IISEPS News, N 1 (11), 1999



Youth and Civil Society:
Dr. N. Efimova, IISEPS
Youth Associations’ Greater Involvement in Politics as a Boomerang Effect of State Youth Policies

Young People and Society, as Seen by Youth Leaders
(IISEPS in absentia round table conference)

Life in Our Time:
First results of a national opinion poll, conducted in March 1999

Civil Society in Belarus: Problems and Perspectives:
Dr. T. Protko, Chairperson of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Problems of the Formation of a Civil Society in Belarus (1995-1999)


Dear readers!


This issue of the IISEPS information and analytical bulletin is composed of two sections, like the previous one.
The articles in the first section concentrate on youth problems, showing the results of a number of research procedures, carried out by the Institute in the framework of the project “The Role of the Youth in the Formation of a Civil Society in Belarus” with the support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. We place a particular emphasis on this project because, aside from everything else, many trends in young people’s thinking and activities allow to forecast the development of social, economic and political environment for the near future. The bulletin also presents a survey, conducted among activists in Belarus’ most influential youth organizations, as well as the results of a regular IISEPS national opinion poll and an “in absentia round table conference” organized among leaders of youth organizations. Unfortunately, even IISEPS is unable to reflect the complete scope of opinions in its polls for leaders and activists in youth organizations. This happens because the organizations, which maintain close contacts with the authorities (for instance the Belarusian Union of Patriotic Youth), let alone government agencies proper (for instance the State Committee for Youth Affairs), refuse to participate in our research or provide information other than their official documents. This is done under various pretexts, or without any motivation. Meanwhile, IISEPS sends them its analytical packages for free, and invites them to its seminars and briefings, maintaining “a cooperation without response.”
The second section of the bulletin presents the first available results of a national opinion poll, conducted in March 1999. It did reveal some typical problems which young people encounter, and showed the opinions in the Belarusian society concerning the most vexed social, economic and political problems, as well as the idea to participate in organizations and public activities. These results rebut some common views of the Belarusian politics and economy, as well as the society at large. For instance, the anti-West attitudes in the Belarusian mentality, to which some politicians have lately referred concerning the Yugoslav crisis, seem exaggerated. The poll revealed one more important change in the thinking of the Belarusian electorate: for the first time in history the number of active and convinced opponents to president Alexander Lukashenko exceeded the number of his supporters. The next issue of the bulletin will feature a more detailed analysis of the results of the poll. Answering the requests from our readers, in this issue we present short essays on the results of the polling as well as some empirical information concerning important issues in social life without comments. Politicians, businessmen, journalists and our colleagues, analysts, will have a chance to make use of these data.
We also continue presenting the opinions of prominent Belarusian public leaders to our readership. In this issue, the chairperson of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Tatiana Protko, shares her views of the problems and prospects of development of a civil society in Belarus. We suggest that these views must be taken seriously, because according to our survey, human rights groups in today’s Belarus enjoy more confidence than law enforcers, including the Prosecutor’s Office, courts, KGB and police. One of the reasons why it happens is the fact that human right groups advocate and protect the interests of a civil society, while law enforcers guard the interests of the state. This means, that a widening discrepancy between public needs and the interests of the state is becoming one of the most vexed problems in this country.
We are always looking forward to response, comments and suggestions from you!