Sociologists are well aware that there are many objective factors as well as human factors that influence the formation of public opinion. The public opinion doesn’t work out notions of abstract matters that demand professional knowledge. How does it act then? It acts exactly like a visitor in a restaurant choosing from the menu. Who and why builds this menu is another question. To a certain extent, these are the mass media that focus public attention on certain events neglecting some other events as well as sociologists who work out question wordings and offer a limited list of possible answers dictating this way the range of choice for respondents.

Thus, the nation opinion poll conducted by independent sociologists in March-April of 2006 asked the following question: “Do you think you are rather a European or a Soviet man?” The answers were distributed in the following way: 36% place themselves among Europeans, 52% among Soviet men and 12% of respondents found it difficult to answer. Strict choice between “a Soviet man” and “a European” revealed an overwhelming dominance of “a Soviet man.” We shouldn’t like to make hasty conclusions on this issue. In the end of October of 2006 the question on self-identification had a slightly different wording: “To what culture do you relate yourself?” Here are the answers: 64.2% to Belarusian, 13.6% to Russian, 13.3% to Soviet and 8.1% to European. Those who found it difficult to answer were very few.

The above example proves, on the one hand, existence of certain formative limits of opinion polls and, on the other hand, multidimensional nature of public opinion. Answers to one or two questions cannot fully describe it even when speaking about a particular issue. In addition, statement of a question and collecting of answers is just an initial state in this kind of sociological surveys. Their key point is interpretation. In particular, discrepancy in percentages of “a Soviet man” can be explained by the following – Russian variant of a Soviet man is presented in Belarus by a Soviet Belarusian. Such interpretation will put everything in its place.

In the age of information, the position of a head-cook in the kitchen of public opinion formation is undoubtedly given to television. Let’s see the latest opinion poll. Respondents were asked a question about the political conflict between Russia and Georgia. Clearly, the Belarusians don’t have any personal interest in this conflict and so they don’t have a single standpoint. In addition, the Belarusian authorities didn’t publicize their standpoint on this issue. Thereby, Belarusians were given “the menu of the national Russian cuisine.” (See Table 1).

Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question: “As you know, there’s a political conflict between Georgia and Russia which lasts for several months already. Who is to blame for it, you think?”*, %

Variant of answer

All population

Supporters of authorities

Opponents of authorities









Both countries








* Table is read down

Belarusians did their choice from the offered menu. It is not surprising that it appeared to be pro-Russian: the percentage of Belarusians who put responsibility for conflict on Georgia is 3.6-fold higher than those who blamed Russia. Difference in assessments is even greater within the group of supporters of authorities which is quite expected. Supporters of authorities in Belarus were always Russia-oriented and this is why they turn more subject to the influence of the Russian mass media when they get into one media space with opponents of authorities.

Let’s compare the public opinion of Belarusians with the public opinion of Russians on this issue. According to the results of the Levada Center, the majority of respondents (51%) say that these are Georgian authorities first of all who are to blame for the current aggravation in Russia-Georgia relations (and only 5% blame the Russian authorities for this). As one may see, the difference in answers is not very large. If answers of Russians are compared to the answers of supporters of authorities, the difference will lie within the margin of error. This consent is not a mere coincidence we think.

Answers to the question in Table 2 given below take us back from Russia-Georgia relations to the Belarusian reality.

Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question: “The authorities of Georgia have recently accused several Russian officers of espionage. In response, Russia announced blockade to Georgia. In your opinion, can similar developments on the part of Russia against Belarus be possible in case of a conflict between the two countries, for example, on the grounds of the gas price?”, %

Variant of answer

All population

Supporters of authorities

Opponents of authorities

Yes, they are possible




No, they are not possible








It is obvious that the Belarusians have their interest in this situation. However, the result was quite predictable in the previous case while here almost 40% of Belarusians expecting such actions from fraternal Russia are really surprising. Now, where is the Slavic unity so much spoken about from the top chairs over lately? Where is that “actually single nation”?

The difference in answers between supporters and opponents of authorities is very significant in this case (almost twofold). What’s more, every third supporter of authorities whom we defined as pro-Russian is ready to believe in Russia’s blockade. The reason is the menu offered. From the viewpoint of public opinion, Russia is a very diverse country. The Russia supplying Belarus with cheap gas is one country, friendly and even fraternal. The Russia increasing price for gas to the world level is another country, by far not fraternal. When it comes to selling national heritage (Beltransgaz) to Russia, the situation changes gravely. This is why asked in June “In your opinion, on what conditions can Belarus sell its gas transportation and supply enterprise Beltransgaz?” 82% of Belarusians were resolute to say “Under no circumstances they should sell Beltransgaz.” By the way, there wasn’t great difference found in the answers of supporters of authorities and opponents of authorities.

The above examples well demonstrate the propaganda potential of authorities. In the first place, they are determined by the level of trust to propagator. Let developing as it might, like in the case with Russia-Georgia conflict, the public opinion started building up within two frameworks created yet at the dawn of Belarusian independence. Yet, in general, the public opinion in Belarus is scary. It doesn’t believe in fast friendship with Russia, and this is why it is ready to assume any actions on the part of its only neighbor-ally.