IISEPS News, N 3 (25), 2002



Strengthening Role of Independent Social Research and Experts’ Network in Belarus:
Results of a national public opinion poll

Open Forum:
Alexander Fadeyev
End to Staging and Beginnnning of Integration?

Irina Bourina, IISEPS
Pavel Severinets. “Malady Front Generation. History of Youth Born in 1970-1985”


Dear readers!


The next – jubilee! – 25th issue of the analytical bulletin “IISEPS News” offers to your attention materials reflecting the most interesting results of the Institute’s work in the third quarter of 2002.
V. Putin’s statements about further development of the Russia-Belarus integration became the most significant event, which agitated public-political life within this period. In this respect, political prospects of A. Lukashenko, the opposition and the country as a whole reshaped. The reaction by the Belarus president (reinforced with the might of the entire state information-propagandistic machine), who instantly turned into an advocate of state sovereignty and national pride of Belarusians, provoked numerous questions and doubts, hopes and blunt speculations, both in Belarus and abroad. Is A. Lukashenko in fact likely to follow the path of “national salvation”, consolidation of Belarus’ society, approchement with the West or to continue (begin another) integration game? The choice of the right strategy for the Belarusian opposition, Russia’s leadership and the West depends on the right answer to these questions. Thus, the given bulletin is mostly devoted to the integration issue.
The issue of integration, however, “raises” another closely related topic – a drop in A. Lukashenko’s popularity rating, a further divergence of public and authorities in Belarus. As a matter of fact, that was the key reason for a sudden turn in Russia-Belarus relations (as G. Pavlovsky, the President of the Efficient Policy Foundation and an aide to the Russian president, tactfully noted, “that’s the reason why Russia had to specify the balance of its relations with Belarus”). The statements by the Belarus president made on NTV television on September 9 (which in fact became an open challenge to V. Putin), as well as during the September 17 press conference in Minsk (about a possible referendum on introducing changes to the Constitution allowing him to be elected the president for the third term), clearly say that the integration is not so much an issue of foreign, as of home policy process.
The results of the latest IISEPS national public opinion poll, presented in the given issue as figures, tables, trends as well as analytical materials, make evident not only the president’s still falling rating (about 1% a month), but also an absolutely different public attitude towards the integration with Russia (including the variants suggested by V. Putin), than declared by the head of state.
Hence, in particular, one could suppose that under such course of events not just reelection, but retention of his powers until the next presidential election might become a real problem for A. Lukashenko. In a word, there is enough pabulum for reflection of analysts, journalists, politicians, diplomats and all those interested in public-political life in Belarus.
Nonetheless, no matter what facts and events are recorded by IISEPS’s studies, they could be viewed in different ways. In order to keep objective information not “overshadowed” by analysis (which, if you please, can be claimed “engaged”, “ordered”, etc.), we introduced the rubric “Open Forum”. Our readers have had the opportunity to familiarize with different points of view of leading Belarusian politicians, experts and diplomats, which often do not coincide with our opinions. This time, since the integration is the key subject of the bulletin, “Open Forum” is given to prominent Russian expert (head of the Belarus Department at the NIS Institute) Professor Alexander Fadeyev. We think his analysis would be of great interest to our readers.
The Appendix contains another Regulation of the Belarusian Council of Ministers (#1174 dated August 29, 2002) which shifts the process of establishing control of state authorities over independ-ent social studies to a “working” stage: it defines the place of the control mechanism in the system of state authorities, the terms of its “switching on” and those responsible for its realization. We believe that these minor, in terms of global problems (falling life standards, the country’s isolation, the threat of losing sovereignty, etc.) decisions by Belarus’ authorities could in fact cause almost the same damage to our society and the sate as social conflicts or natural upheavals, because they take control not of sociology and mass media, but public opinion.
We hope that the jubilee issue of our bulletin would be interesting and helpful to you and your colleagues. We are awaiting your comments and requests!