Looking through state-run newspapers and those that are referred to as opposition newspapers in Belarus make give an impression that they are published in two different countries. First, almost any political event, either international or domestic, is given different and sometimes mirror-like assessment. Second, what is the breaking news for state-run editions may be omitted in opposition editions and vice versa.

Here is an example. What has been non-state socio-political press discussing issue by issue for several months already? Russia-Belarus relations, this was their subject. What’s the reason for such close attention to the issue everyone’s quite bored with? The Constitution, which has been a source to live on over years for journalists, seems to have been buried by President of Russia V. Putin. The Kremlin has directed all its power onto the coming parliamentary election of 2007 and the presidential election of 2008. They have no time for the Constitution, which V. Putin mentioned during his TV talk with the people.

That’s true, and the reason is not the Constitution itself. Yet in spring Head of Russian gas monopoly Gazprom A. Miller stated that starting from January of 2007 the monopoly will sell gas by world prices to Belarus. It is now five months since then. The talks between Minsk and Moscow are going all the time without any positive result for Belarus. On the contrary, nearly every week this or that high-ranking Russian official steadily re-iterates inevitable increase of gas prices.

The Europeans are doing pretty well despite these high prices. Why should the Belarusians literally lose their shirts if they get into equal conditions with their Western neighbors? The reason is the Belarusian economic model which President A. Lukashenko has been practicing for years. It can demonstrate miracles only provided there are multibillion investments from abroad. Top offices do know this but they keep silent to hide this awareness. When it turns really bad, state-run newspapers publish a lullaby article persuading that the Father will settle it all this time again.

It comes as no surprise that the majority doesn’t show any anxiety. What’s more, the key trait of the Soviet man (confidence in the future) grows as the tenseness in Russia-Belarusian relations increases. Look into Table 1: public optimism has taken a giant step forward over the past two years. That’s based on this optimism that the latest presidential election was held in Belarus.

Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question: “How do you think will socio-economic situation in Belarus change in the near future?”, %

Variant of answer






Will improve






Will not change






Will aggravate






Apart from the gas issue, there’s the oil problem in Belarus. Along with cheap oil Belarus gets a subsidy from Russia which experts assess for $1.5-2 billion. Who wins and who loses in such a situation? The profit of Belarus is obvious. Russian oligarchs aren’t down either: they get their money anyway even with such bargaining unlike the Russian budget that misses all export duties. Why don’t Russian officials set it all to rights then? It’s all not that simple. According to the noted Belarusian economist L. Zaiko, “This issue is even more delicate than the gas problem because big Russian figures are involved in it. It’s not only legally that oil is imported in Belarus. Its very substantial part comes here in shade paths, for example via offshore companies. Such a scheme was convenient for everyone including lobbyists in the Kremlin. This was also beneficial for oil companies, oil refineries and Belarusian officials who lived on this. V. Putin well understands that if he cuts the quote for Belarus he will cut a very good source of income for the many including high-ranking Kremlin officials.”

A. Lukashenko well understands this as well. He is not alone ruling the country, and he will not manage it without the officials. The well-known Soviet curse “May you live on your wages alone!” is as relevant for present-day Belarus as never before. Wages of a minister is nowadays not enough even to start building of a one-room apartment in Minsk let alone a cozy two- or better three-stored cottage house in suburbs. Construction of this kind doesn’t slow down in Minsk suburbs which indicates that processing of oil at the Belarusian plants is given proper control.

Whatever further developments at the oil market are, all decision-making on oil duties allocation is done in Moscow. If they want to wait, they will. If they don’t want to wait, they will press on Belarus with another economic or political demand. A. Lukashenko will have nothing to do with his inefficient economic model. As they say, they reaped as they sowed.

Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question: “Do you think the country in general is going in the right or in the wrong direction?”, %

Variant of answer


All population

Supporters of authorities

Opponents of authorities

In the right




In the wrong




As long as high-ranking officials are bickering on export duties on the oil, common Belarusians are showing their belief in the Belarusian model and in the future it builds. (See Table 2). It should be noted though that by far not all citizens believe in it. Opponents of the authorities take a sober view of things despite the official propaganda. They are perfectly aware that the country is deadlocked.

Apart from macroeconomic questions given in Tables 1 and 2, we asked the respondents some utilitarian questions (which they are asked on a regular basis) like the question about dynamics of their personal welfare over the past three months. (See Table 3). Due to the nature of the question, answers to it little depend on propaganda. They go from people’s real living.

Table 3. Dynamics of answers to the question: “How has your welfare changed over the past three months?”, %

Variant of answer





Has improved





Hasn’t changed





Has aggravated





Table 3 doesn’t reveal any significant dynamics. In the year of presidential election, the personal life situation has stabilized. There’s statistic explanation for this sociological phenomenon: the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis registered the most rapid growth of real income of population – by 17.8% – for January-September as against the previous year. Comparing this October with January won’t give such a bright picture. In the conditions of too high expectations, the average Belarusian doesn’t feel the growth of real wages within 10% limits. Such expectations may bring to a grave situation in 2007 if even some of Russia’s economics threats are implemented.