The first quarter of 2016 draw a line under the Anomalies-2014 and 2015. As we’ve emphasized it, in the long run economic factors win over political factors in the struggle for the influence on public opinion. Beginning from March 2014, the “image of the world” of an average Belarusian was formed under a significant influence of Russian TV channels. Over 60% of population of the “partisan country” were sincerely happy about “Crimeaisours”, and this fact stopped the negative trends outlined by the end of 2013.

For a long time, social well-being of population did not correspond to economic situation. It was like Russian TV cut Belarusians off reality, but social indices collapsed in March. Real incomes of population, decreasing for the second year running, started to matter in the end. And, as it often happens, clarity came unexpectedly.

For three quarters running index of financial standing (FSI) was oscillating near -30 mark (Table 1), but it lost 22.2 points in March in comparison with December. If FSI continues to decrease at the same rate, then the absolute low of June 2011 will be outstripped in the next quarter.

Table 1. Dynamics of answering the question: “How has your personal financial standing changed for the last three months?”, %

Variant of answer 06’11 12’13 03’14 03’15 06’15 09’15 12’15 02’16
It has improved 1.6 12.6 10.1 8.6 9.0 9.8 10.5 5.5
It has not changed 23.2 58.1 63.3 44.0 51.3 44.4 45.9 33.4
It has become worse 73.4 28.4 25.2 46.3 37.2 42.5 42.4 59.6
FSI* –71.8 –15.8 –15.1 –37.7 –28.2 –32.7 –31.9 –54.1

* Financial standing index (the difference between positive and negative answers)

IISEPS data for 2015 are not fundamentally different from Belstat data, obtained during a selective survey of Belarusian households’ life standards in 2015 (unfortunately, the exact date of survey is not known). Every third household (33.6%) noted that their financial standing became worse. 10.7% of households assessed positively the changes in their financial standing in comparison with 2014. 55.7% of households noted stability of their financial standing.

Almost half of households (47.7%), which pointed out a worsening of financial standing, named significant price hike as the main reason of these negative changes. 19.3% of respondents named a decrease of incomes, 10.1% named switch to a lower paid work, underemployment or unemployment.

Answers to the question of Table 2 confirm sound reasoning of the significant decrease of FSI. In comparison with September 2014, the share of respondents who can hardly make both ends meet (“don’t have enough money to buy food”) increased by a factor of 4 – from 4.8% to 19.4%! The share of those for whom “buying clothes is a real problem” significantly increased as well: from 25.5% up to 41.8%. These changes were made possible at the expense of almost symmetrical decrease of answers in the following two “nominations”.

Table 2. Dynamics of answering the question: “Which group of population can you assign yourself to?”, %

Variant of answer 03’11 06’13 09’14 03’16
We can hardly make both ends meet and we don’t have enough money to buy even food 10.3 8.5 4.8 19.4
We have enough money for food, but buying clothes is a real problem 33.7 37.2 25.5 41.8
We have enough money for food and clothes, but buying durable goods is a problem 44.1 45.3 52.8 30.1
We can easily buy durable goods, but it is difficult to buy really expensive things 10.9 8.3 15.0 7.0
We can afford some quite expensive buys – a flat, a summer residence and so on 0.7 0.6 1.6 1.5
NA 0.3 0.1 0.3 0.2

In perfect agreement with Karl Marx’s formula “existence determines consciousness” we registered a tight connection between the evaluation of country’s policy and the answers to the question of Table 2. In particular, among respondents, who assess the policy positively, only 10% of respondents ascribed themselves into the first group, while among those who assess the policy negatively, this share amounted to 25.5%.

For the first time over the last two years the policy correctness index (PCI) is lower than its’ pre-“Crimeaisours” value (Table 3). Majority of Belarusians (58.5%) agreed that the state of things in the country is developing in the wrong direction. These evaluations are quite different from the statements of the head of state about normal functioning of “the existing system in Belarus”, which “doesn’t rouse criticism from people”.

Table 3. Dynamics of answering the question: “Do you think the state of things is developing in our country in the right or in the wrong direction in general?”, %

Variant of answer 09’11 12’13 03’14 03’15 06’15 09’15 12’15 03’16
In the right direction 17.0 31.9 40.2 36.9 34.6 34.8 36.7 23.5
In the wrong direction 68.5 54.1 46.2 45.8 49.4 48.0 50.9 58.5
DA/NA 14.5 14.0 13.6 17.3 16.0 17.2 12.4 18.0
PCI* –51.5 –22.2 –6.0 –8.9 –14.8 –13.2 –14.2 –35.0

* Policy correctness index

As it is expected for an authoritarian leader, A. Lukashenko enjoys support mostly among peripheral social groups, which cannot survive without state support. The largest in numbers of these groups is retired people group. However, even among people older than 60 years old, 38.2% of respondents admit that the course of development in the country is wrong.

Dynamics of the expectation index (EI) repeat the dynamics of PCI and their value go below their pre-“Crimeaisours” value (Table 4). For 2 years Belarusians demonstrated willingness to be patient, but for the first time since 2011 the share of pessimists exceeded 40%.

Table 4. Dynamics of answering the question: “How is the socio-economic situation going to change in Belarus within the next few years?”, %

Variant of answer 06’11 12’13 03’14 03’15 06’15 09’15 12’15 03’16
It is going to improve 11.9 12.5 24.0 23.1 21.7 20.6 16.5 12.7
It is not going to change 20.3 46.1 45.0 36.1 36.0 37.2 40.2 34.3
It is going to become worse 55.5 35.9 26.1 33.6 36.5 36.2 36.4 42.9
EI* –43.6 –23.1 –2.1 –10.5 –14.8 –15.6 –19.9 –30.2

* Expectation index

The symbolic battle between the TV and the fridge was won by the fridge. Mobilization bubble, inflated by Russian propaganda and reinforced by horror stories from A. Lukashenko, told during the presidential campaign, is completely blown out.

Belarusians save money on food, can’t by clothes for themselves and their children, and thus they correlate their overblown expectations with their abilities. Such was the start of another 5-year period with A. Lukashenko.