As the polling data shows, most of the Belarusian citizens say that “something’s wrong in the Belarusian kingdom” (See Table 1).
Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question “In your opinion, is the country in general going in the right or wrong direction?”

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The question didn’t ask about the state of things in a particular sphere of social life – economics, politics, etc. but about a general feeling and integral estimate of the social development policy. Every second respondent stated that the country is going ‘in the wrong direction’. This fact disproves optimistic reports of the official propaganda that even if the Belarusians are not very happy about their living, they are anyway sure that the authorities lead them in the right direction. Does that mean the people clearly see an alternative road and know the leaders to lead them? Table 2 shows that this isn’t the case.

Table  2. Distribution of answers to the question “Do you place yourself in the opposition to the current authorities?”

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As against the number of those who are convinced the country is going in the wrong way, those considering themselves the opposition are more than twice less in the number. Yet, oppositionists (in their widest sense) make a noticeable part – almost quarter of the citizens. This is a ‘gold fund’ of the political opposition – the people ready to anytime support the opposition if only it doesn’t make very rude mistakes. However, the number of those not placing themselves among the opposition supporters is even greater. And data comparison in Tables 9 and 10 shows that many of the opposition non-supporters are dissatisfied with the course Belarus has chosen. What is the cause for this gap and why not all of those disappointed with the course are ‘enchanted’ with the opposition? Partly, Table 3 answers to this question.

Table 3. Distribution of answers to the question “What do you think are the top-priority home problems of Belarus to be solved in the first place?” (open question, more than one answer is possible)

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As it can be seen, this data proves the known truth that most people are first of all concerned about practical and financial issues of their every-day living. While asked about the problems in the country people often speak about most acute problems of their personal lives. It should be noted that the most general variant of answer ‘low standard of living’ received most of votes. This is an indicator of pre-political dissatisfaction when there’s no desire to think and speak about not only the guilty and the reasons but even about the ‘components’ of discontent: “We live bad because we have bad life; it’s bad because it’s bad.” Clearly, there’s a huge distance from such a pre-political statement to the readiness to declare oneself an opposition supporter.
At the same time, a great number of those who listed democracy and civil society development among acute social problems cannot but draw our attention. In its significance such a stand surpasses the practical problems like the crime, worsening medical care and even decreasing level of social maintenance. It is certainly the ‘credit’ of the Belarusian authorities that the issue of democracy and civil society development so strange to daily cares turned to be almost as equally acute as the problem of unemployment. This year pressure upon the civil society has increased so hard that it now worries even those people who are far from politics. Over half of the respondents (See Tables 4 and 5) answered in the negative to the questions on the state of democracy and human rights in Belarus that were asked separately so that their importance in the minds of respondents isn’t ‘forced out’ by the financial problems – last time their number was 11.7%.
While answering the questions about particular facts when the power put pressure over the civil society, the number of those who aired their negative attitude exceeded even the number of those who stated in Tables 4 and 5 that the situation with democracy and human rights in the country was going not in the best way (See Tables 6-8).

Table 4. Distribution of answers to the question “To which extent are you satisfied with the development of democracy in Belarus?”

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Table 5. Distribution of answers to the question “In your opinion, are human rights observed in Belarus?”

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Table 6. Distribution of answers to the question “The National Lyceum of Y. Kolas teaching in the Belarusian language has been recently closed in Minsk. How do you estimate the decision?”

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Table 7. Distribution of answers to the question “Governmental regulation on controlling the polling of public opinion and publication of its results in the mass media has recently come into force. Do you sustain or sustain not exertion of control over polling the public opinion?”
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Table 8. Distribution of answers to the question “NTV correspondent Pavel Selin was deported from Belarus in summer of 2003. The very NTV office was closed for “incorrect coverage of V. Bykov’s funeral ceremony.” Do you agree with such actions of the Belarusian authorities?”

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The estimates given in Tables 6-8 are noteworthy in that most respondents gave those estimates in a snap shot unaware of all facts of a case or even learning about them from an interviewer. Thus, about three thirds of respondents said they knew nothing about closure of the Lyceum of Y. Kolas before answering the questionnaire. However, this doesn’t mean their answers have no value. On the contrary, the man is known to respond and act based on his basic value system in the situation of information gap. We found out that answering in the negative to the questions of Tables 6-8 many respondents were led by not their devotion to the principles of freedom and democracy but by justice that even in the opinion of the current Belarusian authorities is, perhaps, one of the deepest feelings inherent in the Belarusians. In accordance with their motivation, school and education, especially in the language most Belarusians admit as their native is a good thing, therefore closing such a school is bad.
The same concerns social researches: knowledge and information are good and useful things, so restricting or hiding such information is bad. Comparison of data in Tables 6-7 and 8 indicates to this very motivation. Those who stand against closure of the lyceum and against control over sociological data appeared to be considerably more in the number that those standing against closure of NTV office in Belarus. The reason is it’s harder for a common mind to give estimate as there’s a new factor added here – ‘ours-alien’. Therefore, deporting a journalist isn’t a good idea in itself but the journalist and the TV channel aren’t ours, so may be journalist Pavel Selin really offended us, the Belarusians. To remind, few have seen the mentioned report on NTV. And comments on this conflict given on the Belarusian national TV channel and the Russian TV channels targeted opposite things, so many respondents answered the question on this issue in the questionnaire from their general considerations.
Now, we would like to consider answers to the most disputed nowadays question ‘Does the Belarusian society need a single state ideology?’ that seem to be of great interest. Also, it is interesting to compare in this regard the data of Table 9 with the results of the research conducted by the Institute of Social and Political Studies (ISPS) publicized on September 11. In the ISPS opinion poll, 78.7% of respondents answered in the positive to the question on whether Belarus needs the state ideology while only 8.9% answered in the negative. Shortly after the newspaper “Respublika” published an interview with Deputy Director of ISPS M. Hurs who was offended to criticism of their results and blamed critics with being engaged by the opposition. Political engagement is a blamable thing if injected into a scientific research but are ISPS researches free of it?

Table 9. Distribution of answers to the question “It has been much disputed lately that Belarus needs a single state ideology. Some agree with this, other – disagree. What is your opinion?”

M. Hurs insisted that the question about state ideology was asked in absolutely correct and neutral form. Absence of a single state ideology is known to be a formal alternative to its presence. But we have an informal alternative formulated in article 4 of acting Constitution: “Democracy in Belarus is implemented on the basis of manifold political institutions, ideologies and opinions. Ideology of political parties, religious and other public associations and social groups cannot be established for citizens as obligatory.” In other words, pluralism of opinions and competition of various ideologies is an alternative for a single ideology. Therefore, when this alternative is presented in the form of only one variant of answer, the number of those who support a single state ideology goes down more than twice.

Although ISPS question isn’t free from political engagement as it has been demonstrated above, the results obtained by the Institute are very significant. If comparing them to our data, they point out to one and the same phenomenon we spoke while giving comments on Tables 6-8. The issue of ideology stands very far from the everyday lives of people. Therefore answers to the questions on this topic depend greatly on wordings. How? While answering to this question in ISPS wording, one man might think that the state ideology is a kind of patriotism (what else!). Another man might remember that some of the oppositionists believe the state ideology is necessary provided it is ‘right’ and not that A. Lukashenko offers. Some believe the state ideology is a synonym for regime. However, when there is a clear alternative given many of those who answered ‘yes’ to the ISPS question now say (based on the mentioned above justice) that “If some can, why others cannot? This is wrong.” The respondent knows that a single state ideology doesn’t mean elimination of other ideologies. Some even remind what can be the future of those who support in this country an ideology different from the only right one. And the number of their supporters noticeably goes down. This is the phenomenon that goes far beyond the framework of problems related to scientific tools. This is the problem of public perception, the problem of offering and ‘wrapping’ an idea or a proposition so that the society can accept it.
This is why we say that a notable part of social discontent has a pre-political form unless it gets mature for political protest and even for supporting the opposition. Perhaps, there is some kind of ratio between the number of discontent and opposition supporters (Say, if there is 80% of discontent with the current state of things, the number of opposition supporters will increase to 40%.) However, it is possible that a greater part of pre-political protest cannot be turned into a political form, at least with conventional political methods.
A basic peculiarity of the Belarusian society is a deep feeling of justice. According to the theses of the state ideology currently inculcated into the society, liberal values are alien to the Belarusians. We won’t argue with this thesis but will slightly correct it: the Belarusians understand and accept freedom best of all when it is presented as justice.