According to opinion polls conducted this year by independent sociologists, attitude of Belarusians to integration with Russia changed insignificantly during this year. (See Table 1).

Table 1. Dynamics of answers to the question: “If a referendum on Russia-Belarus integration is held today, how would you vote?”, %

Variant of answer







For integration







Against integration







Wouldn’t come to voting







Comparing to previous years, the number of supporters of integration with Russia has slightly decreased and the number of opponents has slightly increased but these fluctuations hasn’t changed the general situation: supporters of integration make approximately a half of respondents and opponents – from a quarter to a third of respondents.

This situation in general favorable for further approximation changes significantly when the questions to respondents concern particular moments in Russia-Belarus relations and especially the most pressing problem of the bilateral relations. Yet in April of 2006, almost immediately after the election in Belarus, the board of Russia’s gas monopoly Gazprom stated that starting from 2007 the price for gas sold to Belarus would be raised several times – from $46.67 to $200-250 per 1,000 cu m. Intense talks and political demarches of the two sides haven’t brought to any result – there’s yet no answer to the question what the gas price for Belarus will be in a month.

While Moscow puts forward economic arguments mainly (“we are rising the price for all, so why Belarusians should be an exception”), the Belarusian side presses on political aspects saying that this is not the way to behave with allies. In addition, they say this rise in price will actually break the allied relation, as A. Lukashenko stated September 29, 2006 at the press conference for Russian journalists.

As the results of October polling show, the majority of respondents share this understanding of bilateral relations. Asked the question “Speaking recently at a press conference for Russian journalists, A. Lukashenko commented on Gazprom’s plans to increase gas prices for Belarus from January 1, 2007 and he then said, ‘Rise of prices for gas to this level means break of all our relations. At least, in economics.’ Do you share this opinion?”, 53.3% of respondents supported the head of state and only 32.4% disagreed with him.

Meanwhile, Belarus (as well as Russia) maintains really beneficial economic relations with many countries of the world trading by international prices with them. If over a half of Belarusians along with the president consider that conversion to this kind of quite normal relations with the ally means “break in relations,” then love of these people to the great neighbor like Belarus is purely financial. We can easily calculate it. Belarus buys about 20 billion cu m of gas in a year from Russia. Its current price is $47 per 1,000 m3. Gazprom wants $200, so Belarus will have to spend approximately $3 billion more a year.

Clearly, Belarus doesn’t wish to give away this money like anyone else wouldn’t. Yet, the opinion of A. Lukashenko supported by the majority shows that both sides use market approach: the Russians demand to pay for their product and the Belarusians – for allied relations. On the other hand, the majority of Belarusians agree with the price A. Lukashenko established for Russia to pay, but when it comes to the price the Belarusians should pay, this is the minority which agrees with this – about a quarter of respondents only. (See Table 2).

Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question: “What’s your opinion of A. Lukashenko’s statement at a recent press conference for Russian journalists: “If there are any tanks attacking Russia from the West, we will stand up and die for Russia. Our people should be ready to this?”

Variant of answer


I approve and support this


It doesn’t matter


I don’t approve and don’t support this


Apparently, people are not ready for this despite president’s opinion. Of course, the probability of tanks going from the West to Moscow is absolutely low, so the results in Table 2 more likely reflect attitude of Belarusians to Russia as an ally and at the same time as a stranger for which they don’t wish to shed their blood.

At the same time, respondents are greatly concerned about possible sharp growth of the gas price in connection to their welfare first of all. (See Table 3).

Table 3. Distribution of answers to the question: “In your opinion, what will be the consequences of gas prices growth for your family and this country in general?”

Variant of answer


Prices for central heating as well as for other goods and services will jump up which will greatly aggravate situation in my family and in the country in general


Prices for central heating as well as for other goods and services will start growing which will slightly aggravate situation in my family and the country in general


I believe the government will find a way out and prevent any aggravation of situation for my family and the country in general


Data in Table 3 can be analyzed from different perspectives. On the one hand, only about a third of respondents expect serious troubles following rise in gas price while over a half of the polled believe that there will be no aggravation or it will be not very bad. On the other hand, only 36% of respondents think that the Belarusian authorities will retain the current situation and over a half fear that they will anyway have to tighten their belts.

In his latest addresses and statements A. Lukashenko keeps mentioning the group of new allies of Belarus which are first of all China, Venezuela and Iran. These are not only words. Quite recently President of Venezuela U. Chavez came on a work visit to Belarus and in early November A. Lukashenko went to Iran. The official mass media underline that cooperation with these countries will bring great economic benefit to Belarus and will help it compensate for the losses pertaining to rise in price for Russian gas.

Will these promises come true is still a question, but the data of the opinion poll show that partnership with these new friends doesn’t have any firm political or at least emotional foundation (unlike in relations with Russia). Asked “Would you like Belarus to make a Union with the countries like Venezuela, Iran and China?”, only 28.4% of respondents answered in the positive and 52.9% – in the negative.

Table 4. Distribution of answers to the question: “What nationalities are closer to you, the Chinese, the Iranians and the Venezuelans or the Americans and Europeans (the Czech, the Polish, the Lithuanians, etc.)?”

Variant of answer


The Chinese, the Iranians and the Venezuelans are closer to me


Americans and Europeans are closer to me




One of the reasons for this reluctance is a cultural distance between Belarusians and citizens of these countries with whom the Belarusian authorities so much want to make friends. Europeans and Americans, from whom the Belarusian authorities are constantly waiting for some dirty tricks, are much closer to the average Belarusian. (See Table 4).

Thereby, the authorities will hardly succeed in replacing warm attitude of population to Russia by cooperation with the countries far away in every sense.