In IISEPS survey conducted in June 2015 we asked a question on the attitude to the idea of the “Russian World”. 39% of respondents evaluated it positively, 40% were indifferent and only 15% expressed negative attitude.

In fact, there is nothing sensational in these figures. In 2011 survey, when respondents were asked to evaluate the statement of the then Prime Minister V. Putin on the “real and very desired” integration of Russia and Belarus, same 40% of respondents expressed positive attitude to this idea. As for the well-known theory of “three branches of the Russian people – Great Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians”, it is shared by over 60% of Belarusians over at least last 9 years (near 25% of respondents pronounce themselves against it).
So everything is as usual? Yes and no. International context had changed a lot. The world, including Belarusians, had seen the instrumental application of the theory of the “Russian World” in Crimea and Donbass. And while the West, based on this experience, started to regard Russia as a threat, almost an enemy, Belarusian evaluations of the Eastern neighbor remained almost unchanged.
Furthermore, absolute majority of Belarusians – about 60% during the last year – approved and continue to approve the annexation of Crimea (22-32% blame Russia for it). Relative, but quite impressive, majority of Belarusians also recognize the right for self-determination of “the people of Novorossiya”.
Russian President is also regarded as the best leader of near and far countries by a very convincing majority of Belarusians (60% of respondents evaluated him positively, 20.3% – negatively), this can be seen in the results of June 2015 IISEPS survey. Among Western leaders only Angela Merkel received positive balance of evaluations (34.6% of respondents evaluated her work positively, 32% – negatively). The worst evaluations were saved for the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko (only 10.1% of positive evaluations and 67% of negative ones).
“But this is the result of Russian propaganda!” would say a critical reader. Possibly, yes. The influence of propaganda should not be underestimated. However, this Russian influence is a part of Belarusian informational and political scene. As the story on two blonde girls goes (I hope feminists will excuse me):
·  What are you dreaming of?
·  I dream that a fairy will come and give me $ 100 000.
·  Why not a million?
·  No, a million is unreal.
Disposing of Russian propaganda seems even less real to me than other unlikely changes of Belarusian daily life.
Influence of Russian TV cannot be denied. According to IISEPS surveys, 30% of respondents regularly watch Russian TV news-programs, 60% do it from time to time. At the same time, almost 60% of all respondents think that events in these programs are portrayed either completely or mostly objectively (26% of respondents think that these programs are more or less biased).
But are we sure that this is caused only by Russian propaganda? For example, a survey of Ukrainian sociologists demonstrates that Russian propaganda is mostly effective in the East and in the South of Ukraine. Access to Russian TV is the same in the West of the country. But the difference is striking. So the issue is not the propaganda itself, but the readiness to believe it. In the West of Ukraine this readiness is significantly lower than in the East and the South.
The same could be said about Belarus: it is true that Russian propaganda has a significant influence on the setups and notions of the population. However, its efficiency is caused by the fact that it coincides with the basic values of many Belarusians.
It should be noted, though, that at the same time majority of Belarusians approve A. Lukashenko’s policy towards Ukraine (20% approve completely, 42% approve in general). By the look of things, this ability of the Belarusian leader to remain dry under the pouring rain of Ukrainian crisis provided a small but still significant growth of his rating amid the rather bad economic situation in the country.
Sympathy for V. Putin, approval of the annexation of Crimea, sympathy for “Novorossiya” – all these things make us remember A. Pushkin’s words that government is the only European in the country. According to the Russian great writer, it could have been much worse – no one would notice anyway.
Today, of course, this would have been noticed and blamed – in Facebook. As for the real world… It is not evident, that Belarusians, approving “Crimeisours”, “Novorossiya” and V. Putin, would protest if the policy of official Minsk would have been more similar to the policy of Russia.
Naturally, position of the official Minsk is far from position of the official Kiev. However, it is also not the same as Moscow’s official position. DPR and LPR don’t even receive humanitarian aid from Minsk. Ukraine may not fear (at least for now) a military strike from volunteers from North. The number of Belarusian citizens, who go to Donbass to take part in military actions, is measured by several dozens, and Belarusian KGB issued a statement that all these people are regarded as criminal offenders, no matter whose side they are battling on.
In Russia propaganda superimposes on the centuries-long spiritual imperial tradition – from Philotheus of Pskov, the author of the theory of the “third Rome” to Alexander Dugin. In Belarus you may also find texts of good quality, written by ideologists of Western Russianism and by adepts of Belarusian national idea. But in Russia even the poorest bomzh is filled with the idea of the “third Rome” – the sky-high rating of V. Putin (89% according to Levada-Center) is a proof of it.
As for Belarus… Well, yes: “Russian World”, “Crimeisours” (theirs, to be precise), V. Putin – 60% (at least not 89% as in Russia). However, Belarusians don’t want to participate in the war in Ukraine on neither side (Graph 1). Belarusians don’t want to join Russia in their countersanctions against the EU (Graph 2). Russian air-base in Belarus? No, thanks (Graph  3). Russian troops brought to Ukraine through Belarusian territories? No, no way (Graph  4).

“Russian World”? Yes – rhetorically speaking. In reality – “let there be no war”. The popular maxima, which caused laughter not so long ago, doesn’t seem so old-fashioned and inadequate today. To this we should add that 60% of Belarusians think that life in Belarus is worse than in the West, and 40% of Belarusians believe that Belarus should approach the EU within the framework of Eastern Partnership.

So, there are some deep sympathies towards Russia, but there is no anti-West xenophobia; the West is not perceived as a different world full of strangers. There is a rhetorical approval of “Criemaisours” and other Russian “heroics” in Ukraine, but there is no wish to share with Russia the burden of those decisions. And we are not talking about refined intellectuals, but about masses, about all people.
So, maybe the world is the same, but the destiny is different.
Yu. Drakokhrust, http://news.tut.by/politics/454810.html