“The state for the people, justice, protection of honest men,” said Alexander Lukashenko at the V All-Belarusian People’s Assembly, “are what was and is at the heart of the Belarusian sovereignty.”

The main peculiarity of the Belarusian society (or people, as Lukashenko puts it) is the split, as IISEPS surveys demonstrates it. That is why there is nothing surprising in the fact that not all Belarusians perceive the Belarusian state as their state.

Only 30% of Belarusians unambiguously consider Belarus as theirs (chart 1). In 2014-2015, amid the patriotic euphoria provoked by Russian TV-propaganda, the share of positive answers exceeded its baseline by 7-10 points. But after the exhaustion of mobilization effect in 2016 everything came back to norm.

It is natural that perception of the state is politically charged. In June 2016 61.6% of Lukashenko’s supporters and only 5.6% of his opponents considers the state as theirs (66.9% vs. 13.2% accordingly in June 2015). Belarusian state in the first place belongs to people with primary education (69.8%) and for people over 60 years old (54%). They were the primary audience of the V All-Belarusian People’s Assembly which was held in Minsk on June 22-23 under the motto “Movement is force!”. The “program of development instead stagnation; program of the future instead of the past; program of actions instead of expectations” was adopted during the Assembly.

“The state, that’s me”. The point of view formulated by Louis XIV didn’t lose its topicality in modern Belarus. In June 2015 41.2% of population recognized Belarusian state as theirs, and almost the same share of respondents agreed that concentration of power in Lukashenko’s hands is favorable for the country (chart 2). The former share dropped by 11.7 points in June 2016, and it lead to a symmetrical decrease of the latter share as well.

The main characteristic of the “state for the people” is its ability to help people in their moments of need. 20 years ago 82% of Belarusians thought so (chart 3). Thanks to their support Alexander Lukashenko won the first and the last democratic presidential elections in 1994. Thanks to their silent consent in 1996 the Constitution, stipulating in fact the cancellation of power division principle, was accepted.

Standing on the tribune of the V All-Belarusian People’s Assembly, Alexander Lukashenko expressed his gratitude to the participants of the first Assembly: “I know there are “old-timers” who were present on the I All-Belarusian People’s Assembly and who remember the times and the reasons which pushed me to gather this assembly. <…> If it were not for you, for your colleagues who were there, <…>, if you wouldn’t have said the strong “no” to the collapse, I emphasize it again, we wouldn’t be here now.”

Over the past 20 years, paternalist abilities of the “state for the people” were significantly reduced, but even today majority of Belarusians continue to view the state as a social security agency. Nevertheless, despite their own wish, almost every third Belarusian is obliged to live according to the real life, that severe real life where the problems of personal well-being should be solved on one’s own.

It would be interesting to know if the supporters of the motto “The state for the people” realize that thereby they draw a parallel between the modern Belarusian state and the isolated from society Marxist state. From Marx’s viewpoint state is an institution above society. Its physical implementation are state officials, inclined to pass their group interests for national ones.

Chart 4 allows us to assess the changes in Belarusians’ perception of “Sovereign’s people” over the last 20 years. It should be admitted that the changes are positive. This one of the reasons of the political longevity of the “last dictator of Europe”. Let us remind you, that according to Lukashenko’s definition, 1996 was the year of collapse. And we agree with this definition. Current situation in Belarus, despite the expanding crisis, is still far from the 20-years-old situation, and this determines the difference in evaluations.

Collapse of the USSR and of the Soviet system spawned a mass cultural shock and the loss of collective identity in the beginning of the nineties. Ethnic identity was massively used as life-buoy ring on the territories of former Soviet republics. But its mobilization effect in the country, described by the classic of Belarusian literature Ales Adamovich as “the Vendee of perestroika”, turned out to be insufficient.

Presidential election 1994 in Belarus can be regarded as an attempt of “majority”, comprised of the so-called Homo Sovieticus, to restore their habitual habitat, the only habitat where it is possible to reproduce Soviet collective identity. Naturally, Belarusians couldn’t step into the same river twice. Communistic ideology died, and the role of the state as a source of collective identity became more important.

However, under the conditions of a split society, it’s not possible to achieve national consensus, based on the belief in paternalistic abilities of the state. “Crimeaisours” and the subsequent armed conflict in the East of Ukraine increased the share of Belarusians believing that the state is theirs. But the mobilization effect, caused by the patriotic excitement, was completely exhausted by the beginning of 2016. That is why the state, obliged to reduce its social commitments almost daily, cannot be perceived as theirs by those people who are unable to survive under the current half-market conditions. This means that the collective identity of the “majority” is once again under a threat.