The questionnaire indicates, public opinion about the integration of Russia and Belarus is changing. As is seen from Table 1, today the ratio of people who stand for any kind of independence for Belarus and those who want to unite with Russia is 1.9 to 1, while three years ago it was 3 to 1. The number of integration adherents has gone up especially during the last year. The same tendency is shown in Table 2: today the number of people who would vote pro union with Russia is 2.3 times bigger than the number of those who would vote contra, if they had a possibility. Three years ago these parties were approximately equal.
Table 1. Dynamics of distribution of answers to the question: “Which variant of Russia-Belarus relations do you consider the best?”, %

Table 2. Dynamics of distribution of answers to the question: “If today there were a referendum on unification of Belarus and Russia, how would you vote?”, %

The summary of this tendency is given in Table 3. During the past three years the number of convinced adherents of integration grew 20%, and the number of their opponents reduced 42%. Today the ratio between them is 1.7 to 1 and three years ago it was 1 to 0.8.

Table 3. Dynamics of the number of convinced supporters and opponents of unification with Russia, %

* Convinced supporters are those who at a referendum would vote for the unification of Belarus and Russia and consider the unification into one state the best variant of bilateral relations. Convinced opponents are those who at a referendum would vote against the unification and consider good neighborly relations of two independent states the best variant of bilateral relations

Recent years have revealed a certain cooling of Belarusian authorities’ desire to integrate (Russian officials have always been somewhat condescending to the unavailing attempts of “Pan-Slavic Unitifyer”, realizing that they were caused not by the urge to unite the two nations but by a simple need to get political and material advantages to support the regime). Though “historic” summits and various “union” actions still take place and the official Belarusian media praise the integration achievements and the visibility of joint bodies’ usefulness (there is almost nothing of this kind in the Russian media), one cannot get rid of a feeling that all performed in this field is surreal, declining and downcast.
And the population feels it too. Table 1 shows that the “union” popularity isn’t growing while the idea of one state is attracting new followers.
You may be sure that A. Lukashenko does use the integration idea to get financial aid from our Eastern neighbor. And he is doing this more professionally than V. Kebich, S. Shushkevich and M. Grib all together. But he is not going to leave state independence (read: uncontrolled power in a small but separate state). It is better to be the first cowboy on a ranch than the last millionaire in Vegas.
Any game, however, may result in a defeat. Especially when you play against professionals. And today’s Russian management is obviously professional when the we talk about relationships with Belarus. “The Chief Integrator” is being slowly, silently and purposefully taken the initiative from. Material aid comes alongside with strict regulations on economic reforms. The festive visits to Russian provinces are stopped. Only close in spirit Russian governors sometimes appear at Belarusian court, but these visits take place more and more seldom, because it is understood that receiving minor officials is humiliating as for president and for the country, especially as these visits have very little effect.
But the main danger for independence (read: uncontrolled power…) came from an unexpected side. It was located inside the country! Long preparations have at last started the integration machine whose movement can break any obstacles. One can assume that daily propaganda had the effect and the integration started. But it would be more right to say that our nationals watching the dominant Russian TV channels are getting transparent confirmations of social and economic progress in the neighboring state with against the stagnation of the Belarusian economy and permanently low living standards for the majority in the background. It is this but not the illusory “Slavic unity” that is, in our opinion, the engine of today’s amplification of integration moods. It can be regarded as a desperate deed because people just do not see any other outlet.
It is not the end yet. Many former integration opponents were antagonized by the so-called “Asian” (i.e. anti-western) way of Russian development. But after September 11th, 2001 when our Eastern friends turned out to be allied with the whole Western coalition, this argument was of no use anymore and the integration moods were stimulated anew. One more reason for speeding up integration popped up at the beginning of 2000, when the “bossy” Boris Yeltsin who was growing lazy and decrepit was displaced by mobile and European-looking Vladimir Putin who casually left no chance for A. Luka-shenko to occupy the Kremlin throne. Today Vladimir Putin who has shown his electorate the way to the long-awaited progress and helped to raise the living standards for the Russians is much more appealing to Belarusians than the gloomy A. Lukashenko who still, as five years ago promises “a shot and a steak” for his people and prison plank beds for his own clerks (See Tables 4 and 5). As a result, the tally of integration opponents lost its members again.

Table 4. Dynamics of distribution of answers to the question: “If the post of the president of Belarus and Russia is introduced, for whom would you vote at a union presidential election?”, %

0 – V. Putin’s name wasn’t mentioned

Table 5. Dynamics of distribution of answers to the question: “Whom of the modern politicians do you like most of all, who corresponds to your ideal of politician?”, %

0 – V. Putin’s name was not offered in the given poll

Previously many researchers admitted repeatedly that integration adherents were A. Lukashenko’s adherents at the same time. Thus, a conclusion was drawn that the independence of the country will not be endangered in the future, as A. Lukashenko’s followers were mostly elderly and old people who would be deceased with the course of time and the problem would be solved with no effort.
But it wasn’t! This is shown by the data in Table 6.

Table 6. Dynamics of attitude towards independence of Belarus depending on attitude towards A. Lukashenko*, %

Attitude towards independence of Belarus
Attitude towards A. Lukashenko**
Convinced opponents 46.9 (28.2)
Convinced supporters 10.4 (22.3)
Convinced opponents – 28.3 (20.1)***
32.8 (9.7)
18.6 (40.7)
Convinced supporters of – 16.4 (26.1)
73.3 (53.7)
2.9 (7.5)

* Read horizontally
** Typology of convinced supporters and opponents of A. Lukashenko was carried out using the same method applied for supporters-opponents of independence and is based on four questions of the questionnaire
*** In parenthesis – data for November of 1999

One can see, over the past 2.5 years the number of A. Lukashenko’s convinced opponents grew sharply – from 28.2% to 46.9% while the number of his convinced supporters dropped from 22.3% to 10.4%. Today, however, almost one third of his opponents (32.8%) side with the union with Russia, while in 1999 they were only 9.7%. Therefore, considerable growth of integration intentions (3.4-fold!) among A. Lukashenko’s convinced opponents, consisting mostly of young and educated people is evident. If the tendency is preserved and other conditions being equal, in a few years the country will not have independence supporters whatsoever.
It is quite interesting, that the number of those siding with the unification with Russia among A. Lukashenko’s convinced supporters has dropped significantly. They are only 18.6% at present while in 1999 their ranks counted 40.7%. Now there are 73.3% ardent Lukashenko’s opponents among those who want integration against 53.7% in 1999, which actually was to be expected.
As for the union, Table 7 shows, the majority of the population regards it as a declaration of intentions that had no effect whatsoever on the life of the two nations. In a year the number of people who share this opinion grew 1.4-fold, while the share of those who believe in the reality of this body and in its positive effect on the life of people went down from 9.8% to 6.1%. One can say, the present variant of the union is gradually discrediting itself in the eyes of the voters.

Table 7. Dynamics of distribution of answers to the question about the Russia-Belarus Union, %

What should, according to the people, the real integration include? Some answers can be found in Table 8.

Table 8. Distribution of answers to the question: “What shall be the essence of real integration of Belarus and Russia?”, % (more than one answer is possible)

One can see, about half of the population want only the absence of borders between our countries and single currency from the integration. Other issues interest only a very insignificant share of our fellow citizens. This kind of integration is almost present. We are only to introduce single currency as in Europe.

Table 9. Dynamics of distribution of answers to the question: “What is your attitude towards restoration of the USSR?”, %

In conclusion let us consider the population’ opinion on reviving the USSR (See Table 9). Nowadays for the first time the number of the followers of the revival dropped below the number of opponents, while 8.5 years ago the former exceeded the latter 2.5-fold. One can expect that in a few years the majority of the population will be against the idea. We begin to understand that the past, however we estimate it, is irreversible.