 4. Dynamics of answering the question: “How do you think, is it possible to obtain fair and just solutions in the conditions of existing Belarusian judicial system?”, %

Variant of answer 06’04 04’06 03’16
Yes, it is possible 38.7 51.8 52.7
No, almost impossible 46.9 38.3 34.0
DA/NA 14.4 9.9 13.3

Belarus is the only country in Europe that still has death penalty. All calls to repeal it are ignored. The last call was in March. Representative of European External Action Service urged Belarus to join death penalty moratorium when the Supreme Court of Belarus confirmed death penalty verdict for I. Kulesh, handed down by the Grodno Court in November 2015.

By convention, to explain Belarusian uniqueness in this question, people refer to the public opinion, legalized by the referendum of 1996 (67% supported death penalty). Whether this official results are trustworthy is a separate question. But IISEPS surveys confirm it to a certain extent (Table 5). The share of death penalty advocates over the last 8 years amounts approximately to a half of adult population of the country.

Table 5. Dynamic of answering the question: “According to you, should Belarus abolish death penalty?”, %

Variant of answer 09’08 10’10 09’12 03’16
No, is should be preserved 47.8 48.3 49.1 51.5
Yes, it should be abolished 44.2 42.4 40.7 36.4
DA/NA 8.8 9.3 10.2 12.1

According to American economist John Kenneth Galbraith, there are three basic ways of coercing people to a certain behavior: ideal and material reward, and punishment. They exist in all cultures, however, one of these ways can dominate. Cultures, which use punishment more often, are called “repressive cultures”; alternative cultures are “rewarding cultures” (it’s interesting, that there is no word in the Russian language to designate such cultures).

We’ve already noted multiple times that in Belarusian culture fear of punishment is an important element of integration. In particular, this is one of the reasons of the high level of trust to security agencies.

Culture is “bred in the bone”, therefore there is nothing surprising in the fact that the share of death penalty supporters among people aged between 18 and 29 years old amounts to 49% (58.9% in the 60+ group). This share is also higher among women than among men: 55.3% vs. 46.9%.

“Blood-thirstiness” of fair sex can be explained by the fact that choosing between stability and changes women are more inclined to prefer stability. A strong (and therefore repressive) state has no rivals for the role of stability guarantor in the culture of Belarusian majority.