All-Belarusian People’s Assembly (popular veche) is the supreme implementation of poplar rule. This is the official version. The first Assembly was held on October 19-20, 1996. Let us remind you the heading of Alexander Lukashenko’s report: “Only the People Have the Right to Decide Their Fate”. By way of historical reference, it should be noted that veche was a popular assembly of town or tribal community in ancient and medieval Slavic countries. It was efficient under the condition that each participant could hear herald’s screaming. Thus, veche was a pre-state power institution.

Despite propaganda, in June 2016 only 28% of Belarusians share the official point of view on All-Belarusian People’s Assembly. Every second respondent perceived the popular veche as a show (table 1).

Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question “The V All-Belarusian People’s Assembly will be held on June 22-23. Which of the following opinions on All-Belarusian People’s Assemblies do you share?” depending on attitude to A. Lukashenko, %

Variant of answer All respondents Attitude to A. Lukashenko
Trust Don’t trust
This is the supreme implementation of popular rule 28.0 58.1 7.0
This is the power’s “show” for the people 49.2 20.8 76.4
DA/NA 22.8 21.1 16.6

The choice between these opinions significantly depends on education and age of respondents: primary – 67.4/12.6%, higher – 20.9/59.5%; 18-29 – 18.9/54.3%, 60+ – 54.3/23.1%.

Table 2 results allow to evaluate Belarusians’ attitude to the Congress of Democratic Forces, organized in May by the leaders of Belarusian opposition, according to the same criteria. Judging by all respondents (the first column), the difference is insignificant (and it’s in favor of the Congress): 49.2% of respondents view the Assembly as a show, and 44.9% view the Congress as a show.

Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question “Part of oppositional leaders held another Congress of Democratic Forces in May. Which of the following opinions on Congresses of Democratic Forces do you share?” depending on attitude to A. Lukashenko, %

Variant of answer All respondents Attitude to A. Lukashenko
Trust Don’t trust
This is the supreme expression of people’s disagreement with the policy of the power 28.2 22.8 37.2
This is the opposition’s “show” for the people 44.9 55.7 36.7
DA/NA 26.9 21.5 26.1

Naturally, by breaking the answers down according to politically opposed groups, we see an inverse relationship. Alexander Lukashenko’s supporters actively reject the variant, which they actively supported when it was related to the Assembly, when it is related to the Congress. It should be noted, however, that the differentiation of answers in the case of the Congress is noticeably lower. The reason for this lies in the almost equality of the Congress’ evaluations among Lukashenko’s opponents.

To understand the answers to the question of chart 3 we’ll need the definition of democracy by Voltaire, the French philosopher of XVIII: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

This understanding of democracy is shared by only 27.5% of modern Belarusians. Over two decades this share increased by only 2.7 points, which is below statistical error. In all fairness it should be noted that the share of the first variant, the most brutal one (“Ban their activities”) dropped by 12.2 points over the same period of time.

Nevertheless, the registered stability of Belarusians’ perceptions of democracy permits us to raise a point regarding the reasons of these perception’s peculiarity. What is the chicken and what is the egg in this case? Is this peculiarity reproduced by virtue of state propaganda, or does the final design of the state itself, defined on 1996 referendum, result from this peculiarity?

In June 2016 only 6.5% of supporters and 47.9% of opponents of Lukashenko agreed to grant equal rights to all sides. The latter share is 7.4 times as high as the former. Nevertheless, it is still less than a half. This is the reality of Belarusian cultural matrix, and people, who claim to be real politicians, should take it into consideration.