• January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

March 1998

  • The idea that Belarusians are hostile and distrustful towards the West has been spread by some media. To defend this argument, some refer to the East-Slavic mentality influenced by the 70 years of Communist rule while other appeal to the political experience of the recent years. Still, does the slogan “Belarus – in Europe” inspire only a handful of extremists? How many Belarusian citizens actually want Belarus' joining the European Union?

June 1998

  • Similar to other research centers in Belarus and abroad, IISEPS is very interested in the country's economic indicators which are reported to be improving. Employees of IISEPS have recently polled economic analysts. They are relatively few in Belarus and mostly based in ministries, research institutes, bigger newspapers and banks. All over the country, their number is slightly more than one hundred but, which is most important, the authorities listen to their opinions. 1. Failed again
  • 1. People's needs for economic information and possibilities of their satisfaction Many sociologists have emphasized the significant interest of Belarusian people in economic information which is explained by such factors as: 1) the understanding by the majority of the population of the relations between the economic strategy of the state and their own financial and social situation; 2) the necessity to form their own strategy of survival and achievement of high living standards based on a good orientation in the current economic situation; 3) a certain confidence in the possibility of receiving true information based on the existence of various information sources.

October 1998

  • The main characteristic feature of non-state, independent research and analytical centres, which are referred to as think tanks world-wide, which differs them from traditional university and academic agencies, is their mission: to impact public policy, develop and advocate technologies, which facilitate social progress and make the process of decision-making in authorities and structures of the civil society more competent and responsible. The results of such activities are varied – conferences, seminars, policy papers, media reports, books, different public initiatives etc. – and they attract the growing attention of public and government in many countries across the world.
  • The latest poll (like all previous polls) paid a lot of attention to political life in the country. Questionnaires traditionally included a query about the chances of different candidates during the presidential elections (see Table 1).
  • As usual, respondents were asked to express their attitude toward the president and his policies. President A. Lukashenko's rating appears to have withstood all the trials of the recent past, even easing up a bit (Table 1). Much as during the previous polls, cognitive, emotional and motivational characteristics of the people's stance to the president were used to form an aggregate indicator, which divided the population into president's pronounced supporters and opponents (see Table 2). Table 1. President Lukashenko's rating, %
  • According to Table 1, at present the most vexing problems for the community in this country are deteriorating living standards and impoverishment. Table 1. Distribution of respondents' answers on the most vexed problems, which the country and they have to address
  • The respondents' opinions of the economic side of today's life also excite curiosity. The results of the survey prove that more and more people give preference to market economy thinking regardless of the active rhetoric of market socialism adherents. The number of supporters of a market economy with a slight state control (which almost conforms to a liberal economic model) reached 35.2%, up 4.8% from the June 1997 level (see Table 1). The number of those who stay loyal to the market economy with considerable state control (a social democratic model) eased up 4.4%. The planned economy (a communist model) is still popular, though previously the "in favor" figure was 7.5% higher.
  • The poll was staged when the Russian economic crisis was in full swing, which yielded interesting results on its influence on the Belarusians' opinions of the Russian-Belarusian union and Russia itself. The respondents were asked to compare living standards in Belarus with those in the neighboring countries. The same question was asked during the 1996 poll, which lets us see a number of trends (see Table 1).
  • For the sake of getting to know possible social tensions in the Belarusian society and its readiness to conflicts, the respondents were asked a question about their attitudes to political, professional and other groups (see Table 1).

March 1999

  • Table 1 shows that the main driving force of Belarusian society, according to young people, is money and personal relations. Laws and the Constitution took the third and the fourth places respectively.
  • The respondents were asked a question concerning their trust in various societal and state institutions. This trust is a major indicator of the health of society and understanding between the government and people. The responses were the following (Table 1).
  • Economic crises and the deterioration of people’s living standards result in the activation of trade unions, which are not normally inclined to act. The state-run trade unions activate quickly when workers get slightly discontent, but if they lead the protests, they never go too far, finding excuses for the government, which was suggestedly not given something or cheated by someone. This was the situation in autumn-winter 1998: irrespective of all the strong threats, they never really organized any serious protests. Neither could all the efforts of the most active and unruly state-run trade unions, of agricultural machine producers and electronics workers help out of the situation.
  • In Belarus, much as elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, the problem “who will produce food for the country?” is a political problem. Normally the answer is “collective and state farms”, supported by the powerful agrarian lobby, which is unwilling to lose a source of state finance. The result is known to everyone – huge budgetary funds are spent and food products are still a deficit. However, the authorities like the idea and do not grudge the money spent from the budget because the system allows them to control people, who live in rural districts and get their guaranteed votes.
  • According to the results of the poll, 58.7% of respondents want to be employed in the public sector of the economy, and 30.0% in the private sector, although at present 51.6% of respondents work for state-run companies and 9.3% for private businesses. As it can be seen, people’s aspirations concerning the public sector almost match the real situation, but more people would like to work at a private business than do so now.
  • Irrespective of the optimistic state propaganda, which advocates economic accomplishments gained in 1998 under the wise leadership of the Savior of the Slavs, most people are pessimistic about the state of the economy and their living standards. Official statistics claimed that real incomes went up by more than 20%. However, only 3.5% of respondents said their living standards improved during the past year, and 76.1% claimed they deteriorated! (Table 1). The situation with young respondents is better somewhat because they are naturally more active in earning their living.
  • The results of the poll show that over the last six months the number of proponents of a market economy has gone slightly down. In autumn 1998 they made up 74.6% of respondents, and in spring 1999, 67.4% (Table 1). At the same time, the number of people, who support the liberal model of the market economy (i.e. a market economy with little state regulation) went up 3.8%, while the number of people who advocate for a social democratic model went down 11%. Table 1. Preferred economy (%)
  • Late in 1998 presidents A. Lukashenko and B. Yeltsin signed a declaration on the further integration of Russia and Belarus. This declaration suggests the creation of a unified state, about which a referendum may be conducted in two countries. In February 1999 Russia's Public Opinion Fund conducted a poll, willing to know how the Russians are going to vote in that referendum, if it is ever organized. During an IISEPS opinion poll, a similar question was asked. The results of the polls show that Belarusians are much less enthusiastic about integration than Russians (Table 1).
  • "Belarusian people unanimously condemn the U.S. aggressive moves” – said the Belarusian president. Is that statement true? Tables 1 and 2 provide some clues (The polling finished just a few days before the beginning of the NATO military operation in Yugoslavia).
  • It is known, that local elections in Belarus were scheduled for April 4, 1999. A few weeks before the voting day, officials from the Presidential Administration firmly asserted that 60-70% of voters would turn up at the polling stations. According to the results our poll (Table 1), this assurance did not match people’s opinions. It is understood that the views of the electorate could change on the eve of the elections. However, the intentions of those people, who counted the votes, could also influence the outcomes (According to the Central Election committee, 64% of eligible voters participated in the elections).

June 1999

  • The current IISEPS project on the role and participation of the young generation in the formation of civil society in Belarus includes, in addition to other research methods, the content analysis of the youth press. The goal of the content analysis was to figure out the public opinion on the young generation's social potential.
  • The existence of state institutes and the state itself largely depends upon such a seemingly ephemeral concept as trust. Legitimacy, which is currently a subject of heavy discussion in Belarusian society, means no more than the recognition of authorities or, basically, trust in authorities. This report attempts to find out how the attitude toward one state institute, the president, influences all existing state institutions. We are particularly interested if this influence is characteristic of young people.

September 1999

  • 1. Free market economy as a pre-condition of civil society We believe that one of the most important characteristics of civil society is high economic freedom of the population. In other words, the existence of opportunities for anybody to be economically active and realize their abilities, knowledge, preferences and wishes, limited only by a clear-cut legislative, is an important indicator of what we call civil society.

November 1999

  • Presidential decree #29 of July 29, 1999, has recently come into force "On additional measures on improving labor relations, strengthening labor and executive discipline". In accordance with the law in question, employers were given the right to sign employee contracts with additional clauses that would allow the employer to cancel the contract before the initially agreed date.
  • As survey data suggest, conditions for private enterprise in Belarus continue to worsen. While in March 1999, 7.1% of the pollsters said the conditions had improved in the last two to three years, in November 1999 that figure dropped to 4.8%. At the same time, 36.7% believe that the state has substantially tightened control over private enterprise and 22.3% pointed to increased incidence of arbitrary actions on the part various state agencies against private entrepreneurs (see Table 1).
  • While analyzing the respondents' answers to economic questions, there is always a feeling that some new ideas about how the country's economy should be organized are more and more commonly expressed in Belarusian public opinion. Despite 59.4% of the respondents say they do not know much about economics, 69.3% of the pollsters are interested in economic issues. It's possible to express a tentative guess that the people, in the name of whom authorities claimed they made economic decisions, are beginning to realize that living standards in "good" Belarus are much lower than in "bad" Poland,
  • Negotiations between authorities and the opposition that the OSCE is trying to initiate, was one of the most important political themes of the year 1999. However, as survey data show, a rather low proportion of the respondents – only 19.9 per cent were aware of the initiative to begin negotiations. Meanwhile, the respondents express their attitude toward the idea of negotiations quite strongly (see Table 1).
  • In the Fall of 2000, a parliamentary election is scheduled to be held in Belarus. It is not yet clear, how they will be organized and it is still far away. However, it was important to ask the respondents what parties and political blocs that would vote for if the election were held today. Often the opinion is voiced that people do not trust political parties at all, which is reinforced by survey data. However, many respondent would vote for representatives of political parties (see Table 1).
  • We are not trying to judge how true this line from Kipling is. Nor are we arguing about whether Belarus belongs to the East or to the West. Let's try instead to answer the question of how Belarusian public opinion sees the country’s place in the world.
  • During the public discussion of the new union treaty between Russia and Belarus officials from the two countries said that both Russians and Belarusians unanimously supported the unification of the two countries. Survey data from Russia suggest that about 70 per cent of Russians support the idea of unification with Belarus. Belarusian society, however, is not as unanimous, which data from IISEPS national surveys prove.

April 2000

  • What is the role of law in the life of the Belarusian society? Does it understand its importance and value or does it consider law to be a useless and unnecessary thing? How are human rights observed? This problem is an important one, which is indicated by the question "What would you do first if you become president of Belarus?": the answers "I would make laws work" and "I would destroy mafia" top the chart (Table 1).
  • Three years ago slightly less than 66% of respondents said that they preferred a market economy with various degrees of involvement from the state (Table 1). Today this model is supported by almost 75% of respondents. At the same time, the number of people who choose the socialist-type administrative economy diminished by 7.6%. So, A. Lukashenko's recent statements in the lower chamber of "parliament", that his economic course is correct and is supported by all the population, look hypocritical.
  • This year the authorities announced the beginning of "a broad social dialogue", which replaced the stopped negotiations with the opposition. It is rumored, that the dialogue is Minsk's attempt to maintain a nice fa?ade while it enters into a bargain with the West. The essence of the bargain is that the authorities agree to change the conditions of parliamentary elections somewhat and the West recognizes their results. The whole process is under way without the formal participation of the third interested party – A. Lukashenko's opponents. This position of the authorities is not supported by voters – around 33% of respondents (Table 1) think that the terms and conditions of
  • It is known that the parliamentary elections are going to be held this autumn. However, many problems regarding the elections are still unresolved. For instance, it is still unclear, to what agency will elections be held, as well as what its mandate will be. The authorities continue negotiations with the opposition about access to mass media and the Election code. Nevertheless, we need to know now, whom would the Belarusian electorate support if elections were held today. Table 1 shows us that the rating of the Belarusian political parties is still very low.
  • It is widely known that a part of the Belarusian society feels a strong liking for Russia. Alexander Lukashenko's negative attitude to influential international organizations and the West at large are also common knowledge. In his recent annual address about the situation in the country, which the president made in the Chamber of Representatives, he criticized a number of international financial and political structures again (including NATO, IMF, the Council of Europe etc.) Some of the Chamber Members went to even greater lengths, asking whether there was any reason for the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group to stay and work in Minsk.
  • V. Putin’s rapid emergence as Russia’s highest-ranking official and most popular person introduced sweeping change to the political situation not only in Russia, but also in Belarus. Shortly after V. Putin made his first moves in national politics, and the parliamentary bloc "Edinstvo" (Unity), which supported Putin, scored a brilliant success during the Russian State Duma elections, many observers concluded that A. Lukashenko’s aspirations to the Kremlin, which had been quite faint before, disappeared altogether. Now that V. Putin is new president of Russia, A. Lukashenko is losing the field in Belarus as well.

August 2000

  • The results of the polls show that people consider social and economic problems to be among the most vexed. Table 1 shows that the most important problems are price growth, impoverishment, unemployment and economic recession. At the same time, their aggregate importance slowly decreases: during the last two years it went down 5.7%. At the same time, the importance of legal problems, keeping order and observation of human rights increases (by 7.0%). Notably, the importance of each problem of the set is on an increase, especially the observation of human rights (more than twice).
  • It seems that Belarusian politicians are not fully aware of the country that we live in. The Belarusian people have a lot to do before this society may correspond to the standards of an informational society (see Table 7). Therefore, the ways to affect public opinions must be chosen correspondingly. Today's public leaders, i.e. people who can really affect the decision-making, confidently think that mass media are the most efficient means to convey their message to the general public (Table 1).
  • Theoretically, it is clear that the views of social problems, shared by the elite and the views of people at large may substantially vary. The reasons are obvious: the elite has common cultural background, level of education, professionalism, access to information etc. All these factors among the elite are notably higher, than among the rest of the population. These facts allow us to make a guess, that in most cases the views of the elite reflect the processes under way in a more correct and adequate manner.
  • The results of the latest opinion polls indicate that the rating of A. Lukashenko is not shaking any more – it is on a steady decline (Table 1). As it has already been mentioned before, considering the overall atmosphere of fear and mistrust in society, the real figures may be somewhat less.
  • Russian-Belarusian relations is the old but always urgent problem, which needs attention of all Belarusian politicians, who want the electorate to trust them. The opposition needs to understand that their views of this problem, as well as the views of all other "elitists", representing the state and non-state sector, make a lot of difference from the views shared by the majority of the electorate (Tables 1-3). This difference between their own views and the opinions of their potential supporters needs a speedy and efficient resolution.
  • The opinion polls, which were organized in recent years, reveal a latent inner tension in the Belarusian society. Around 7.5% of respondents (the figure has not significantly changed over the past few years) took part in public actions to express their opinions, thereby supporting radical actions (Tables 1 and 2). In August 2000, 23.7% of respondents said they were ready to participate in them.
  • A decision, whether to take part in the elections or boycott them primarily depends on the condition of the election race and on the chances of the opposition. First, we need to consider the fact, that during the last six moths Belarusian people at large have been showing a high (although it constantly decreases) readiness to vote in the elections. We cannot ignore electoral expectations, when they are so high. Therefore, a decision to boycott the elections must be well motivated and its meaning and the reasons behind it must be publicized as widely as possible.
  • The results of the opinion polls clearly indicate that there is lower readiness among respondents to take part in the parliamentary elections (Tables 1-4). More specifically, this readiness increased during the last few months, and now the trend is reverse. It is clear, however, that the respondents, who were ready to go and cast their votes in the past and have now changed their mind, did not decide that they should not vote at all (because the number of opponents of the elections does not grow).

September 2000

  • 1. Integration and "integrators" According to the results of the survey, the overwhelming majority of opinion leaders does not support the unification of Russia and Belarus. Only 14% of them were ready to vote in favor of it in a hypothetical referendum. However, more than 25% of representatives of government structures support unification, compared to less than 6% respondents from the non-state sector (Table 1).
  • The answer to this question largely depends on respondents’ political views. Table 1 shows that the number of respondents who think that the four conditions of the opposition and the OSCE should be observed is on a stable high level and exceeds the number of their opponents fivefold. However, the support of these conditions itself does not imply any actions. This argument is illustrated by the fact that radical actions enjoy little support in society.
  • Many analysts noted that the external side of the election campaign under way is uninteresting and goes largely unnoticed. Despite this and although the rating of the Supreme Council and the National Assembly (and parliamentarism as a whole) is low, 63.4% of respondents showed interest in the candidates in their constituency. However, respondents clearly have little information about candidates and their electoral programs (Table 1).
  • The results of the nation-wide survey clearly show that the August downward trend in readiness to participate in the elections stopped. The previous trend is back, because people who had hesitated whtether or not to participate in the elections decided that they should cast their votes. The number of supporters of the election boycott went down. Although it is still not possible to forecast how many people will take part in the voting because a large number of them still hesitates, we may assume that the elections will most likely be deemed valid (Table 1-6).

October 2000

  • The authorities claim that their politics stay the same because they enjoy wide support of the population. However, the survey results, for instance, show us that the Belarusian society is seriously discontent with the course taken by the regime. We should not plainly maintain that the protesting electorate exists. It is made up almost 50% of the population. Therefore, one of the major issues, which faces the democratic forces today is how to make use of this situation,
  • 1. Confidence of Belarusians in state and civil institutes is decreasing As the results of the analysis show confidence of public leaders in state and public institutes differs greatly from that of the population (see Table 1). If the leaders are more prone to trust independent research centers, non-state mass media and OSCE AMG, the population trust first of all to church, army and independent research centers, the trust index of which is much higher than that of the president, thereby deforming the traditional Slavic triad “God, Tzar and Military Chief.” The leaders trust courts, police and local authorities least of all, whereas the population – political parties, police and local authorities.
  • After Yugoslav President S. Milosevic was ousted from office some opposition leaders often say that the Yugoslavian scenario has fair chance to be successful in Belarus. How do such aspirations correspond to the reality? What Belarusian voters think about it? The fact that only 30.5% of convinced opponents of A. Lukashenko positively assessed March of Freedom III is especially revealing (see Table 1). Among the vacillators this figure is fourfold lower – 7.7%.
  • As the last election showed, modern political technologies that are widely adopted in Russia have not come to Belarus yet. Naturally, as we see from Table 1, the candidates mostly used traditional methods of persuasion. And here it turned out that almost a quarter of all the voters faced no campaigning at all! Leaflets are traditionally at the top of the information sources list (57.8%). Only 6.2% of the respondents named personal visiting of candidates as an information source. Though it is widely known that personal contacts are the most efficient method to promote this or that point of view.
  • The sociological procedures carried out by IISEPS in October were conducted after the first round of the elections, which took place on October 15. Therefore, we could confidently (of course, within the 3% margin of error) talk about its results and possible aftermath.

November 2000

  • During a national poll, less than 50% of respondents could give a definite answer to this question. This was not only caused by a tradition to believe the official point of view, advocated in the most easily accessible mass media, but also by general indifference towards parliamentarism and democracy as a whole. The group, which disagreed with the view of the opposition and the technical mission of the OSCE (28.0%), is dominated by A. Lukashenko’s convinced supporters.
  • The analysis of respondents’ answers shows that the general public traditionally sees social and economic problems as the most urgent. Table 1 shows that the most serious problems are always price growth, impoverishment of people and unemployment. However, their aggregate rating has had a tendency to decrease slowly over the last two years.
  • What place do mass media currently occupy among other institutions in the Belarusian society? What social transformation do they facilitate? These questions are complicated enough, because one can answer them from multiple points of view – the political perspective (the place of mass media in the political system), the economic perspective (their place in the economic system), the legal perspective (their place in the legal system), social and cultural perspective (their place in the cultural framework) etc. Let us try to answer these questions from a sociological perspective and explain how mass media are viewed by society, and what are the results of the interaction between the two.
  • A Russian proverb says: ”If somebody is lying in the center of the road, he gets ran over”. In our case the opposition may meet this tragic end. And the factor, which may ruin it, is the relations with Russia. Let us remind you that this factor together with the concept of two national languages were among the reasons why S. Shushkevich and Z. Paznyak lost the presidential elections in spring 1994. Today’s situation is very similar. It is all the more dangerous because opponents of the present regime keep chanting their old party slogans and make believe that everything is OK. If somebody thinks that the opposition has left it all behind, we would recommend them to read the criteria for a democratic candidate for presidency, adopted by a BPF session.
  • Table 1 shows that the overwhelming majority of opinion leaders (90.6%), regardless of the structures which they represent, do not want Alexander Lukashenko to be president of Belarus for another term. Therefore, elections are an important issue for them, as well as the question, who a possible candidate for presidency may be.
  • The analysis of changes of A. Lukashenko’s rating over the last year allows us to make a conclusion that it is on a downward trend. It is not a “collapse” (which is one of the president’s favorite catchwords), but neither is it a temporary thing. It is a stable and unswerving trend. Strange as it may seem, its insignificant fluctuations were not caused by domestic politics, but rather by the developments abroad, primarily in Russia:

December 2000

  • As was repeatedly stated, there are millions in Belarus who are not proponents of present authorities’ policy. However, the majority of them have not yet taken the side of the opposition. Why Belarus’s political elite does not use considerable public support? See Table 1 for opinions of representatives of domestic elite.
  • As we could see from Table 1, the overwhelming majority of leaders (86.8%), regardless of structures they represent, do not want to see A. Lukashenko as the country’s president for another term. From the time of the previous survey this opinion has not almost changed.
  • 1. Election is valid Sociological surveys on problems of the parliamentary election were conducted both before and after the first round, which took place on October 15 of 2000. Therefore, we could talk about its results and possible outcomes with confidence. The most important result: in line with the results of the nationwide opinion poll, some 58.8% of the adult population took part in the election (and only one third of surveyed leaders and experts – but what elite decides in our country?…),

January 2001

  • 1. Statistical assessment of social and economic development "The Republic of Belarus is a unitary democratic social jural state" reads the first clause of Article 1 of the Belarusian Constitution. It is obvious that of all definitions mentioned above the only one that is unconditionally observed is territorial integrity. As far as the remaining ones are concerned, we suppose that there are a lot of grounds to doubt that they are properly observed. Let us consider, for instance, how Belarusian authorities fulfil their constitutional obligations as regards our state’s "social orientation".
  • 1. Street actions – writer’s cramp? Findings of our polls have more than once revealed the fact that in the Belarusian society there is serious discontent with the policies of the present state administration. In other words, one can be sure to say that not only the protest electorate exists, but it constitutes almost half of the body of electors. The demand for change is literally in the air.
  • 1. New possibilities and old hazards It is well-know that relations with Russia is a serious factor influencing domestic situation in Belarus in general and outcome of certain political campaigns in particular. Defeat of two democratic candidates – Z. Poznyak and S. Shushkevich – at the presidential elections of 1994 serves as an example for underevaluation or even neglect of this factor. At the first sight, it may seem that this factor has become monopoly of A. Lukashenko long ago. Yet, the latest unfolding of bilateral relations proves that it is, to put it mildly, not exactly so. The new master of the Kremlin has made it clear that another era has been started and the rules, which were used in the time of B. Yeltsin, do not work today. Integration is no longer an instrument for the fight against NATO,
  • 1. Leaders’ confidence in state and public institutes One can see from Table 1 that public leaders tend to trust independent research centers, non-state mass media and OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group as well as to entrepreneurs’ and trade unions. Leaders have the least of confidence with the militia, courts and Central Election Committee, National Assembly and the President. The positions occupied by the above mentioned institutes have not been changed over studied period and prove steady attitude of the Head of the state to them.
  • 1. Discontent is growing Analysis of dynamics of people’s attitude towards the present course and its main inspirer A. Lukashenko over the last year allows to make a conclusion that decline in support of this course, including popularity ratings of A. Lukashenko – is not a "collapse", not a recurrent, but a relatively stable, and, perhaps, even steadfast tendency.

February 2001

  • Results of the future presidential election and further development of social-political process in many respects are defined by people’s readiness to openly express their political views. Belarusian authorities constantly repeat that there are no obstacles for that, the opposition always underscores the atmosphere of fear, which has been formed in the country under the rule of A. Lukashenko. To make the situation clear, for the first time we asked our respondents a direct question. (see Table 1).
  • As one could see from Table 1, over the last two years the number of those who would vote for unification of Russia and Belarus at a possible referendum has increased by 17%. At the same time, the number of those who would vote against it has dropped by 14%. Naturally, one can say the question is incorrect. But, first, if there is such referendum, undoubtedly, the question would be no less intricate and ambiguous. Second, negative dynamics is seen even when questions about relations with Russia are formulated in a more correct way (see Table 2).
  • As we could see from Table 1, even today the majority of adult population (76.1%) are intended of taking an active part in the upcoming presidential election. We shall remind that only 60% of voters intended (and then did vote!) of participating in the past parliamentary election. Such rise in people’s desire to take part in the next election could be explained not only by the fact that in the eyes of electorate presidential election seems more important, but also by dissatisfaction of many citizens with results of A. Lukashenko’s individual rule, and who hope to replace him at the upcoming election.

April 2001

  • 1. Political-psychological factor Over the last years Belarus has constantly been criticized for human rights violations and non-correspondence to democratic standards. Official authorities reject this sort of charges, referring to their biased nature and political motivation. Thus, it would be interesting to know the opinion not only of the US State Department and domestic human rights groups, but also what common Belarusians think.
  • Even before the presidential election date was set, political situation in the country was very complex. Proofs could be found in totally unexpected places. For example, some senior officials have begun to conceal their attitude towards political events in the country, declining to fill in our questionnaire, though previously they did it. Such denials we received, for example, in the presidential administration, high courts and its bodies, the Central Election Commission, the Chamber of Representatives, some ministries and state-run newspapers. It seems that officials have received a proper ban.
  • As one could see from Tables 1 and 2, over four years A. Lukashenko’s cumulative rating has plummeted, regardless of some "rises" (for example, after Russia’s default). Over last year ratio of his convinced supporters and opponents has stabilized and is equal to 1:2. This is proved by the analysis and another cumulative rating: ratio of respondents who are satisfied with A. Lukashenko’s ruling, and at the same time would like him to be the president for another term (16.2%), and those who are not satisfied with his ruling and at the same time would not like him to be the president for another term (28.6%) is 1:1.8.
  • As we could see from Table 1, the overwhelming majority of adult population (70.3%) is going to take part in the upcoming presidential election. Such level of intention to participate in the election could be explained not only by importance of presidential election as compared to, for example, parliamentary election, but also by the fact that many our fellow citizens are dissatisfied with A. Lukashenko’s ruling and hope to change it at the election.

May 2001

  • Belarus’s elite, which in fact is split on many issues, enjoys a rare consensus towards independence of the country. More than 80% of state sector workers and 90% of non-state sector representatives called it a positive event (see Table 1). The disappearance of the federal center in most post-Soviet republics gave local nomenclature a good chance for self-realization, chance to exchange property for power, and in some countries – to come to power and retain property.
  • The survey results show that the presidential election, as leaders think, – is the most acute problem the country and citizens are facing today (see Table 1). Leaders put aside even traditional social-economic issues. At the same time one could note that the problem of election raises more concerns with non-state sector representatives, whereas state sector leaders consider economy’s inefficiency a more urgent issue. The topic of population’s impoverishment, actively exploited by the opposition, causes much more concern among state sector leaders, rather than among non-state sector representatives, and this proves how urgent the problem is.

June 2001

  • As the survey data shows, three fourth of our fellow citizens understand that improvements are possible in our country only in the distant future (see Table 1). Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question: "Do you believe that the situation in Belarus would improve soon or it would take a long time?"
  • As for an optimal topic for election campaigning among voters, it is necessary to bear in mind that any demonstration of political activity they regard in a restrained manner. More than half of respondents said that people in our country are afraid to express their political views (see Table 1). Among problems, which the future president should solve first of all, respondents mentioned economic, rather than political problems (see Table 2). Then follows the problem of law (though far behind), and then – corruption in the government and crime. It is noteworthy that fight against corruption, which became the key issue of A. Lukashenko’s election campaign seven years ago, could hardly be very efficient again. For A. Lukashenko it seems stupid to fight corruption after so many years of almost autocratic ruling. And in order to stir the society up the opposition will need more sensational information, even more scathing than the notorious Torgexpo case.
  • Analyzing results of authorities’ propagandistic actions, which are being carried out within the framework of the presidential campaign, their low efficiency must be noted. We remember how much time and money was spent on praising a symbol of ingenious democracy – the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly. And what is the result? More than three fourth of respondents took no part in that event, and more than 15% heard nothing about it (see Table 1). Moreover, voters assess its possible results rather modestly – about 15% think they would positively affect the situation in the country, whereas more than 40% said the Assembly is unlikely to change the situation (see Table 2).
  • None of serious participants of the ongoing election campaign has recently denied influence of the so-called Russian factor upon results of the presidential election. It should be noted that attitude of the majority of voters towards Russia-Belarus integration has remained steadily positive for a long time. After V. Putin came to power in Russia, Belarus’s public opinion made a significant sway towards support of integration as an idea, because in reality, in real politics everything is not so bright. To all appearance, V. Putin’s phenomenon potential, which caused an increase in integration sympathy, has already passed its peak, however, pro-Russian moods remain rather string (see Tables 1, 2). Integration with Russia, as an abstract idea, sometimes irrespective of its practical realization, finds support with the majority of electorate. Candidates must not doubt this fact, if they do not want to go against the stream.
  • The survey data shows that the absolute majority of adult population (86.8%) is going to take part in the presidential election (see Table 1). In April the figure was only 70.3%. That means the interest in the election is growing.
  • As the presidential election approaches, readiness of Belarus’s electorate to take part in it is increasing: 86.8% of respondents answered this question in the affirmative (only 7.1% gave a negative answer, and 6.1% found it difficult to answer this question – almost the same figures we saw in the April survey, but this time the formulation is more strict and 14.9%, who in April said they would "take decision depending on political situation", claimed ready to vote). What does this mean? According to the authorities – that in general people support

July 2001

  • It has been talked over for a long time now that Belarus’ nomenclature is dissatisfied with the present regime and is ready to support an acceptable alternative to A. Luakeshenko. Who of the participants of the presidential race has more chances, in opinion of nomenclature, who seems the most powerful opponent to the head of state?
  • The completion of the survey among opinion leaders coincided with the ending of the signature collection campaign to support the contenders, when it became clear that the majority of them fell off the further presidential race. However, there are names of 21 contenders in the survey materials, since it began in early July, when all the contenders demonstrated full confidence in their prospects. By that time only N. Masherova had claimed she was stepping down, and her name was excluded.

August 2001

  • It is no secret that until recently election campaigning of democratic candidates has been based mainly on revealing information about "shady" affairs of the present authorities – its alleged involvement in elimination of prominent politicians and journalists, illegal arms trade, persecution of political opponents for political reasons, etc. To put it differently, voters offered information about moral image of those who govern the country and draw a conclusion: do they have the right to continue leading the country.
  • It is widely known that efficiently using Russia’s card, in part, A. Lukashenko managed to become the president seven years ago. Later on more than once and rather successfully he has taken use of this card to discredit his political opponents and to solve some other problems. However, at the moment, A. Lukashenko seems to lose the given powerful trump card.
  • One of the main questions today – how would voters, who have not determined their mind yet, act at polling stations. At the moment they amount to 25% (see Table 1). As we see from Table 2, about 17.2% of uncertain voters – some 4.3% of all respondents – are positive (very positive or rather positive) towards V. Goncharik. Almost the same number of voters – 17.5% among those undetermined or 4.3% of all respondents – are positive towards A. Lukashenko. Negative attitude towards A. Lukashenko (including very negative and rather negative) was expressed by 54.8% or 13.6% of the electorate.
  • As follows from the below given data (see Tables 1-6), A. Luakshenko’s rating, as compared to the previous opinion poll in June, has gone up noticeably, though the number of his convinced opponents has not dropped, but steadily levels at one third of electorate. Today A. Lukashenko’s rating – open or closed question about voting (44.4% and 47.4%, respectively), about trust (43.8%), about sympathies (52.2%) – does not drop below 43%.
  • As the survey data shows, 88.4% of voters are going to take part in the upcoming presidential election (see Table 1). In June the figure was 86.8%. That means interest in the election is still going up.

September 2001

  • As repeatedly stated, the majority of voters (about two thirds) cast their votes having no enough information about candidates and their election programs. Unlike common voters, public opinion leaders had full information in this respect (see Table 1).
  • According to the official line, publicized by state-run mass media, the presidential campaign of 2001 ended on September 9 in a full defeat of the opposition and an "elegant victory" by the first president. Perhaps, on the surface it looks like this. However, an analysis of results of the survey among public leaders and experts, conducted right after the election campaign was over, proves it is not that obvious. Let’s consider the most important results of the opinion poll, reflecting attitude of leaders towards the presidential election campaign.

October 2001

  • A decrease in number of supporters of integration spotted in two previous surveys continues in October, though a little slower than in August (see Table 1). As a result, over the last two years the number of opponents of integration has exceeded the number of supporters. It mainly resulted from the fact that the number of respondents who consider unification into a single state the best variant of bilateral relations dropped (see Table 2). But we should mention here that the number of those who consider good friendly relations of two independent states an optimal variant did not go up, whereas the ranks of advocates of a union of sovereign states crept up 5%.
  • Back in August, as we know from IISEPS data, almost two thirds of respondents said they have no enough information about each candidate for presidency (see Table 1). More than 40% of them were going to vote for A. Luakshenko (see Table 2). However, among all supporters of A. Lukashenko the ratio of those well-informed was two times higher than among all voters. That means that to some degree the parliamentary election scenario recurred, when a considerable part of the population voted having no proper information, but in line with their political-ideological preferences. What could be said about information availability at the presidential election, and how information knowledge is related to personal choice of voters?
  • It is no secret that representatives of different social-demographic groups of the population have differing political (and not only political) opinions. It is quite evident from the results of the October national opinion poll by IISEPS, presented in the context of major social-demographic and regional characteristics. For example, this data* shows (See Tables 1-6), that women turned most active in the voting process (87.3%), pensioners (90.7%) and representatives of senior age groups (aged 40–49 – 86.2%, aged 50–59 – 89.7%, 60 and up – 91.0%). Residents of Grodno (87.6%) and Gomel (88.6%) regions as well as rural population were the most active.
  • Another IISEPS’s national public opinion poll was conducted four weeks after the voting, results of which, announced by the Central Election Commission, caused a very conflicting reaction by different population groups. With complete approval of their supporters Belarus’ authorities announced an "elegant victory", the opposition leaders claimed there was an unprecedented falsification of results, influential foreign organizations and leadership of most of western countries said the election did not correspond to international standards. But who is right? Let’s consider the October opinion poll’s results from this standpoint. In some cases we would use results of previous sociological procedures conducted by IISEPS.
  • Accumulation of positive estimations regarding different social-economic factors has been a distinguishing feature of dynamics of population’s economic visions in the current year. To put it other way, there is a certain growth of public satisfaction with economic situation. It is proved practically by all traditional indicators which IISEPS applies to monitor economic perceptions of our fellow citizens (see Tables 1–5). Although most of the indicators still gravitate towards negative estimation, a positive dynamics is evident.

November 2001

  • Judging by the answers received (see Table 1), at present, according to leaders and experts, Belarus faces three the most important tasks. They are: reforming economy, retaining state sovereignty and society democratization (in fact, employees of the private sector placed "retaining sovereignty" first). That means that ten years after gaining independence Belarus is still at an initial stage of creating an independent state, still faces problems that have not lost their actuality.
  • Unlike the whole population, elite is much more reserved towards Russia. Less than one fourth of pollees said a union of two states is the best variant of bilateral relations, and less than 3% spoke in favor of unification into one state (see Table 1). Differences in approaches of representatives of state and non-state structures are obvious – the latter view Russia as a common neighbor (though employees of the public sector must have more fears towards a close integration as a potential threat for their status). However, the matter is how it is possible to enlist voters’ trust having such views, because voters mainly think in a different way.
  • Only three months have past since the presidential election and all passions raging around the event have suddenly abated. Regardless of the fact that independent monitoring over the voting process, and then the majority of non-state researches registered a great number of election law violations and an unprecedented falsification of the voting returns, all seem to accept the election results and Belarus’ society fell into habitual hibernation. What is the opposition up to, what are the former contenders for presidency doing, what are well known politologists talking about, if it is less and less reflected in Belarusian press?

April 2002

  • 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.
  • The attitude of the dwellers of a country towards emigration is an important indicator of its well-being or trouble, and of the citizens’ evaluation of their prospects in the home country. Talking about Belarus in this respect, we first of all have to point out a high emigration potential of the country. Only half of the respondents answered that they do not want to move anywhere, while more than 41% are ready to go to another country (See Table 1)
  • Belarus is in the center of another international scandal: four months after the departure of first head of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Belarus, experienced German diplomat H.G. Wieck, Acting AMG Head and French diplomat M. Rivollier was also forced to leave the country. It is highly possible that the remaining "officer-in-charge",
  • Last year’s presidential elections affected a substantial part of the society of the republic in an ill manner. There was a long pause during which realization of the events as well as creation of a new strategy and giving new answers to old questions were expected to take place.
  • Statistics shows that the level of individual income over the country during the last three months of 2001 was about $ 56 a month (in market exchange rate). As is seen from Table 1, almost 60% of population have income lower than this level. Moreover, approximately 32% of our nationals earn less than the living wage ($ 38). Consequently, almost one third of Belarusians stay below the official poverty line. Let’s study the social-demographic characteristics of this group. We will compare it to those who have individual monthly income of more than $ 100, considering them "rich" according to Belarusian standards, though such income level is estimated as beggarly Europe.
  • As was expected, the economic situation in the country after the presidential elections again took a visible turn for the worse. This can be persuasively confirmed by the figures in Table 1. A certain improvement that had been mentioned by our respondents throughout 2001 was displaced again with more pessimistic views. This shows again that we were right assuming that the economic improvement was associated with the realization of A. Lukashenko’s electoral strategy, the core idea of which was forcing enterprises to push up their social expenses by the voting day and to build a mirage of economic progress for the electorate. And naturally, the economy turned to its habitual state after the elections, which was reflected in the results of the opinion poll.
  • It is hardly a secret that the situation in Belarus is tottering, President’s rating falling down to as low as 30%, the social-economic crisis deepening, the resentment against the present policies surging. Who can be a source of changes, who can Belarusians lay hopes on? That question is asked in the East and in the West and in Belarus itself more and more often. Theoretically, A. Lukashenko himself might trigger changes. In that case, he would have to stop blaming the "remiss officials", the opposition or the "outer enemies" and change his own outlook radically instead. However, there is little hope of such possibility; A. Lukashenko himself is stating regularly that he does not intend to change the present course.
  • Foreseeable enough, the easily accessible television remains the main source of public, political, social and economic information to most of Belarusians (81.3%). Printed mass media ranks second (62.5%) and is 1.5 times more popular than radio (42.7%). However, person-to-person contacts are not among important sources of information in the era of contemporary mass communications (4.5%) and the Internet has not become easy-to-access so far (2.0%). Belarusians trust the television (28.6%), the press (13.8%) and the radio (8.1%) most.
  • It has become an established public opinion that the convinced supporters of A. Lukashenko are, as a rule, representatives of the poor social strata. It goes without saying that among his followers there are indeed a lot of people, who make use of the opportunities provided by the authorities in exchange for being loyal to them (corruption, monopoly, business backing and so on) and have no material problems. However, empirical observations prove that the core of A. Lukashenko’s electorate are fairly poor. As one can see from the poll findings, this point of view is grounded enough. In particular, A. Lukashenko’s convinced supporters earned on average $44.7 per capita in March this year, which is slightly above the official poverty line (March’s minimum living wage totaled $43.7 at the market exchange rate).
  • As you know, elections to the local councils will be held in Belarus in spring next year. So far not much is being said about these elections in order to attract social attention to them. Moreover, only half a year has passed since the presidential election, the significance and influence of which on the life on an average citizen is immeasurably higher. Nevertheless, as early as now almost 70% of those polled say they are ready to go the polls (See Table 1). Bearing in mind the fact that the electorate’s intentions may change any minute, it would be unfair to say that no one has interest in the elections.
  • There was no avoiding of the anticipated. Just six months after the presidential election there happened a "collapse", as A. Lukashenko would say. However, it was not the Belarusian ruble or the international isolation of Belarus that fell down like a collapse, but the president’s political rating. With reference to the IISEPS findings, in April this year only 30.9% of respondents said they backed A. Lukashenko, although on the very eve of the election around 45% of those interviewed would vote A. Lukashenko and around 57% actually gave their votes to him on the election day.

September 2002

  • As we could see from Table 1, a considerable part of our fellow citizens (almost 40%) would like moving to another country. And western, or west-oriented countries dominate the list of preferences. As for oriental countries, only Russia is mentioned. In a year its attractiveness for emigration has crept up from 3.6% to 4.3%. Hence, a significant part of Belarusians considers western values attractive, and they are even ready to leave the Fatherland.
  • The elections to local Councils will take place in Belarus next spring. Only one fifth of the respondents knows when they are to take place. However, that does not mean there is no interest in these elections.
  • Based on the results of IISEPS studies, with a high degree of probability we could assume that regardless of numerous statements, A. Lukashenko and his team are unable to carry out the "new course" (including Minsk’s unexpected readiness to receive even the Pope!), being actively promoted by the entire state propagandistic machine. First of all because the president has no electoral resources for that purpose.
  • This past spring IISEPS recorded a slump in A. Lukashenko’s popularity rating – from 46% in October to 30.9% in April. Such a "collapse" (as the president would say) caused various processes both in domestic and foreign political markets – from public dismissal of members of the Belarusian government to fundamental changes in Russia-Belarus relations. We shall remind that right after V. Putin’s statement on June 14 about the necessity to "separate flies from cutlets" the President of the Efficient Policy Foundation G. Pavlovsky said literally the following: "With respect to the Union there is such a notion "political correctness", because we all know that the rating of the Belarus president is falling.
  • What Belarusians are guided by in their uncomfortable life? Why the overwhelming majority keeps silent about the absence of progress in the sphere of economy and living standards? We shall run the risks of assuming that fear is the most significant factor determining such behavior of the majority of Belarusians. A too big part of public life is under the state, it regulates public relations too rigidly, it thrusts its leading and guiding role too actively. It resulted in a low independence of the majority while solving their life problems, concern about their future and humble expectation of manna from authorities (See Table 1). As we could see, less than one third of the respondents (30.3%) is optimistic about job problems, whereas 45.3% are pessimistic in this respect and have to hold to it.
  • What Belarusians are guided by in their uncomfortable life? Why the overwhelming majority keeps silent about the absence of progress in the sphere of economy and living standards? We shall run the risks of assuming that fear is the most significant factor determining such behavior of the majority of Belarusians. A too big part of public life is under the state, it regulates public relations too rigidly, it thrusts its leading and guiding role too actively. It resulted in a low independence of the majority while solving their life problems, concern about their future and humble expectation of manna from authorities (See Table 1). As we could see, less than one third of the respondents (30.3%) is optimistic about job problems, whereas 45.3% are pessimistic in this respect and have to hold to it.
  • As we know, during the 2001 presidential election a part of labor unions elite, previously loyal to A. Lukashenko, tried to play against him. Although the attempt failed, that was enough for the authorities to understand the potential force of the largest public organization of the country and how efficient a skillful application of such potential could be.
  • Social optimism is the indicator determining the current condition of the society. Obviously, sooner or later Belarus will have to face painful economic reforms, which should be carried out with knowledge of the population’s possible reaction at the situation when the ability of each person to help himself is key to success.
  • "Who could oppose A. Lukashenko today? Who needs cosmic rating to be invented?" – Rakhat Lukumov asks sarcastically in the editor’s column of Sovetskaya Belorussia ("respectable newspaper for respectable people"), ardently "denouncing" the results of latest studies by "independent sociologists". But why should someone oppose the president if "A. Lukashenko remains the acknowledged leader and if there were an election today – the result would have been the same as last year!" Naturally, why?
  • Regardless of an active propaganda in state-run mass media of economic achievements of the authorities, the population is still mainly concerned about social-economic problems. The most significant among them are: price rise and impoverishment of the population (71.9% and 60.6% of the answers, respectively). There is also an increased concern about unemployment (49.4%), what is an evident of its latent growth.
  • Belarus is known a multi-denomination country at the crossroads between Eastern and Western civilizations and two branches of Christianity, respectively. Historically, the dominating religions in Belarus were Russian Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. However, after the bans imposed by the Soviets were abolished many other religions showed rapid growth in the number of their followers during the last decade.

November 2002

  • The survey reveals that the overwhelming majority of leaders and experts, regardless of the structures they represent, is not satisfied with A. Lukashenko’s ruling (See Table 1.) Although the number of those dissatisfied is lower among representatives of the public sector, the figure is still impressive – 69%.
  • As the survey shows, almost all leaders and experts are against the idea of unification of Belarus and Russia into a single state (See Table 1). Almost 60% speak out for common good neighborly relations of two independent states, about 40% - for closer relations in the form of a union of two independent states. Clearly, representatives of the private sector prefer the first variant (74%), representatives of the public sector – support the second variant (55%). There are only 3% of those who favor the idea of unification.
  • The upcoming local election will become the first mass political campaign after the 2001 presidential election and is likely to be an examination of public moods and efficiency of political parties. The society, as our September nation public opinion poll shows, looks at the local election with a reserved optimism. In September 60% of the respondents said they were ready to take part in it, and by the spring 2003 the figure is most likely to grow.
  • From time to time disputes about A. Lukashenko’s third presidential term flame up and abate being overshadowed by more important events, but they do not disappear from political agenda. According to the poll findings, today Belarus’ elite is almost unanimous in the opinion that A. Lukashenko will press for the third presidential term – more than 80% of the respondents gave a positive answer to such question, whereas only 3% answered in the negative (See Table 1).

December 2002

  • As we have already mentioned, in December, as compared to April 2002, integration moods in the Belarusian socium reduced considerably. In our opinion, this phenomenon can be explained by the events which took place in August-September between our countries and the heads of state. It is very interesting which groups of voters contributed to the process? Table 1 provides certain answers to the question. The attitude towards the unification of Russia and Belarus is considered depending on attitude to A. Lukashenko.
  • As Table 1 shows, today 54% of the voters believe that our country develops in a wrong direction. The number of those who think in the opposite is 2fold lower. A year ago – right after the presidential election – the groups were almost equal in number. It seems that the expectations of the electorate have not come true, the president could not or has not wanted to fulfil his election promises, and even official statistics prove it. So, a real monthly wage (taking into account the inflation rate) has dropped by more than 10% in January-November 2002.
  • (Русский) Результаты исследования показывают, что за последние три года на фронте частного предпринимательства особых изменений не произошло. Как можно видеть из табл. 1, немногим более половины взрослых белорусов никогда не участвовали и в дальнейшем не собираются участвовать в частном бизнесе. Несколько менее половины – принимают различное участие в частном предпринимательстве или хотели бы это делать (желающих участвовать, конечно, примерно в 2.5 раза больше, чем тех, кто этим занимается реально). Таким образом, сторонников и противников частного предпринимательства последние три года в стране примерно поровну. Пять лет назад на одного сторонника предпринимательства приходилось двое противников.
  • It is no secret that independent Belarus has never been cut off from the Russian information space. Belarusian readers and TV audience have got accustomed to such situation to which a low quality of domestic media-products, especially state-run electronic media also contributed. Not surprisingly, today Russian televisions remains the main source of information for Belarusians (See Table 1).
  • Today the issue of the third presidential term for A. Lukashenko can be compared to a time-bomb. All people know it is planted (there is a constitutional norm which does not allow to be elected the president for more than two consecutive times) and sooner or later it must blow up (practically all policymakers are certain: there are few chances that in the current situation A. Lukashenko will voluntarily quit). Differences in estimations of the situation limit only to technical questions – when and how the project "the third term" will be realized.
  • As the survey findings show, during the last three-four years integration moods have gradually grown in the Belarusian society, and in the first half of 2002 they reached its apogee. But after V. Putin’s summer attempt to clear up the Belarus-Russian relations to what A. Lukashenko reacted with open irritation, the growth was replaced by a noticeable cooling of "unionist" moods among officials and then in the whole socium. Today the ratio of supporters of Belarus’ independence and those who speak out for the unification with Russia is 3.4:1, whereas nine months ago it was only 1.9:1 (See Table 1).
  • As Table 1 reveals, the voters feel almost no confidence in most state and public institutions. Only in the first four cases the number of those who trust them is higher than the number of those who distrust them. Orthodox Church tops the list leaving other institutions far behind. Clearly, 72.6% of the adult population consider themselves supporters of the Orthodox denomination. The second place on the basis of index of trust, which takes into account the number of those who trust and distrust, is given to independent research centers beating the army. Thus, the traditional Slavic triad of trust "God, tsar and military commander" is broken: if Church and Army are placed among the top three, the president takes only the 9thplace, lagging behind research centers, mass media, unions of entrepreneurs and the Constitutional Court.
  • A little more than two months is left before the election to local Councils. Being the first serious political campaign after the 2001 presidential election, it will become a barometer of public moods, a large-scale examination of leading political forces in the country an in a sense will shed light on plans and intentions of the authority. As for the interest of Belarusian voters in local elections, the following fact proves its significant growth. Over the last three months the number of those who know when the voting is to take place has jumped from 20% to 37.5%. Besides, as we see from Table 1, today about two thirds of the respondents, i.e. at the initial stage of the election campaign, say they are ready to cast votes for this or that candidate.
  • As Table 1 reveals, the voters feel almost no confidence in most state and public institutions. Only in the first four cases the number of those who trust them is higher than the number of those who distrust them. Orthodox Church tops the list leaving other institutions far behind. Clearly, 72.6% of the adult population consider themselves supporters of the Orthodox denomination. The second place on the basis of index of trust, which takes into account the number of those who trust and distrust, is given to independent research centers beating the army. Thus, the traditional Slavic triad of trust "God, tsar and military commander" is broken: if Church and Army are placed among
  • A little more than two months is left before the election to local Councils. Being the first serious political campaign after the 2001 presidential election, it will become a barometer of public moods, a large-scale examination of leading political forces in the country an in a sense will shed light on plans and intentions of the authority. As for the interest of Belarusian voters in local elections, the following fact proves its significant growth. Over the last three months the number of those who know when the voting is to take place has jumped from 20% to 37.5%. Besides, as we see from Table 1, today about two thirds of the respondents, i.e. at the initial stage of the election campaign, say they are ready to cast votes for this or that candidate.
  • The survey findings show that in October-December 2002 as compared to September voters’ attitude towards A. Lukashenko slightly improved (See Table 1). Such rise in indicators of attitude can be explained by his energetic public activity in the given period. The dynamics of the overall value of all four indicators expressed in the electorate’s typology on its attitude to A. Lukashenko is given in Table 2. As one can see, although the number of his convinced supporters went up (from 10.7% to 14.3%), the number of convinced opponents increased by almost the same number (from 41.3% to 44.7%). That resulted from further polarization of the vacillatory, i.e. those who support A. Lukashenko on certain issues and are against him on other issues. Clearly, the overall tendency of the last five years has developed against the first Belarusian president.

February 2003

  • It has been almost 1.5 years of A. Lukashenko’s second presidential cadence. There’s still plenty of time before the new election that is to take place in 2006. Yet, the issue of A. Lukashenko’s third presidential term has already become topical for the educated Belarusian (and not only!) public. Lukashenko himself has many times transparently implied the possibility of such scenario. Knowing power ambitions of the president, it is worth seriously regarding his words.
  • As seen from Table 1, almost all polled experts and public opinion leaders (94%!), regardless the structures they represent, stand against the idea of Russia-Belarus unification into a single state. Half of them supports the idea of a close political and economic union between the two countries. Another half believes the relations should not differ from those with the other CIS countries. Representatives of the public sector prefer the first variant, while representatives of the private sector support the second variant.
  • Although this time the authorities didn’t pay much attention to the election campaign into the local Councils of deputies, the polling data steadily points out that the Belarusians are ready to demonstrate high election activity (According to the IISEPS’s public opinion poll carried in December, about 64% of the respondents noted they would participate in the election.) If suggest that most of those who hadn’t made up their minds on voting in December (they were almost 20%) would come to polling stations, the optimism of experts and public opinion leaders (who claimed a month before the election that the campaign would be effective in most constituencies) turns quite reasonable (See Table 1).
  • The fact that the current socio-economic situation in Belarus is, to put it mildly, far from ideal has been recently admitted at the highest official level. Leaders of public opinion and experts well aware of the real state of affairs in economics and who have long ago acknowledged that the so-called "Belarusian economic model" has no future consider further prospects really gloomy. About three thirds of the respondents expect deterioration of the socio-economic situation in the coming years (See table 1). Respondents from the private sector have unanimously rejected the probability of any changes to better life while the cautious stance of every fifth representative of the public sector resembles the professional optimism.

March 2003

  • Results of the nation public opinion poll make it possible to distinguish the citizens who are well-disposed to the private enterprise and support it. In other words, the citizens who can be referred to as enterprise’s electorate. In this regards, we examine the respondents who are in the positive towards entrepreneur strikes that took place in March of 2003 (“supporters” – 23.9%) and those respondents, equal in number, who spoke in the negative or were indifferent (“non-supporters” – 20.6%). Yet, in our opinion, it is more interesting to compare enterprise supporters and opponents, i.e. those who spoke in the negative on entrepreneur strikes (“opponents” – 5.4%).
  • A. Lukashenko simply cannot love entrepreneurs. Many people certainly remember his historical passage about “lousy fleas”. Of course, he has all grounds to dislike them. And not simply because they don’t give him reciprocity. Entrepreneurs are not pensioners! They are mainly the men (63.5%) aged 25-50 (78.3%) who has secondary vocational or higher education (95.9%) and live, first of all, in Minsk (31.5%) or other large cities (38.7%).
  • No other domestic issue in Belarus causes such sharp disputes (of international remedial organizations and the West in general, on the one hand, and the Belarusian authorities, on the other hand) like observation of democratic principles and human rights in Belarus. The general stand of the West is very simple: Belarus is a non-democratic country with human rights being steadily and severely violated. As a rule, the authorities take painfully this kind of accusations, generally responding according to the principle "You’re a fool yourself" – telling the Belarusians about misery of Polish farmers,
  • More and more people in this country and abroad ask themselves the question: Why unprecedented fall of A. Lukashenko’s rating (by 20% – for a year and a half after the election of 2001) is not attended by the growth of democratic parties and their leaders’ rating? Why the well-known in sociology “principle of manometer” doesn’t work in the Belarusian politics? Most of the Belarusians are nowadays ready to changes: 63.4% respondents believe the situation in the country evolves in the wrong direction (“in the right direction” – 21.3%) and 64.1% claim “another candidate should take the post of the president” (“elect Lukashenko a new” – only 23.2%). The opposition should reasonably become the initiator of the changes, for it has been standing for changes for a long time already.
  • There have been many debates upon the results of sociological surveys lately, especially upon those handling socially topical problems like rating of the president or opposition parties, attitude towards the integration with Russia or EU, etc.
  • As the survey findings show, the Belarusians are mostly concerned about the economic problems. This is proved by a long list of respondents’ answers to the open question on the pressing internal problems of our country (see Table 1). As one can see, the economics dominates in the list. In this regard people’s viewpoints greatly differ from those of A. Lukashenko who have recently for several hours tried to prove the topicality of not economic but ideological problems.
  • Survey findings reveal that nine of the ten adult Belarusians (89.1%) have already come to some conclusions on what they will have in case of our country’s incorporation into Russia (See Table 1). As one can see, 45.5% of the respondents expect to see positive results and 1.5-fold less people (30.1%) expect negative results. Another 13.5% of the respondents don’t expect any outcomes.
  • The survey findings show that the autumn crisis of integration moods within Belarusian electorate caused by the tenseness in relations between A. Lukashenko and V. Putin seems has finally wound up this spring. As we see from Table 1, the number of those who support the idea of Russia-Belarus’ unification into a single state has increased 1.2-fold for the past three months (from 21.2% to 25.6%) whereas the number of those who support the integration variants that presuppose maintaining independence of both countries has decreased by 4.1 points. And although at present there are 2.6-fold more supporters of independence than the “unionists”, the tendency is obvious.
  • Now, the election to the local Councils has been held. Attitudes of the official authorities, opposition and the international community have been spoken out and widely spread by the mass media. The authorities are satisfied with the election; lawyers and opposition claim there were a lot of violations of the election legislation and democratic character of the election raises many questions. To complete the picture, we need to know what voters think of how the election campaign was carried. As we see, only one fifth of the respondents confirmed that there were many violations of law during the election, and among them there are 4-fold more respondents who voted for candidates-opponents of A. Lukashenko than those who supported candidates-supporters of A. Lukashenko (See Table 1).
  • While evaluating the recent election into local councils, ODIHR OSCE observers noted that the official Belarusian authorities turned it into a campaign on support of their political course among population. We should admit few changes have taken place for the past four years in this regard. There was an impression during the election that the interests of the authorities came up to two things – make the election campaign at once mass and inconspicuous (not to awake people’s political activity) and maintain control over the local Councils called by the president a support of the regime.
  • Our latest research caused a real sensation. We interviewed people asking “A year ago the deputy group “Republic” was formed in the Belarusian parliament at the initiative of General V. Frolov. It sharply criticized A. Lukashenko’s policy. Some are positive about the fact, others – negative. What is your opinion?” One third of the respondents (33.1%) said “positive”, another third (33.6%) – “I don’t care”, 15.4% - “negative” and 17.9% found it difficult to answer the question.
  • The press has many times published IISEPS’s survey findings, according to which A. Lukashenko’s rating, i.e. electorate’s readiness to give their votes for him at the next presidential election, dropped down from 46% in October of 2001 to 30.9% in April and 27% in September, though slightly grew to 30.5% in December of 2002. At present the number of those who would vote for the president is 26.2%

May 2003

  • Since long ago the IISEPS has been regularly polling the public opinion leaders on the most acute and topical issues of social life and has been publishing its results in the mass media. As a rule, most leaders give rather negative estimation of socio-economic as well as social and political situation in the country being very pessimistic about its perspectives. In other words, their opinion sharply contrasts with the official propaganda, no matter which sectors they represent.
  • Despite the humiliating criticism on the part of the authorities and skeptical estimations on the part of the opposition, growth of trust within the society to the independent research centers in Belarus cannot but impress. According to IISEPS opinion polls, in September of 1998 25.7% of the respondents said they trusted these centers, 15.9% – distrusted and 58.4% found it difficult to answer (didn’t know anything about them) but in April of 2003 48.9% respondents said they trusted the centers, 19.0% – distrusted and only 32.1% found it difficult to answer. In the rating of credence they now rank second after the Orthodox Church and leave behind two dozens of traditional state and public institutions like the government, courts, parties, trade unions, unions of entrepreneurs and even the mass media!
  • The March statement of President A. Lukashenko on the ideological issues has produced a wide response within the Belarusian society. And right after forming the department on ideology at the presidential administration the head of state issued a directive on opening the position of the deputy head on ideology at the enterprises. In its turn, the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection issued the instructions on the official duties of the Deputy Head for ideological work at non-state enterprises. The new position has already been included into the National Register and the Skilled Manual.

September 2003

  • In view of well-known reasons (single Russia-Belarus information space, strict control on the part of the authorities, poor quality of the Belarusian press in general, etc.), Russian electronic mass media were in the lead at the information market of Belarus when it gained independence. Yet in April of 2003 the Belarusians ranked Russia's television the first among the sources providing information about this country and foreign countries (78.1%).
  • A great part of the Belarusian elite still talks about the threat of losing independence as a real standing danger. The most probable scenario is said to be A. Lukashenko's giving up sovereignty in exchange to his continuing the political career in Russia even at a lower post (e.g., governor of Severo-Zapadny Territory of Russia). The elite representing both the government and its opponents is unanimous in its aversion of such scenarios.
  • Public opinion appears to play progressively more important role in the politics of the most world countries. This means that increasingly more people get involved into the process of discussion and decision-taking. Sociological surveys and publication of their results in the mass media has become by far the most efficient instrument ensuring nowadays participation of public opinion in the process of government.
  • A marked difference in the opinions of the elite and average voters is axiomatic in any country. To which extent does this statement apply to Belarus? First, we should like to compare the estimates given by public opinion leaders and experts, on the one hand, and common citizens, on the other, on general issues.
  • Unlike in the Soviet times when people didn’t and couldn’t have any personal property, at present many of the Belarusians have finally gained realty or other private ownership and are even not afraid to admit this. Nowadays, over 53% of adult population answers in the affirmative to such a question that we asked during our latest nation opinion poll.
  • (Русский) Через год в Беларуси состоятся парламентские выборы. В соседней России значительная часть населения разочаровалась в самой избирательной процедуре, что наглядно продемонстрировали выборы мэра Санкт-Петербурга. В Беларуси же участвовать в выборах пока по-прежнему готово значительное большинство (табл. 1).
  • Polling results reveal that, as usual, traditional strengthening of integration moods within the Belarusian electorate observed in spring has given place to a regular autumn crisis. As it can be seen from Table 1, the number of those standing for Russia-Belarus unification into a single state has dropped down by almost 28% (from 25.6% to 18.5%) for the past six months while the number of those supporting all integration variants that ensure independence of both countries has increased by nine points (from 67.3% to 76.3%).
  • (Русский) Результаты опроса показывают, что население, как и обычно, прежде всего озабочено экономическими проблемами и низким уровнем жизни (табл. 1). Как можно видеть, эти две группы проблем вместе составляют более трех четвертей всех ответов (78.8%). Таблица 1. Распределение ответов на вопрос "Какие первоочередные проблемы внутри страны требуют, на Ваш взгляд, неотложного решения?" (открытый вопрос, возможно более одного ответа)
  • As the polling data shows, most of the Belarusian citizens say that "something’s wrong in the Belarusian kingdom" (See Table 1). Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question "In your opinion, is the country in general going in the right or wrong direction?"
  • (Русский) Совсем недавно в Эстонии и Латвии состоялись референдумы, на которых народы этих стран проголосовали за присоединение к Европейскому союзу. Эти референдумы стали последними в серии плебисцитов, которые прошли в странах-кандидатах в течение этого года. Отношение к Европе белорусов пока можно выяснять только путем социологических опросов. Результаты последнего опроса показывают сложность и амбивалентность этого отношения. Большинство белорусов уверено, что европейский выбор, сделанный соседями Беларуси, правилен, и принесет полякам, литовцам и латышам практическую выгоду (табл. 1).
  • 1. Disposition The opinion poll has revealed that support of the society to the current course has been steadily going down despite manifold efforts of the Belarusian authorities – from introduction of a single state ideology and reshuffle of the high-ranking officials to new repressions against the civil society and actual reconsidering of integration politics with Russia.

December 2003

  • Although discontent of the Belarusians with their living isn't so far manifested openly, it continues to grow inside the socium. Only 27.3% of respondents say that in general A. Lukashenko well governs the country and should be re-elected while 60.4% claim "another candidate should take this post." This is as well the opinion of those who voted for the current president in September 2001. If two candidates – V. Putin and A. Lukashenko – were nominated for the presidential election in Belarus, 45.8% of citizens would cast their votes for V. Putin and only 28.0% – for A. Lukashenko (for none – 16.7%).
  • The mouthpiece of the presidential administration, newspaper Sovetskaya Belorussia has these days pompously praised social and economic results of the previous year. According to the state statistics, the growth of working efficiency in the real sector of economics has made 10-12%, profitability has increased by 10-12%, the number of non-profitable enterprises has decreased by a quarter and an average salary in the real sector has reached $150 in equivalent. The figures are impressive! Yet, what has really improved in the living of an average citizen who the authorities, as the official propaganda claims, take care about day and night?

February 2005

  • The Supreme Court of Belarus has recently considered the claim of the IISEPS public organization against the Ministry of Justice. As far as the hearings were open, diplomats and journalists were as well present in court and the Case of IISEPS received wide response both in Belarus and abroad. Below you will find the interview of Narodnaya Volya (Public Will) correspondent with IISEPS Director O. Manaev on the reasons of the case, its circumstances and consequences.
  • The analysis given (See Table 1) is based on numerous researches and contacts undertaken by the IISEPS. Its goal is rendering assistance to all concerned agents of political influence in Belarus in determining and nominating a single candidate for democratic forces at the next presidential election.

March 2005

  • Many still remember the notorious report on struggle against corruptibility delivered by A. Lukashenko early 1994 at the session of the Supreme Council. The ‘most corrupted’ official and Speaker of the Parliament S. Shushkevch who, according to A. Lukashenko, ‘stole two kilos of nails’ was condemned and dismissed while the troubled time of perestroika threw to the very top a previously unknown director of a declining state-run farm who became the first president of Belarus.
  • One of the pillars that now support the current power is tight control over the information available to the Belarusian citizens. Therefore, common media space of Russia and Belarus as well as superiority of Russian mass media in quality and quantity, especially electronic ones, remained for a long time an implicit threat for A. Lukashenko. The situation sharply changed 2.5-3 years ago.
  • As the polling data shows, over a third of citizens (33.8%) think that the authorities chose the wrong economic course and another quarter of respondents evades the question. Although the number of supporters of the current economic course is fairly large (41.3%), this cannot serve a ground for the statements about national support of the current economic course that the state-run media make.
  • Arrest, trial and heavy sentence to former Minister of External Economic Relations of Belarus Mikhail Marinich drew close attention of the foreign community. The European Union, Council of Europe and the USA spoke out in defense of the ex-minister. Within the past weeks, when M. Marinich’s health has sharply aggravated, influential foreign
  • According to the statistics, living standard in the new EU countries (Poland, Latvia and Lithuania) is significantly higher than in Belarus. This cannot be denied provided you have proper data, unless we deal with someone else but Belarusian state ideology or with deliberate delusion.
  • Although the relations between the official Minsk and the West are below the freezing point for a long time already, attitude of the Belarusians to the West, in particular to the united Europe, is totally positive. Answers of respondents show that nowadays 52.8% of Belarusians want that Belarus joins the EU (against – 44.4%).
  • Referendum of 2004 in Belarus, namely the “peculiar procedure” of how it was carried, caused resentment in the European Union as well as generated discussion of the European policy towards Belarus, that same stick and the carrot that would in the best way contribute to positive changes in the country. Although, in accordance with Belarusian state-run mass media,
  • As the polling data shows, people actively use the services of individual entrepreneurs in their everyday life. In particular, as it goes from Table 1, 57.3% of respondents use their services daily or several days a week (some 6% don’t use their service). Hence, the citizens are well aware of the problems the authorities create to the traders. By the way, the latter are very keen of this! One day they increase rent rates, then introduce additional taxes, make traders get new licenses and certificates or decide to re-register everyone.
  • Statements of A. Lukashenko about negative impact that health-improving trips abroad make on the outlook of the Belarusian children as well as his directive to take this field under state control have stirred wide response in Belarus and in those countries of the West whose charity organizations have been taking part in such projects over a long time. Most responses related to the following things. First, the aim that the authorities pursue is country’s further isolation from the outside world. Second, as a form of civil activity, charity, barely compatible with the bureaucracy, cannot stand interference of the state.
  • As the polling results show, the electoral breakdown in Belarus has changed insignificantly over the past four months. In general, both “peak point” and “pattern” remained unchanged. (See Table 1).
  • The events in the neighboring Ukraine that ended up in the third round of presidential election and election of V. Yuschenko for presidency hardly left anyone indifferent in Belarus. Apart from political reasons, this is as well geographic, cultural and historic proximity that has played its role. On the one hand, during the crisis the Belarusian citizens were powerfully fenced by the state-run Belarusian and Russian mass media that competed in discrediting the Ukrainian opposition and participants of street actions. Those information campaigns had certain differences, yet insignificant in general.
  • While the last year referendum that has dramatically changed both the political layout and the political prospects of Belarus is over long ago, they still dispute in Belarus if referendum results reflected true state of things, if the Belarusian society has become more consolidated and more confident in its future and, finally, how all this will influence future development of this country.
  • Nowadays, many Belarusians wonder what caused a number of recent “color revolutions” in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. Such different countries with diverse histories and cultures witnessed almost the same outcome – the people revolted and overthrew the power almost without mass violence and blood. Commenting on those dramatic events, the Belarusian authorities gave three major reasons of why that could happen:

April 2005

  • In the course of recent opinion poll, we have found out that chances of the current head of state at the next presidential election are fairly high among all voters. To remind, almost 46.4% of respondents say they are ready to support him at the next election if it takes place tomorrow; he runs by far ahead of any opposition candidate in the hypothetical second round; he enjoys the lowest negative rating the highest positive rating and over 70% of voters believe that he will win the coming presidential election. In addition, attitude of common citizens to A. Lukashenko's opponents is very restrained. In this regards, the elite is different from common voters. (See Table 1).
  • Visa restrictions introduced by the European Union after the last year parliamentary election and referendum were applied to a few top officials who, as they decided in Brussels, were involved in law violation during the election. Apparently, this is the reason why under a half of Belarusian citizens didn't hear anything about the visa ban. Awareness of opinion leaders and experts on this issue was almost 100%. (See Table 1).
  • In his recent annual address on the situation in the country, President A. Lukashenko underscored that the current power is very stablesince it is led, first of all, by people's interests. However, voters themselves don't estimate high the work of the authorities. Thus, they estimate in the positive the work of the president only while the Parliament, government and the local authorities aren't given even a "three" (See Table 1).

September 2005

  • As Table 1 shows, state-run mass media enjoy the trust of over a half of respondents. As regards non-state mass media, the number of distrusting to them is even greater. In both cases, many respondents didn’t give any answer at all.
  • Data in Table 1 shows that A. Lukashenko’s open rating dropped down right after the presidential election. At the same time, the number of respondents who found it difficult to answer “for whom they would vote if the presidential election is held tomorrow” increased step-wise. Thus, in March of 2003 the percentage of those who found it difficult to answer this question even exceeded A. Lukashenko’s rating.
  • The talks about possibility or even imminence of colored revolution in Belarus are very popular among supporters of the opposition. A. Lukashenko’s opponents are convinced that the results of the forthcoming election will be falsified and therefore they will have to stand up victory (if any) in street actions of protest. Can the Ukrainian scenario take place in Belarus? What resources does the opposition have nowadays?
  • In the course of research, we studied connection between the language the respondents use for everyday communication and their political standpoints. According to this research, those who speak Russian in everyday life are more disposed to Belarus’ accession into Europe and less – to integration into Russia and they are also less supporters of President A. Lukashenko than Belarusian-speaking respondents.
  • Opinion of the population on fluctuations of A. Lukashenko’s rating both depicts public stereotypes and shows the tendency of president’s rating. This is a kind of leading indicator which points out the trend of a rating change. For example, if you ask several people “What time is it now?” an average value will hit almost exact time. Answers to the question on rating aren’t that clear but they show general tendencies. Let’s look at Picture 1.
  • Estimation of integration moods within Belarusian electorate demonstrates progressively decreasing number of Russia-Belarus unification supporters. Today, one of seven-eight respondents wants this union while three years ago every fifth spoke out for this idea. (See Table 1). For the same period, the number of those standing for closer relations of the two countries within the framework of a particular union almost hasn’t changed, although the official propaganda still actively promotes it: from 51.7% to 50.6%, i.e. within the sampling margin of error. At the same time, the number of those who would rather have regular relations between the two countries (like between all CIS countries) increased nearly 1.5-fold.
  • Recent hot debates on the broadcasting language of Deutsche Welle's new radio program have revealed topicality of the language issue in the Belarusian society which is still taken hard. Yet, is it really taken so hard by the society in general? In the course of the debates, both sides referred to the opinion of the majority of Belarusian citizens. In particular, supporters of broadcasting in Belarusian language reminded that over 80% of Belarusians marked the Belarusian language as their native during the population census in 1999. However, their opponents insist that, according to that same population census, almost two thirds of Belarusian citizens speak Russian at home.
  • It is a common truth that an economic system featuring commodity production cannot avoid unemployment unless it practices coercive work or artificially brings down its efficiency. In fact, unemployment is necessary since normal economy development involves various resources including manpower. Quite generally this can be explained in the following way: if the state of market is favorable, expansion of production and involvement of additional manpower will take place to ensure quick saturation of the market with goods of high demand. Unemployment serves here a natural bank of manpower resources and hence it decreases. On the contrary, reduction of demand for some goods entails curtailment of production and producer’s unloading from excess manpower, i.e. unemployment growth.
  • IISEPS researches including the latest clearly reveal feasible collapse of the Belarusian society in what regards the most acute public issues. Therefore, we should like to consider some sociological features of various population groups, in particular those which differ in social status or occupation. Table 1 presents the weight of such groups within the adult population of the country.
  • As the state-run mass media induce, choice of the "right economic course" which will not change ensures that common Belarusians will have good incomes providing worthy living, especially comparing to the other countries of the former USSR.
  • This July the authorities published living wage budget rate which is used from the second half of this year as a norm determining the amounts of most social transfers. Its rate was calculated from June prices for goods and services making the so-called living wage basket and made up 146,150 BYR in average.
  • According to the results of the opinion poll (See Table 1), citizens are very careful about most state and public institutions. These are first eight institutions only to which more respondents trust than distrust. People feel the highest credibility to the Orthodox Church which significantly outruns all other institutions. This is natural since almost three fourths of adult population in Belarus place themselves among Orthodoxy supporters.
  • Table 1 demonstrates that many years of titanic efforts undertaken by the National Bank to strengthen the national currency have finally given positive results. Thus, 18 months ago over half of adult population gave preference to the dollar and today their number is 43.5%. The number of citizens who trust the national currency has increased from 28% to 33.7%.
  • Tolerance of the Belarusians has already become proverbial. Are they truly that tolerant? To study tolerance/intolerance towards various social groups, social studies use the scales of social distance. In the given poll, respondents were asked to define their attitude to different nationalities, on the five-point scale, from readiness to ally by marriage (or get married) and accept them into their families to simple readiness to live in one country. Table 1 presents the data obtained during polling.
  • Few problems drew such close attention of the Belarusian publicity as the conflict over Union of Poles in Belarus which grew into an international conflict between Belarus and Poland. According to the polling data, almost 70% of respondents are aware of the conflict.

February 2006

  • As the opinion poll showed, the Belarusian society still greatly cherishes Pro-Russian sympathies and attitudes. Asked “What variant of Russia-Belarus relations is the best you think?”, 45.5% of respondents said “good neighborly relations of two independent states”, 39.2% – “union of independent states” and 13.6% – “integration into a single state.” Asked “If a referendum on Russia-Belarus integration takes place tomorrow in Belarus, how would you vote?”
  • Before presidential candidates were allowed to address population from TV and radio, independent sociologists conducted an opinion poll among Belarusian citizens on the following question: “Do you think presidential candidates have the same degree of access to the state-run mass media as A. Lukashenko?”
  • Belarusian state-run mass media regularly report that due to ‘the right choice of economic course,’ which the authorities are not going to change, common Belarusians have decent incomes which ensure their worthy living, especially as compared to the countries of the former USSR. Is this true? Let’s look closer into this.
  • As the data in Table 1 shows, 58.5% of respondents think that the country goes in the right direction. Twofold less respondents (28.1%) think in the opposite. The dynamics of answers reveals that the number of the first has increased 2.7-fold over the past three years and the number of the second has dropped down more than twofold (55.6%). Also, there is a tendency to decrease in the number of those who found it difficult to answer or gave no answer to this question. In other words, the number of convinced supporters of the current course is getting progressively higher in Belarus.
  • According to Table 1, population is in general very positive about dynamics of its welfare. For the past three years, the number of those who think that their welfare improved during the previous three months has increased 3.6-fold (from 6.5% to 23.5%) and the number of those who think that it aggravated has dropped down 2.9-fold (from 41.6% to 14.2%). Although the number of those who think that their welfare didn’t change has increased by 10 points, general distribution of answers points out to substantial improvement of the situation in general. What’s more, this sharp increase in welfare has been registered for the past year which points out to advance preparation of the authorities to the forthcoming election.
  • Different people read differently into this concept. At the same time, there is tacit consent in the society about what is fair and what is not. According to the February opinion poll, 54.9% of respondents think that the presidential election in Belarus will be free and fair while 32.1% – almost a third – stick to the opposite viewpoint.
  • Past few years have showed that Belarusians more and more often go on hunger strikes as the last means of fight for their rights; they more and more often go on regular strikes as well. All this points out to increase of social tension in the society. However, these are single instances which still attract attention, especially as regards hunger strikes.
  • According to Table 1, the most topical among the problems determining the electoral choice of the Belarusians are still socio-economic problems like general quality of living (44.2% of respondents), rising prices (31.8%), healthcare (24.8%) and employment (23.1%). Any other problem, including democratization and country’s independence, corruptibility, crime, let alone freedom of consciousness is less acute for Belarusians. Therefore, it is possible to assume that a candidate able, in the opinion of population, to provide the best socio-economic conditions has the greatest chances to be elected the president.
  • These are not only candidate’s personal traits which provide for electoral preferences. Results of sociological surveys demonstrate a close relation between preferences given to this or that candidate and voters’ political viewpoints, their welfare and socio-demographic characteristics.
  • So little time left before the voting date of March 19, the issue on agenda is not so much who will take the presidential seat (no surprises are expected here) but how defeated candidates and their supporters will behave. Adherents of changes make at least one third of all voters. This is little for victory but quite sufficient for the society and the government to start taking interests of this group into account.
  • It is very little time left before the presidential election in Belarus but many Belarusians feel uncertain and doubtful as it approaches. Less than 55% believe that the election will be ‘free and fair’ and every third sticks to the opposite viewpoint. Lack of information about candidates is one of the reasons. Thus, asked the question “Do you have enough information about presidential candidates to make choice with confidence?”, 55.3% of respondents answered in the negative and only 43.3% – in the positive.
  • Results of electoral polls in Belarus typically reveal a huge gap between open and closed ratings of all politicians except A. Lukashenko. At a time when an election is a long-term perspective, open ratings of president’s opponents make 2-5%. This is the number of respondents who pick up the appropriate politician when asked “For whom would you vote at the presidential election in Belarus?”
  • Although the election campaign is now in full swing, many Belarusians haven’t yet decided for whom to vote or are still having doubts about their choice. Over a half of respondents said that they “presently have little information about presidential candidates to make choice with confidence.” We aren’t a team of a candidate and this is why we will not angle information in a way favorable for one and unfavorable for another candidate.

March 2006

  • As the bar chart in Picture 1 shows, 63.8% of female respondents and 51.5% of male respondents gave their votes for A. Lukashenko (polling data is given in percentage to list population). On the contrary, all other candidates received more votes from men rather than from women: A. Milinkevich - 20.1% vs. 17.7%, A. Kozulin - 6.1% vs. 3.5%, S. Gaidukevich - 3.1% vs. 1%. It should be noted than women make the majority within Belarusian electorate. Therefore, election of A. Lukashenko for presidency is mainly the decision of the female part of the Belarusian society.
  • Results of the opinion poll conducted right after the presidential election show that A. Lukashenko made a clean sweep of the election. Indirectly, this is proved in questions on living standard, current political course and common ideological attitudes to which most of respondents gave answers in the same manner as proclaimed by A. Lukashenko.
  • During his recent meeting with Russia’s president, A. Lukashenko stated that “almost entirely the population voted for him” except for “one or two thousand of under-aged youths who tried to de-stabilize the situation for money.”
  • At the recent meeting of Russian and Belarusian presidents, V. Putin unexpectedly asked A. Lukashenko if the latter would be able to consolidate different political forces around major problems of the state after the election. Converting this question from diplomatic language, the Russian president asked if A. Lukashenko would reach understanding with his political rivals.
  • According to the polling data, overwhelming majority of the electorate (four out of five) think that life in the country either has aggravated or hasn’t changed over A. Lukashenko’s latest cadence (See Table 1). This is why most of them cast their votes for A. Lukashenko.
  • According to polling results, about 90% of registered voters (92.3% as per the Central Election Commission) took part in the voting. This is more than the number of those who voted at the parliamentary election and at the referendum of October of 2006 (90.3% according to the Central Election Commission, and 87.3% according to the data of independent Gallup’s Institute.) About 25.7% of respondents voted ahead of term on March 14-18, which is again less than according to Election Commission’s data (31.1%); and every sixth of them admitted that he/she “was pressed to vote ahead of term.” The number of those who voted against all or who spoilt ballots is almost the same as announced by the Central Election Commission. However, similarity of official and real results of the presidential election ends up right there.

April 2006

  • In the Belarusian mentality, Russia is not only its closest ally but perhaps the only ally: the majority of Belarusians estimate low the friendliness of other countries towards Belarus. In addition, most of the so-called friends are situated far from Belarus (like China and Kazakhstan) and don’t raise great sympathy, unlike Russia.
  • In October of 2005 (article “Foes All Around?”) we offered to you analysis of the results of September’05 opinion poll presenting foreign political estimates and priorities of Belarusians. We asked these questions again in the April of 2006. You may see what have changed in Table 1 below.
  • Answers of respondents to the questions on self-identification divided almost equally between “Europeans” and “Soviet men” (See Table 1). Table 1. Dynamics of answers to the question "Do you think you are rather a European or a Soviet man?", %
  • As it goes from Table 1, when it comes to choice of the development path for the country, approximately one third of respondents (32.6%) prefer accession of Belarus into the European Union and slightly more than a half of respondents (53.9%) would choose integration with Russia. For the past two years, supporters of Europe-oriented integration decreased very insignificantly (less than by 4 points). However, supporters of East-oriented integration have grown up from 41% to 53.9%, i.e. by a third. This happened due to a considerable decrease in the number of vacillating (from 22.5% to 13.5%).
  • Quite recently Belarus commemorated twentieth anniversary of the catastrophe at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. They have been speaking much, on the top level including, about the measures taken for the most efficient post-disaster cleanup. It was said there are no grounds for concern, “emotions should be left in the past”, etc. In other words, the authorities do their best to diminish importance of the Chernobyl problem.
  • The polling data show that the generally positive perception of dynamics of personal welfare among Belarusians is getting stronger (See Table 1). In particular, the number of those who think that their welfare improved over the past three months has increased almost four-fold over the past three years (from 6.5% to 24.7%) and the number of those who think it went down has decreased by more than threefold over the same period (from 41.6% to 12.4%).
  • On April 16, 2006 independent sociologists at the assistance of O. Manaev’s group (field study and processing of the data was carried by other team of professionals) conducted a nation opinion poll (those face-to-face interviewed are 1,594 persons aged 18 and over, margin of error doesn’t exceed 3%). The opinion poll aimed at verifying the data received during the previous opinion poll conducted at the assistance O. Manaev’s group from March 27 to April 6 of 2006.

May 2006

  • Aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster still remains a burning and topical issue for the Belarusian society. Unfortunately, it will stay for a long time yet. For the 20 years since the catastrophe, they have eliminated only its major and the most outrageous, or the most noticeable, aftermaths. There are some latent problems still outstanding. Nevertheless, attitude of people to the Chernobyl problem is gradually changing. This issue is getting less acute and topical in the public opinion as it is giving way to other social concerns. This is of course the work of the authorities that are persuading the population in that the danger of Chernobyl catastrophe is exaggerated in order to reduce their expenses for this issue.
  • The issue of “Homo Sovieticus” is vital to understand the political processes taking place in the modern Belarus. It is not occasional. According to the opinion poll conducted by the Russia’s Centre for Public Opinion Research in March of 1991, yet before the USSR collapse, only 24% of ethnic Belarusians identified themselves as citizens of the Belarusian Soviet Republic and 69% - as USSR citizens. Belonging of Belarusians to the USSR became an all-time high among the nationalities of the former Soviet republics. To compare, this ratio in Estonia was 97% vs. 3% (see L. Gudkov, Negative Identity).
  • Russia-Belarus relations, judging by constant leaks into Russian newspaper Kommersant, hold a firm first place in the line of news. According to its publication of May 30, Russia’s natural gas monopoly Gazprom offered to Belarus “to purchase natural gas for $200 per 1,000 m3 in 2007 instead of $46.68 which it currently pays. Experts say such stiffness is the result of Kremlin’s failure to take gas distributors of CIS under its control.”
  • The results of the nation opinion poll conducted in the second part of April of 2006 have revealed, as the Table 1 shows, that the number of respondents who think that the quality of living in the country is (to a different extent) good is almost 1.5-fold greater than the number of those who say it is bad (24.9% vs. 17.3%). Nearly 57% of the polled estimated it as the average, but it is obvious that positive estimates of the quality of living are in general dominating in the Belarusian society.
  • Very often the results of opinion polls among leaders of public opinion and experts, or the Belarusian elite, are disparaged both among democrats (“we know what we think about this, while nomenclature doesn’t decide anything!”) and in the official circles (“this is just an opinion of ‘self-titled pseudo-elite’ which doesn’t play any role in the public life!”) In our opinion, such arrogance only increases alienation of both groups from reality and therefore cuts their ability to influence social and political life. The other countries give as much attention to professional opinion polls among the elite as to public opinion polls because the viewpoints of the elite help see the direction in which it may develop.
  • It is well known how the Belarusian authorities take the West. It is more than ten years since they ordered to shoot the balloon with American pilots, but their relations with the West haven’t improved yet. Despite growing trade with Western countries, political tenseness only increases and acquires the traits of civilization division. Self-isolation of the country is throwing it out of the European system of values. Belarusians are recommended to look for friends and partners in the Arab East or even in the far-away Asian-Pacific region. This course will not change in the short-term perspective, as A. Lukashenko stated in his annual address to the Parliament and the nation.

November 2006

  • * According to the results of the nation opinion polls conducted by independent sociologists (in all cases those face-to-face interviewed were approximately 1,500 persons aged 18 and over, margin of error didn’t exceed 0.03)
  • Prof. Oleg Manaev answering to Arche’s questions* "Arche": What is Europe for you? O.M.: I look at this from both geographic and cultural viewpoint. Geographically, this is the continent where we live and in the center of which Belarus is situated. Its continental peculiarities like landscape, climate, etc. are as well very important.
  • Sociologists are well aware that there are many objective factors as well as human factors that influence the formation of public opinion. The public opinion doesn’t work out notions of abstract matters that demand professional knowledge. How does it act then? It acts exactly like a visitor in a restaurant choosing from the menu. Who and why builds this menu is another question.
  • Stated press conference of A. Lukashenko to mass media representatives was held on November 23. On the next day Sovetskaya Belorussia published a many-sheet record of the meeting and made a note at its very end that the record was insignificantly abridged. Our experience of work with this kind of publications proves that these are the most important quotes and not the secondary which are generally taken off.
  • IISEPS surveys of the languages which Belarusians use for communication usually provoked much criticism. In particular, they claimed that answers to the questionnaire might reflect only external side of language behavior which was coercive. In the opinion of critics, it would be more correct to ask respondents about their aspirations and about the language they would like to speak as their mother tongue.
  • President A. Lukashenko is a populist. This is not the news, nor a state secret, nor a definition to disgrace or disparage the head of state because the president himself agrees with this definition. Yet in August of 1994, soon after his election, he explained his inclination to populism to Russian TV journalist A. Karaulov: “By the way, I don’t think populism is an extremely negative characteristic for a politician. Perhaps, it derives from the word popular.”
  • This question raised hot debates in some periods of the modern Belarusian history. Members of those discussions made their political conclusions on various answers to this question including the radical ones. In general, answers to this question group around three different variants – foundations of national identity, which are citizenship, birth (ethnicity) and culture (language). Respondents were offered to make choice out of these three identifiers of Belarusian nation. The results are given in Table 1.
  • During the latest population census in Belarus, 81.2% of population placed themselves among Belarusians, 73.7% said Belarusian is their native language but only 36.7% said they speak Belarusian at home (according to the data of opinion polls, the part of Belarusian-speaking citizens is several times lower).
  • They use to install billboards in Belarusian cities promoting national prosperity where Belarusians of all ages (from babies to gray-haired veterans) are portrayed at the background of a short and eye-catching slogan “For Belarus!” rather than billboards with toothpastes and bright packages with detergents. This is not surprising. Despite globalization, the national axis remains a central axis in the beginning of XXI century and the most pressing problems in any society are concentrated around it.
  • According to opinion polls conducted this year by independent sociologists, attitude of Belarusians to integration with Russia changed insignificantly during this year. (See Table 1).
  • A. Lukashenko started accumulating the political power in his hands right after the first presidential election in 1994. What did this publicly elected man begin from? As V. Lenin recommended, he yielded the mass media. Television was the first victim. Step by step, all state-run printed editions including Narodnaya Gazeta – an official mouthpiece of the Supreme Soviet – were taken under control.
  • Looking through state-run newspapers and those that are referred to as opposition newspapers in Belarus make give an impression that they are published in two different countries. First, almost any political event, either international or domestic, is given different and sometimes mirror-like assessment. Second, what is the breaking news for state-run editions may be omitted in opposition editions and vice versa.
  • The date of the next election in Belarus has been established. On January 14, 2007 Belarusian citizens will choose over 22,500 deputies into Local Councils – regional, district, city and village Councils. In its consequences, this election stands beyond any comparison with the presidential election. Coming to the presidential election, even under the authoritarian regime, the citizens choose not merely a head of state, they choose the course for country’s development for the next five years. They choose their future and future for their children after all. This expounds for an extremely high percentage of voters which grows election by election.
  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

January 2007

  • In accordance with Table 1, today two out of five voters stand against mass conversion of private sector employees to short-term labor contracts actively practiced over lately. Although the population is gradually adapting to the "contractual system for the whole country", zeal officials ready to beat the bushes have taken the situation to absurd. Contracts may be signed for the term of six months or even shorter. Of course, this cannot have mass support and only every fifth respondent approves the contractual system.
  • State independence is quite an intricate thing. It’s hard to understand for population whether they benefited or lost from it. Therefore, the public opinion divided into three and not into two groups when answering to the direct question about personal benefit/loss - about a third of respondents (31.6%) found it difficult to answer this question. However, the group of winners from Belarusian independence is larger than the group of losers (38.1% vs. 29.4%). This really encourages.
  • As they say, we learn wisdom by the follies of others. This applies to the Belarusians as well. Inflation of early 90-ies is still alive in people’s memory, and so when the lords of the Union State started bickering, their villains without going into details of who was right fled to exchange offices to purchase hard currency. Such financial activity of population affects currency rates. During the January opinion poll sociologists registered a turn in currency preferences of Belarusians. (See Table 1).
  • If we analyze answers of respondents for the past ten years to the question about the economics model they prefer, we will see surprising stability of the market economy supporters. As Table 1 shows, about two thirds of adult population preferred the market economy during all this period. At the same time, the number of planned economy adherents has gone down 2.3-fold over this period and it is possible to say that only every seventh adult Belarusian is nowadays a supporter of socialist economic model. This is twice as little as the number of pensioners.
  • Any outsider watching January newsreels on the Belarusian TV would definitely decide that there was unscheduled presidential election or at least another crucial referendum announced in the country. Informational activity of the head of state was a safe indicator of this. It is due to this activity that a row between Belarusian economic entities and their Russian partners turned into gas and oil war between the two states.
  • Public opinion is pretty pliant especially when it trusts the information source. As of now, it still does. The rating of trust to A. Lukashenko (country’s chief political informant) has dropped by 4.9 points as compared to November of 2006 but it still remains unattainable (55.4%).
  • “The election into the 25th Local Councils of Deputies has taken place!” We deliberately put this sentence into inverted commas. This is a quote from the article “Local Councils have been formed” published in Sovetskaya Belorussia of January 16. Let’s quote it on: “All the concerns about activity of voters cleared away on the voting day when the first preliminary results just started coming from polling stations. The final data was announced yesterday – 78.7%! Can anyone say after this that the Local Election is of little importance?...”
  • The year 2006 in Belarus was lived under the guise of stability; at least the authorities took great efforts to make it look alike. The presidential election brought certain dynamism yet it was not for long.
  • Beginning of a year is the time when sociologists and not only them are sizing up the results of the past year. This is a usual routine work since the time frame when 'Januaries replace Decembers' is purely symbolic. It doesn't matter whether we talk about life of a particular man or about future of a society within state boundaries. This is true, but the period from December of 2006 to January of 2007 in Belarus concurred with the beginning of a mobilization campaign unexpectedly launched by President A. Lukashenko.
  • Ten Days That Shook the World by US writer J. Reed was a very popular book under Soviets. The writer presented in it his version of October takeover. Since nothing is eternal, the takeover was soon given the name of the Great October Socialist Revolution. The history did a full turn for 75 years and it has again become fashionable to call the revolution a turnover. Mysterious are the ways of revolution …
  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

September 2008

  • As the data of Table 1 reveal, a tendency of systematic decrease in pro-European aspirations of the Belarusians has been observed since December, 2002. The September opinion poll of 2008 has registered, however, a new minimum: the results of the opinion poll show a quite considerable decrease of the pro-European attitudes in comparison with the last opinion polls as well as with the average level for several years.
  • National opinion polls in Belarus conducted by the IISEPS already for many years show that the number of the Internet users in Belarus grows steadily and quite swiftly (Table 1), probably as in the whole world. Today every third grown-up in our country uses this civilization achievement.
  • In August political prisoners such as former presidential contender A. Kozulin, youth activist A. Kim and businessman S. Parsukevich were unexpectedly released from the Belarusian jails. Their discharge was preceded by numerous efforts on the part of the West. As an example let us remind that exactly the refusal of A. Lukashenko to release prisoners of conscience led to the "diplomatic war" between Belarus and the USA.
  • On the night from July, 3 to July, 4 during the celebrating of the Independence Day in Minsk an explosion took place in the very center of the festive gathering in the streets. Frankly speaking, it is not an ordinary event for the country which officially positions itself as "an island of stability". That is why one should not be surprised that for some period of time it became topic number one not only in the state and non-governmental mass media, but also for discussing in the society. The data of Table 1 confirm what has been mentioned above. Such a high level of familiarity one can observe not so often.
  • In autumn of the previous year the Belarusian authorities began reforming the economy under the pressure of the reality which had taken shape by that time. A year passed, and in September such authoritative international organizations as the World Bank and the International Financial Corporation published a regular report "Conduct of business 2009".
  • The shift of the social barometer hand in the direction of the point "clear" stimulated by the growth of salaries and pensions at once reflected on the growth of the head's of state ratings (trust and electoral ones) (Tables 1-2). In the circumstances of purposeful maintenance of political non-alternativeness it could not possibly be otherwise. However, to all appearances the first person does not have any special reason for joy due to the presence of the given cause-and-effect relation, since the person, in spite of his rank, consequently turns into a trite hostage of economic indexes. Naturally, in this case there is no room for love, to say nothing about a great and blessed one. A hostage is a hostage in Belarus as well; and the society builds up its relation with him on the pure estimate of expenses and gains.
  • The hand of the barometer registering self-sensation of the Belarusian society slowly but persistently is bending to the point "clear". The shock caused by the rise in prices at the end of 2007 judging by the answers to the question "In what way has your personal financial position changed for the last three months?" is finally overcome (Table 1). Not in the last place such overcoming is connected with the ability of the society to adapt itself to the changed conditions. For the majority of the Belarusians adaptation is the basic social strategy. They are used to answering to the outside changes in a reactive manner not even trying to engage in search for active life alternatives.
  • Changes for the better in public attitude of mind registered in the course of the September opinion poll are also confirmed in the answers to the question: "Do you agree that a strong leader can do more for the country today than good laws?" A strong leader is in a sense an antirecessionary manager that is why the need for him is reduced under the conditions of social stability. A year ago 54.6% of respondents answered the cited question in the affirmative, today – 47.4%, and the ratio of those who agree to those who do not agree decreased from 1.5 percentage points to 1.1 during the year.
  • Another regular parliamentary election took place in Belarus. According to the official data of the Central Election Committee (the CEC) 75.3% of voters participated in the elections. However, a couple of days before the main voting A. Lukashenko, having referred to the data of sociologists, declared that 85% of the Belarusian population were ready to take part in the parliamentary elections. "It is a very substantial percentage. The bigger part of the people considers it their civic duty. Citizens of Belarus… have always demonstrated high turnout and discipline. I am sure this is going to be the case this time as well", – such was the short comment of the head of state.
  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

August 2009

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

June 2010

  • IISEPS questionnaires have frequently contained a question providing for a comparative analysis of the popularity of the president of Belarus and the popularity of leaders and politicians of other countries in the eyes of Belarusians. The answers to this question reveal not only the feelings of the respondents towards personalities, but also show though indirectly their attitudes towards the countries headed by the leaders, who arouse certain feelings in them. In the June 2010 poll this question was put again (Table 1).
  • On the 20th of April the head of the state put out his yearly message. Unlike the campaign "Tell the Truth!", the public awareness in this case proved considerably higher (Table 1) and exceeded 50%. This rate of awareness characterizes the capabilities of the governmental mass media to bring their truth to the Belarusian community. The rate of information awareness is also restricted by the topicality of information and the level of public excitement. For example, three months prior to the third presidential election in 2006 the percentage of those aware of the President’s message was 68.5% of respondents.
  • The change of power in Kyrgyzstan in April this year became a major world event of this half of the year. Mass ethnic bashing, which took place in June, suggests that the process, which began on the 7th of April with the ousting of the president K. Bakiev, is far from being over.
  • According to the data of the June 2010 poll of IISEPS, the level of pro-Russian trends among Belarusians in the first summer month of the current year was the lowest over many years (Table 1). Herewith, it is noteworthy that the opinion poll was concluded before the acute gas conflict, in the course of which Russia for the first time since 2004 had sharply reduced gas supplies to Belarus.
  • The fact that men and women differ not only in appearance or physiology is not a new discovery. Moreover, political consultants "psyched out" their social preferences long ago and make good use of the existing distinctions to reach their objectives.
  • There is no telling the issue of attitude towards sexual minorities be widely presented in the Belarusian public discourse. To tell the truth, if take political discourse, official mass media have made several attempts to present the opponents of the government as advocates of these minorities or members thereof. The oppositionists reacted to it rather sharply classifying such propagandistic moves as a discredit attempt.
  • In June the head of the state held a meeting on the issue of further improvement of the work of security agencies. The meeting was held on the base of Alphagroup under the Committee for State Security of Belarus. Speaking before the participants of the meeting, A. Lukashenko pointed out that in due course when the question was creation of special units within security agencies, it was decided to establish not one or two powerful units but a number of such units.
  • In the political quarters of our country discussions arise from time to time concerning the possibility of participation and the level of support by the Belarusian electorate of a woman-candidate for presidency. Quite a number of people speak in favour of this idea referring to the experience of the neighbouring countries (Germany, Finland, Lithuania, etc.), in which women rather confidently pushed men out of the highest political office.
  • Before each election campaign the head of the Belarusian state declares that the election will run "honestly as usual". This very "as usual" raises doubt among independent experts and opposition politicians. As regards the public opinion, a visible polarization has occurred in the assessments of the election honesty over the last eight years (Table 1). Whereas in 2003 the difference between the negative and positive answers made up 16.4%, in 2010 it has been as high as 25.9%.
  • Militia as an agency of the law enforcement system are an obligatory element of the state ensuring the normal life of people and law abidance of those who do not always like the laws. This is a theory. In practice however the position of this authority is mainly determined by the framework, which limits the activities of its officers, by the level of development and qualification of the officers themselves as well as by the requirements imposed on them by the management. Unfortunately,
  • Among the three institutions enjoying the strongest trust of Belarusians (Table 1) are "all familiar faces": the Orthodox Church, the President and the Army. Over the past year, the trust index (the difference of positive and negative answers divided by the number of respondents answered) of the Orthodox Church has not changed, while the President advanced considerably and moved from the third to the second position. The country is facing the beginning of the election campaign and this position advance should not surprise anybody.
  • Cancellation of mandatory turnout at the local elections gave rise to the hope that in the course of the March expression of will the district committees would not get "from above" a voter turnout plan. This point of view was shared by many independent experts and opposition politicians. In our opinion, such abandonment of putting over "the plan" would mean the change of the very nature of the political regime in Belarus. Firstly, the new election law cancelled the turnout threshold only for the local elections, which the authorities considered a rehearsal of the presidential election.
  • The headline, under which we presented the analysis of the social mood indices according to the results of March poll 2010, read "The Turning Point of the Tendency". The ground for such a challenging conclusion was a downward change in the indices, which was first registered after June last year. The world crisis, notwithstanding numerous optimistic political statements, still fails "to resolve", and the open Belarusian economy cannot cut itself off. Therefore, the change of the moods of Belarusians in the first spring month seemed quite logical.
  • 1. March 2002 - letter from the President's Administration with demand "to remove from the rented space" in the state-run building on Moskovskaya St. 18, where IISEPS rented apartment during seven years 2. September 2003 - first Official warning to IISEPS from the Ministry of Justice "About inadmissibility of law violation" (for discrepancy of legal address to a factual one)
  • The pending presidential election in Belarus again begins to draw attention (true, still only that of the politically-minded public and foreign experts) to the ratings of potential candidates. The June public opinion poll showed that the electoral rating (by the open question) of A. Lukashenko is stable as before. Moreover, in view of the new conflict with Moscow it has even grown from 42.7% to 45.6% (it seems from the point of view of the majority of citizens Batjka (Father) has won in this conflict rather than lost).
  • On June 1, 2010 the leadership of the Belarusian State University where I have worked (including student years) for 40 years, through the Dean of the School of Philosophy and Social Sciences, where I have worked as a Professor last 18 years, demanded me to write a self-resignation statement "by mutual agreement" without any explanations.
  • June 10, 2010 On behalf of academics throughout the world, we the undersigned hereby strongly protest the continued unfair treatment and the threats made against Dr. Oleg Manaev, Professor at the Faculty of Philosophy and Social Sciences at the Belarusian State University.

August 2010

  • The results of the September opinion poll gave some answers to the questions about the attitude of the population to religion, marriage, family, and alcohol and tobacco consumption.
  • (Русский) В аналитике, подготовленной НИСЭПИ по результатам мартовского опроса общественного мнения, делался вывод о том, что "сегодня, спустя десятилетие, можно сказать, что "битву за молодежь" выигрывает скорее власть, чем оппозиция, поскольку именно власть сделала серьезные выводы из бурных событий 90-х годов...
  • As the IISEPS research proves, there is a rather mixed attitude towards human rights defenders in the Belarusian society. In many respects it is connected with the fact that official organizations (courts, militia, the public prosecutor's office and other special services) called to stand sentinel over the law are not perceived by the population as human rights guilds.
  • The data of the IISEPS September opinion poll of 2010 concerning the geopolitical preferences of Belarusians testify to a slight advantage of pro-European attitudes over the pro-Russian ones. However, there is no complete unambiguousness in the answers, and some trends possess contradictory character (Table 1).
  • The run of the three parts of the series "The Godfather" on the Russian channel NTV has become one of the most significant events in the Belarusian-Russian relations for the last months. Tough criticism towards A. Lukashenko, accusations of corruption and other crimes – everything which had been present in the pages of Belarusian opposition and western press before, was broadcasted by the Russian TV.
  • In the course of public opinion polls respondents were asked questions about their awareness of the campaign "Tell the truth!" and about their attitude to it the second time in succession. The campaign "Tell the truth!" started from scratch. Its initiators, judging by numerous statements of experts and party activists, possess rather serious resources by Belarusian standards; that is why the obtained results quite clearly illustrate agitation potential of the opposition, as well as the level of support of opposition ideas in the society.
  • Speaking at the press conference for the representatives of the Russian regional mass media on October, 1 A. Lukashenko defined the electoral resource of the opposition candidates as 100-150 thousand people. According to him, the opposition group of activists includes 400 people, and the number of the prospective meetings participants does not exceed 800 people.
  • In 1997 a fourth of Belarusians preferred planned economy (Table 1), and there were considerably more supporters of market economy – 69%. 13 years have passed. The share of "planners" has visibly decreased (from 25.7% to 15.7%); however, the numbers of market economy advocates have not grown. This became possible at the expense of an increase in the share of those who found it difficult to answer: from 2.3% in 1997 to 12.8% in 2010.
  • The desire of the first Belarusian president to extend his term of office yet again lets us put a question about the personality cult of the "only Belarusian political figure" formed in the country. Within the bounds of the political system which has appeared out of the debris of its Soviet predecessor such statement of the question should not surprise. The principal of separation of powers was declared in the USSR, but was never observed in practice.
  • Presidential election campaign of 2010 has started: initiative groups of 16 contenders, a half of which are staunch opponents of A. Lukashenko, are gathering signatures around the country. More and more articles describing and analyzing various aspects of this most important political process – financial and cadre resources of candidates, their programs and mutual relations, connections in the West and in the East, work biographies, characters and private life – appear in non-government mass media with every passing week. Frequent customers of the BY-net can look at the interior of their apartments, members of their families and even at their pets. Various forecasts which take into account everything – from funding sources to charisma – are being made on these grounds.
  • Such contradictory changes of social indices, as the ones registered in the course of the September opinion poll of 2010, have never occurred during the zero years. While the index of financial standing (IFS) did not virtually change, the expectation index (EI) went down from 11.1 percentage points to 5.9 percentage points, and the index of policy correctness (PCI) grew from 15.9 to 19.4 points (Tables 1-3).
  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

May 2011

  • In the course of the poll, the respondents were asked several tens of questions concerning various aspects of social and political experience. Meanwhile, gender appeared not to be the factor determining material diversity of responses. Thus, the questions inviting female and male responses, which differ distinctly and significantly, become far more appealing.
  • The national polling results over the last fifteen years have been showing that two thirds of the adult citizens quite steadily deem the market economy preferred for our country (Table 1). At the same time, we can see that the quantity of the proponents of the planned economy for the same period has reduced more than twice, and today one can state that only every seventh adult Belarusian is a proponent of the socialist economic model. It is half as many as the number of pensioners.

August 2011

  • The data of the December opinion poll give us an opportunity to estimate attitude of Belarusians to the overthrow of the Libyan leader M. Gaddafi (Table 1). Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question: "Ruler of Libya Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed last year as a result of months-long battles. What do you think about the events that happened there?"
  • In the course of the December opinion poll respondents were asked traditional questions about their geopolitical orientation. Trends of the answers to the corresponding questions are presented in the following tables (Tables 1-3).
  • At the beginning of November A. Lukashenko announced creating of a territorial defense system in Belarus. According to the plan, it should become something like another army, a partisan movement just like the one that existed in Belarus during the years of World War II. The territorial defense announcement was made at the final stage of the Libyan revolution. The idea was partly motivated by the events in Libya where an insurrection of M. Gaddafi’s opponents was supported by NATO forces.
  • At the end of November D. Konovalov and V. Kovalev accused of organizing an act of terror in Minsk underground were sentenced to the supreme penalty – execution. Just the way it should be in a split society, public opinion concerning the complicity of the persons under sentence of death in the act of terror in Minsk underground was divided: 37% believed the guilt of the sentenced, 43.4% did not believe it and 19.6%
  • In spite of the notion spread in our daily life, a decrease in the population’s income does not lead to a growth in the protest moods. This political science axiom is being mastered with difficulty by the expert community in Belarus. Hopes for a “hot” autumn, which once again were not fated to come true, follow from here (Table 1). Formally, the number of those who proclaimed their readiness to participate in protest actions proved to be even smaller than in December 2008 when the situation in the country had begun to take a turn for the worse under the influence of the world financial crisis.
  • The September historic minimum of A. Lukashenko’s electoral rating did not remain unnoticed by its owner: on October 7 in the course of a press conference for the mass media of Russian regions head of the Belarusian state expounded his view on the dynamics of his own rating. He began with a description of a point of view rather popular among average citizens concerning the reliability of the results of public opinion polls:
  • In spite of the fact that under the influence of objective and subjective factors certain progress in supporting the authorities and the policy pursued by them has begun to show for the last three months, a demand for changes remains on a record high level in Belarusian society (Table 1). As is the established tradition in Belarus, presidential elections concur with the peak of social payments.
  • In the opinion of the overwhelming majority of Belarusians the year of 2011 turned out to be more difficult than the previous one (Table 1). A. Lukashenko also supported the assessment in the course of the press conference for the Belarusian and foreign mass media on December 23: "I would not want such a year to repeat itself once again in the history of our country. It was a very difficult year".
  • A timid hint at a growth in the positive attitude registered in September took shape of a clear tendency in December. Let us refer to Tables 1-3. If in September the financial standing index (FSI) and the expectation index (EI) increased by 3.2 and 3.8 percentage points respectively, and the index of policy correctness (PCI) continued to decrease (–15.8 points relative to September), then in December the FSI added 15.9, the EI – 11.9, and the PCI – 21.4 percentage points! What gave rise to such a drastic change of the trend – objective or subjective reasons?

February 2012

  • In April 1992 IISEPS held its first national opinion poll. Twenty years is a standard space of time during which a generation change occurs. However, one should not approach the question without thinking. In the opinion of the culture expert I. Yakovenko: "Generational change is set not so much by a natural process of replacing fathers with children, as by convulsions of our country’s history. New generations emerge in crucial, crisis times when the process of state leveling slackens, the maxim "left step, right step is considered an escape" temporarily forfeits its currency and a potentiality for diverse behavior comes into existence, an opportunity for to some extent unconventional self-realization".
  • As Mao Zedong used to say, "The wind from the East weighs upon the wind from the West". With the help of this phrase it is possible, at least partly, to describe the results of the IISEPS latest opinion poll concerning the geopolitical choice of Belarusians (Table 1).
  • As it is known, over half a million of the disabled live in Belarus at the moment. It means that every twentieth fellow countrymen of ours has these or those problems which limit his/her physical, psychological or intellectual abilities to some extent. This is quite a large number and it is, of course, impossible not to notice it. Hence the social problem of disability should be known to society. As the data of Table 1 show, three out of five adult Belarusians have first-hand knowledge of the problem.
  • In the opinion of philosopher A. de Jasay, "A state usually begins with someone’s defeat". The Republic of Belarus owes its appearance on political maps to "the greatest catastrophe of the XX century", i.e. to the defeat of the USSR in the "cold war". The same defeat allowed A. Lukashenko to turn from a director of a decayed sovkhoz "Gorodets" into a head of state within several years.
  • To European measure Belarusians can be safely attributed to an electoral nation. They love to vote. Such is the tradition dating back to the Soviet past. A Soviet person was trained to participating in two types of mass political actions: to voting and to passing in festive columns of demonstrators past the tribunes from which representatives of bureaucratic establishment of the proper administrative and territorial level greeted him. In independent Belarus the second tradition was considerably devaluated, that is why voting remained the only officially allowed mass political action.
  • To have a good reputation by oneself is human. In the social psychology language it is called "disposition in favor of one’s own Ego". The given disposition is registered not only on the everyday level, but also when respondents answer questions connected with social and political range of problems. Let us refer to the data of Table 1. As it can be seen, the absolute majority of Belarusians (68.1%) are law-abiding citizens who meet their commitments owed to the state. The share of the population "irresponsible" in the civic sense is extremely insignificant (7.6%).
  • A growth in the positive mood accompanied by a growth in trust to the person personifying power did not lead to a decrease in the level of opposition attitude in March relative to December (Table 1). It is possible to talk about some increase in the level of polarization in the split Belarusian society owing to a reduction in the share of respondents who found it difficult to answer. The record since December, 2010 percent of Belarusians who do not consider themselves to be in opposition to the authorities (66 %) follows from here. This is a direct outcome of the anti-European and anti-opposition propaganda which has been actively discussed by state mass media since the beginning of the year.
  • During the last year’s unprecedented fall of A. Lukashenko’s rating some political scientists began talking about forming of a new anti-Lukashenko majority. Formally, the arithmetical anti-Lukashenko majority emerged when the rating fell much lower than 50% and the number of those who did not trust the president made up over a half of all respondents. However, experts, to all appearances, put into the invented notion a much deeper sense – the president had lost support of the majority of the population for good, the majority had once and for all turned away from him and from this time onward would look for other idols.
  • (Русский) Анализируя в декабре динамику социальных индексом, мы отмечали, что сентябрьский робкий намек на рост позитивных настроений в декабре оформился в четкую тенденцию. В марте четкая тенденция продолжила свою победную поступь. Все три индекса по-прежнему остаются в отрицательной зоне (табл. 1-3), но до нулевого уровня, соответствующего формальному равенству позитивных и негативных оценок, осталось уже немного.

May 2012

  • In IISEPS June poll 2012 we again asked the question about the politicians of the past and present the most sympathetic or ideal for the respondents. The question was closed; the respondents were offered to choose from the fixed list (Table 1).
  • In the recent months, the geopolitical likes of Belarusians have undergone notable changes, though not cardinal (Tables 1-3).
  • A ghost is wandering in Belarus, a ghost of change. This is what independent journalists, political analysts and politicians representing "the Fifth Column" are writing more and more often about. Let us confine to one quote: "Today the society makes the demand on new leaders and a program of changes" (A. Yegorov, a political analyst). The June poll seems to confirm the presence of the Ghost (Table 1). For more than a year the percent of the supporters of changes has increased by 16.2 points and reached its historical maximum of 77.3%, meanwhile the percent of the stability preservation supporters has reduced twice and fallen to its historical minimum of 15.1%.
  • We have repeatedly emphasized the fact that Belarusians show interest in politics mainly as viewers (TV-viewers). As regards the elections in particular, Belarusians according to the Soviet tradition and, primarily, representatives of the senior age groups take part in voting quite actively. In fact, performing of "the civil duty" is limited to ballot marking. The number of signature collectors, electioneerers and observers rarely exceeds the statistical error margin.
  • The change of the public opinion with regard to the power, which occurred under the influence of the man-made crisis 2011, is illustrated by the data of Table 1. The percent of respondents declaring their willingness to vote for A. Lukashenko’s proponent three months before the elections reduced by 12 points (the first and third columns). The percent of those willing to support opponents of the head of state at the elections increased almost symmetrically. Expectable that closer to the elections the situation will change to a certain extent owing to the polarization of the community, and the quantity of the supporters of "another candidate" will reduce. An interesting aspect is that reduction of this electoral group leads not only to popularization of the power opponents and proponents, but also the group of those who find it difficult to answer.
  • The appearance at parliamentary elections 2008 made up 66.1%. The percent is quite high. But it does not come within miles of the voting in 2004, when 82.7% of Belarusians performed their civil duty. There was a good motive for it then: that year the parliamentary elections were held simultaneously with the constitutional referendum
  • Quite active (by the European standards) participation of Belarusians in parliamentary elections bears no relationship to the role the public opinion assigns to the legislative governmental body in the life of ordinary people. Even at the peak of the electoral mobilization during the presidential elections in December 2010 the trust/distrust balance towards the National Assembly was on the distrust side: 35.7% vs. 44.4%. Confer the same balance for the head of state: 55.0% vs. 34.1%.
  • On the 8th of May, A. Lukashenko delivered his annual address to the Belarusian nation and the National Assembly. By a long tradition, the Address is usually delivered in April, but this time it was postponed without any explanations. As far as the plot of the Address is concerned, the head of state did not meet the hopes of those who had been expecting an analysis of the reasons of the financial and economic crisis which broke out in the country in 2011. Let us quote a key saying: "Why have we rolled downhill – you know it right well.
  • "All we're worth", i.e. A. Lukashenko's electoral rating, fell by 4.8 points for the second quarter of 2012. In the first half of June, giving an answer to the open question: "If the presidential elections should be held again in Belarus tomorrow, who would you vote for?" – 29.7% of respondents mentioned the name of the head of state (Table 1). Hence, the upsurge of the rating of "an only Belarusian politician", being associated with the stabilization of the economic situation in the country, stopped and a reverse process budded. Stabilization does not mean improvement.
  • The measures for economical stabilization taken at the end of 2011 are about to deplete their resources. One could hardly recover legs by the stabilization of the ruble exchange rate only. It is necessary that the quantity of real rubles (not produced by inflation) on people's hands should increase. However, no such trend can be observed. The real household disposable income for January-April as against the same period of the previous year has made up 99.9% according to the official statistics.

August 2012

November 2012

  • In his interview to the newspaper "Respublika" minister of economy N. Snopkov mentioned the inflation decrease as the main achievement of the government in 2012: "Last year we had hyperinflation. This year it will not exceed the forecasted limits – it will make up about 21-22%; it has decreased 5 times. This is success of our economic policy and one of the best rates in the world practice of the government antiinflationary measures".
  • Some years ago Belarus signed an agreement for the so-called "small border traffic" with the neighboring countries of the EU Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The matter concerns visa-free trips to the neighboring countries of the border territories residents. The agreement with Latvia has already come into effect; with Lithuania and Poland – has not.
  • In the IISEPS opinion poll held in December 2012, just as in the previous one, respondents were asked to express their attitude to the program of the European Union for Belarus (Pict. 1). A comparison of the polls’ results shows that slight, but important dynamics are present.
  • In September 2012 IISEPS registered an appreciable decrease in sentiment in favor of integration with Russia in comparison with the previous period. The data of the December opinion poll show that, paraphrasing Remarque, "All Quiet on all the Fronts" (Pict. 1-3).
  • (Русский) В июне 2012 г. 77.3% респондентов согласились с тем, что Беларусь нуждается в переменах, в то время как противоположную точку зрения поддержало только 15.1%. Казалось бы, подавляющее превосходство первых над вторыми просто обязано было материализоваться в публичные действия. Однако в очередной раз подобным ожиданиям оппозиционных политиков не суждено было сбыться.
  • (Русский) Вопрос о явке оказался в центре избирательной кампании большинства оппозиционных политических партий. Низкая явка, по мнению партийных активистов, должна была свидетельствовать о новом качестве белорусского общества, которое оно обрело после шока 2011 г. Естественно, вновь была поднята тема отказа от выполнения "социального контракта" (лояльность в обмен на рост доходов). Массовый бойкот выборов и должен был выступить в качестве индикатора такого отказа.
  • Only 14% of Belarusians agree that officials really help people with solving their problems (Pict. 1). As it has been already noted by us more than once, a typical representative of the Belarusian, as well as of Russian “majority” is simultaneously an anti-statist and an adherent of power.
  • Stabilization of social indices led to stabilization of A. Lukashenko’s ratings (electoral and trust) (Pict. 1-2). The mean value of the electoral rating in 2010 was 44.9%, in 2011 – 29.4%, and in 2012 – 31.8%. Similar mean values of the two last years are connected with the "distortion" brought about by the March opinion poll of 2011 held in the first half of the month, i.e. before halting of free currency sale in currency exchange offices.
  • While A. Lukashenko continues to believe in the correctness of the policy chosen 18 years ago, the majority of Belarusians continue to consider him the main person responsible for the present crisis in Belarus (Pict. 1). It should be mentioned, however, that in 2011 his fault decreased considerably relative to the government.

January 2013

  • Stabilization of social indices led to stabilization of A. Lukashenko’s ratings (electoral and trust) (Pict. 1-2). The mean value of the electoral rating in 2010 was 44.9%, in 2011 – 29.4%, and in 2012 – 31.8%. Similar mean values of the two last years are connected with the "distortion" brought about by the March opinion poll of 2011 held in the first half of the month, i.e. before halting of free currency sale in currency exchange offices.

February 2013

  • "Which currency do you have? – they say. – Don’t be afraid, – I answer, – not dollars". The sense of fears of V. Vysotski’s lyrical hero of is not so clear for young Belarusians today. To make ends meet today most people have to follow the head of the state’s example, that is to take decisions "as life goes by", while life taught to follow attentively the exchange rate of Belarusian ruble to US dollar, otherwise you could get into a big trouble. The last lesson our native state gave to its citizens in 2011, when national currency was devaluated by the factor of three, so that ruble savings of its electors were decreased in the same proportion.
  • The struggle between the growth of population’s income and prices hike for the right to form the national opinion is going on with varying success in 2013. The current results of this struggle are recorded in the social indices (Tables 1-3). Their changes during the last year and a half reminds of light ripples on a pond. In June they had simultaneously increased relatively to March, and in September they have decreased in the same simultaneous way.
  • Who succeeds today in the Belarusian "state for the people"? According to the people, first of all those who are in power, and, therefore, don't belong to the people (Table 1). Among the Belarusians who didn’t manage to get in power succeed well-connected people, and there is a huge gap between them and businesslike and talented people. But connections are a mean that helps representatives of people to resolve their private issues with those who are in power, i.е. with government officials.
  • Against the background of social indices’ decrease the electoral rating of A. Lukashenko raised by 5.3 points in a quarter (Table 1), which is remarkably higher than the statistical error (3%). As for the trust rating, though formally it hadn’t changed a lot, but the number of those who don’t trust the president decreased perceptibly (Table 2), which led to a record (during the last three years) share of respondents, who found it difficult to answer. This is a sure sign of the growth of the feeling of uncertainty in society.
  • On the 17th of August in Ostrovets there was held a public Belarusian-Lithuanian discussion of the report on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the Belarusian nuclear power plant under construction. The official point of view on the safety problem during the discussion was represented by the Deputy Minister of Energy of Belarus M. Mikhadyuk. We are not going to retell it, but, naturally, it was reduced to unconditional priority of safety and reliability of the future nuclear station and commitment of Belarus to observance of IAEA norms and standards.
  • Current level of negative values of social indices doesn't lead to growth of oppositional moods in the Belarusian society (Table 1). For such growth extraordinary events, accompanied not by a decrease, but by a collapse of social indices, are required, as it was observed in June-September, 2011: 28.3% is an absolute record. In two years the share of Belarusians who answer affirmatively the question "Do you consider yourself in opposition to the current regime?" was cut by half.
  • The latest IISEPS survey showed that emigration intentions of the population declined slightly in comparison with the 2011 crisis. The share of those who think of departure from Belarus for permanent residence decreased by five percentage points, and this change happened mainly due to the German direction (Table 1).
  • During the quarter that has elapsed since the last IISEPS survey, geopolitical preferences of Belarusians did not change significantly. However, a slight decrease in respondents’ disposition to integration with Russia should be noted. Nevertheless some quite noticeable changes occurred over a longer period of time (see Tables 1-2).

July 2013

  • Out of the whole set of questions A. Lukashenko’s electoral rating traditionally draws attention of the general public, politicians and experts to the fullest extent. As a rule, only the very few are satisfied with its value. In society split into supporters and opponents of the authoritarian "father" it is obviously understated for the former ("what can be expected from the sociologists serving their western masters"). For the latter it is, on the contrary, overstated ("what can be expected from the KGB agents, and what rating measurements can one talk about in an authoritarian country").
  • We begin our analysis of social indices with citing the words by Minister of Economic Affairs N. Snopkov: "The record salary rate of $ 565 is a historic high. By the end of 2013, as expected, we should reach $ 600; that is why for the time left the approach to increasing salaries up to the anticipated level must be directly coordinated with labor productivity".
  • In the states with split societies an additional problem connected with the necessity to reconcile the interests of the two parts of split society turns up for the ruling elites besides the standard set of problems. If the split line divides society into parts unequal in size ("a majority" and "a minority"), then the ruling elites get a natural desire to give up the role of a mediator and lean upon just one part of society (as a rule, upon the "majority"). Interests of the "minority" are, of course, ignored while domestic policy is being formed.
  • In the opinion poll of June 2013 a set of questions about the popularity of politicians and social and political organizations was asked. In particular, respondents were asked two questions concerning their desired presidential contenders: an open-end one, when a respondent was supposed to write in the last name of the preferred candidate on his/her own, and a close-end one, in which the respondent was offered to choose a candidate from a fixed list of politicians (Table 1).
  • Modern states "create" rather than "find" their nations. Belarusian state is not an exception in this case. It is working indefatigably on forming a state nation, as reproduction of the authoritarian political regime is possible only under such type of a nation.
  • At a press conference in Minsk on May 20 three Belarusian opposition structures – the movement "For Freedom", the campaign "Tell the Truth!" and BPF Party (soon they were joined by BSDP "Gramada") – stated they intended to hold a "people’s referendum".
  • The fact that Belarus becomes more and more attractive for tourists from Russia was noted long ago. The Russian "descent" on May holidays, especially in the capital, was also noticed by many people. Almost all newspapers wrote about it; A. Lukashenko himself responded to this public and media stir among the people: "Recently information has appeared that we were pestered by Russians during the May holidays and there was not a vacancy in hotels. Inwardly I am happy about it. I have always dreamt about Belarus becoming a wished for spot where people would aspire to come to. And these are not the poorest people, they have money".
  • Another celebration of Victory Day caused the traditional controversy about its meaning and value. An impression was created that in the current year it was so violent as never before in both Belarus and Russia. In Russia "an interchange of views" between the politician L. Gozman and journalist U. Skobeida became an event; in Belarus a well-known blogger A. Kabanov deleted all his friends on Facebook who had congratulated him on the high day having called them "asinine mutants of propaganda".

October 2013

  • "Which currency do you have? – they say. – Don’t be afraid, – I answer, – not dollars". The sense of fears of V. Vysotski’s lyrical hero of is not so clear for young Belarusians today. To make ends meet today most people have to follow the head of the state’s example, that is to take decisions "as life goes by", while life taught to follow attentively the exchange rate of Belarusian ruble to US dollar, otherwise you could get into a big trouble. The last lesson our native state gave to its citizens in 2011, when national currency was devaluated by the factor of three, so that ruble savings of its electors were decreased in the same proportion.
  • The struggle between the growth of population’s income and prices hike for the right to form the national opinion is going on with varying success in 2013. The current results of this struggle are recorded in the social indices (Tables 1-3). Their changes during the last year and a half reminds of light ripples on a pond. In June they had simultaneously increased relatively to March, and in September they have decreased in the same simultaneous way.
  • Who succeeds today in the Belarusian "state for the people"? According to the people, first of all those who are in power, and, therefore, don't belong to the people (Table 1). Among the Belarusians who didn’t manage to get in power succeed well-connected people, and there is a huge gap between them and businesslike and talented people. But connections are a mean that helps representatives of people to resolve their private issues with those who are in power, i.е. with government officials.
  • Against the background of social indices’ decrease the electoral rating of A. Lukashenko raised by 5.3 points in a quarter (Table 1), which is remarkably higher than the statistical error (3%). As for the trust rating, though formally it hadn’t changed a lot, but the number of those who don’t trust the president decreased perceptibly (Table 2), which led to a record (during the last three years) share of respondents, who found it difficult to answer. This is a sure sign of the growth of the feeling of uncertainty in society.
  • On the 17th of August in Ostrovets there was held a public Belarusian-Lithuanian discussion of the report on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the Belarusian nuclear power plant under construction. The official point of view on the safety problem during the discussion was represented by the Deputy Minister of Energy of Belarus M. Mikhadyuk. We are not going to retell it, but, naturally, it was reduced to unconditional priority of safety and reliability of the future nuclear station and commitment of Belarus to observance of IAEA norms and standards.
  • Current level of negative values of social indices doesn't lead to growth of oppositional moods in the Belarusian society (Table 1). For such growth extraordinary events, accompanied not by a decrease, but by a collapse of social indices, are required, as it was observed in June-September, 2011: 28.3% is an absolute record. In two years the share of Belarusians who answer affirmatively the question "Do you consider yourself in opposition to the current regime?" was cut by half.
  • The latest IISEPS survey showed that emigration intentions of the population declined slightly in comparison with the 2011 crisis. The share of those who think of departure from Belarus for permanent residence decreased by five percentage points, and this change happened mainly due to the German direction (Table 1).
  • During the quarter that has elapsed since the last IISEPS survey, geopolitical preferences of Belarusians did not change significantly. However, a slight decrease in respondents’ disposition to integration with Russia should be noted. Nevertheless some quite noticeable changes occurred over a longer period of time (see Tables 1-2).

January 2014

  • The truth comes through comparison. The data of Tables 1-2 give us this opportunity. The year with the unlucky number, the third year of the fourth five-year period, according to a half of respondents, was "the same, as the previous one" for Belarus, and this allowed the decrease of the level of positive and negative evaluations in comparison with 2012.
  • All three social indices (the financial standing index (FSI), the expectation index (EI) and the policy correctness index (PCI)) decreased considerably in December in comparison with September (Table 1-3). The FSI decreased by 5.8 points, the EI – by 12.5 points, the PCI – by 14.6 points. An insignificant decrease of social indices was recorded in September as well, but that change didn't allow to make up a conclusion about a new trend in the change of public opinion. Today we can state this negative trend with confidence.
  • Reserves for the growth of A. Lukashenko’s electoral rating are sweepingly decreasing judging by the results of December survey. The rating steadily increased from September 2011 to September 2013, and gained altogether 22.1 points – from 20.5% to 42.6% (the decrease by 4.8 points in June 2012 should be regarded as an exception proving the rule). But the decrease by 7.8 points at once in December down to 34.8% should rather be called an implosion. The same rate of the state of head’s electoral rating decrease was regarded in 2011. But at the time it had not been decreasing in the splendid isolation, but following the decrease of the national currency known officially as "Belarusian ruble" and unofficially as "hares".
  • Within the general tendency to the worsening of social well-being the share of respondents who answered positively to the following question increased: "Do you think that Belarusian economy is in crisis?" (Table 1). The increase amounts to 11.2 points at once. During two years the feeling of economic crisis in Belarusian society was constantly decreasing: from 87.6% in September 2011 to 57.4% in September 2013 (–29.8 points!)
  • American futurologist F. Fukuyama considers the prevail of social distrust as an additional tax to the national economics. Economic activities are joint activities of people first of all. Low level of trust of economic actors to each other and high level of distrust of economic actors to state and public institutions raise transaction costs (costs incurred by contract awards), and this is equal to the introduction of an additional tax.
  • Belarus is one of the few countries of the world where the 7th of November is still a public holiday celebrating the anniversary of the October Revolution of 1917. This event doesn’t provoke as many heated discussions and sharp differentiations as, for example, the Great Patriotic War. Revolution is less important for the historical collective consciousness: for Belarusian respondents it takes one of the last places in the list of the most important events of the XX century in contrast to the Great Patriotic War, which occupies the first place. At the same time the October Revolution is still an important part of the official political discourse in Belarus.
  • There will be elections to the local Soviets in Belarus in the end of March. The elections will be conducted according to the tried-and-true over the last two decades script, if we judge by the results of formation of territorial election committees (only several representatives of opposition are included in 1331 committees of regional, district and city levels).
  • December 2013 opinion poll shows that Belarusians’ geopolitical preferences once again had a swing away from Russia. A new historic minimum is recorded in the answers to the question about voting on a hypothetical referendum about integration of Belarus and Russia (Table 1).

April 2014

  • Ukrainian revolution, months-long Euromaydan and the overthrow of president V. Yanukovich significantly influenced Belarusian politics. However, these events influenced Belarusian public opinion as well. During March survey respondents were asked a wide range of question concerning different aspects of their opinion on dramatic events in the neighboring country. Further we are going to comment on the results of this survey using also the results of earlier surveys. You should note as well, that questions on the events after V. Yanukovich’s deserting (particularly on annexation of Crimea and troubles in the East of Ukraine) were not included in March poll.
  • Ukraine wasn’t so lucky to have its own Lukashenko. "This is exactly what caused dissatisfaction of some citizens and discords in society. I’m sure, if Ukraine had had its own Lukashenko, there would have been no those troubles that befell our sister nation", told A. Rubinov on the 2nd of April during the opening of the 4th session of the 5th Congress of the upper house of the Belarusian parliament.
  • The survey of March 2014 recorded a significant strengthening of pro-Russian moods and a weakening of pro-European moods in Belarusian society. Least of all it influenced the results of the question about voting on a hypothetical referendum about integration of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation: in fact figures here jumped back to the level of last year’s spring and thus compensated December decrease (Table 1).
  • During March elections of local Councils’ deputies Belarusian people didn’t let down their "batka" and were thanked for it: "Thanks to the people for supporting us in these elections, for coming so numerous. Surely, the situation put us on the alert, and I’ve asked people to come. The fact people come to elections is a strong argument for me. I often take it out of my pocket and put it on the table during important negotiations. And everyone understands: if almost 80% of populations come to elections, it means that they trust the power. It means I have some kind of strength in those negotiations. It’s a very big argument".
  • Against the background of growth of positive moods in society and of the head of state’s ratings, the share of those who declare their readiness to participate in acts of protest against the worsening of financial position grew significantly (Table 1). 22.9% of respondents declared themselves ready for this in March 2014. This is 8.2 points more than at the peak of the economic crisis of 2011!
  • In short-distance runs politics wins over economics. But in average- and long-distance runs it is economics that wins as a rule. The March survey shows it clearly. The dynamics of public opinion in March was formed under the influence of events in Ukraine and Russia or, more specifically, under the interpretation of these events by Russian TV-media on the one hand (politics) and under the influence of day-to-day life (economics).
  • (Русский) Причину популярности культа Великой Отечественной войны, как это не покажется странным на первый взгляд, можно объяснить исходя из ответов на вопрос: "Какой строй более приемлем для Беларуси?" (табл. 1). За годы независимости политическая элита страны так и не смогла сформулировать образ будущего. Нет его и в общественном мнении. Поэтому отсутствие будущего компенсируется прошлым, героическим прошлым.
  • After 23 years of independence Belarusian society still cannot define its attitude towards two main "-isms" of Soviet ideology, i.e. capitalism and socialism. In March the answers on the question "Which regime is more acceptable for Belarus?" were divided almost equally: capitalism – 38.3%, socialism – 39.9% (21.1% of respondents didn’t know what to answer).
  • A. Lukashenko likes to play off the beginning of nineties when, under "nationalists", average salary amounted to $ 20, against "fat" aughties. According to official information from Belstat, in February 2014 (information for March was not yet available when the article was prepared) an average Belarusian earned 5.4 million rubles or $ 557. In dollar equivalent average salary increased 28-fold over the past 20 years, while the share of Belarusians considering themselves poor decreased from 17.7% down to 10.8%, i.e. 1.6-fold (Table 1). You shouldn’t be surprised by this lack of proportion. Poverty and wealth are relative.
  • Answers to the question "What’s more important for you today: maintaining of the current situation in the country or changing it?" always provoke active discussion of Belarusian experts. A specialized term was introduced – "supporters of changes". When their share exceeds the share of supporters of maintaining the current course, optimistically-oriented experts have a convincing reason in favor of inevitability of real changes (Table 1).
  • Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, success of Belarusian sportsmen, A. Lukashenko’s gestures towards the Triple Olympic Champion Darya Domracheva, approaching World Hockey Championship in Belarus – all these events made actual the problem of connection between sport and politics. Who, saying metaphorically, roots for Belarus? What is the connection between the support to national sport and demographic characteristics and political preferences? The answers to these questions are partly available via the results of March survey.
  • The Belarusian language loses its importance as a sign of national identity of Belarusians. The share of those who advocate Belarusian to be the only official language in Belarus is almost equal to the share of those who want to see Russian as the only official language. At the same time national identity itself has somewhat consolidated. The last time that IISEPS asked the question on differences between Belarusians and Russians was in 2006.

July 2014

  • In May A. Lukashenko delivered his annual message to Belarusian people and National Assembly. 61% of respondents answered that they know about the head of state’s speech (Table 1). This is a rather high level of awareness.
  • March survey recorder a victory of economics over politics. Although the growth of people’s income slowed down, expectancy index and policy correctness index increased considerably in comparison with December. As for the most "material" financial standing index, it hasn’t’ changed during the first quarter of the current year. Mobilization campaign in Russia, started in March, hasn’t become less intensive when we started June survey. It hasn’t become less effective as well. Social indices and ratings of President V. Putin achieved historical maximums after the annexation of Crimea and they maintain in this position.
  • Unexampled in its aggressiveness informational campaign in Russian mass media couldn’t but influence public opinion in Belarus (in June 64.5% of respondents answered that they get information on events in Ukraine from Russian TV). In the beginning it meant that pro-Russian moods were strengthening and thus the number of supporters of integration with Russia was growing. Later Russian nationalism began to arouse Belarusian nationalism.
  • Financial standing index’s decrease by 7.7 points (from -15.1 in March to -22.8 in June) didn’t influence electoral rating of A. Lukashenko. It coincided with the March value accurately to one decimal place (Table 1). This precision is nothing else but a chance. However the very fact of stability of electoral rating of the head of state against the background of a significant worsening of economical well-being of Belarusian is a rare phenomenon.
  • The recent World Hockey Championship, held in Minsk, became, in addition, a demonstration of Belarusians’ unity (Table 1).
  • What is the direction of development of political life in Belarus? Democracy. This is the most popular answer today (Table 1). More than a half of A. Lukashenko’s supporters think so (51.3%). But what does "democracy" mean in this case? Let us turn to the original source: "We don’t need a democracy with uproars. We need a kind of democracy when people work, get a salary in order to buy some bread, milk, sour cream, cheese, sometimes a piece of meat to feed a child and so on.
  • June survey testifies that respondents’ support of Eastern vector slightly decreased over the last quarter. Nevertheless its level is still quite high (Table 1).
  • According to the results of March 2014 IISEPS survey we had noted a significant growth of pro-Russian moods in the country. After the past quarter, according to the results of June survey, level of those moods went down, though not notably. In March survey, in a choice between integration with Russia and joining the EU, Russian vector was chosen by 51.5% of respondents, while 32.9% preferred Europe. In June 46.9% of respondents answered in favor of integration with the RF and 33.1% – in favor of Europe.
  • In 1989 13% of Russians agreed that Russia had enemies, in 2013, before Euromaidan, already 78% of respondents believed that. This is the dynamics. This data shows the effectiveness of "five minutes hate" against external and internal enemies, which are broadcasted on Russian TV 25 hours a day since March.
  • According to June survey, in general Belarusians evaluate positively the actions of Russia in Ukraine over the last months, in particular, the annexation of Crimea. This approval is not as unanimous as in Russia, but the share of approval if notably higher than 50%. How probable do respondents consider the repetition of the Crimean script in Belarus?

September 2014

  • The answers of respondents, regarding goods and their prices, leave a mixed feeling. The overwhelming majority prefers a market variant, i.e. wide offer of goods and services at free market prices (83.4%). An even bigger percentage of young people answered so (95.7%). Those, who long for the socialist deficits and poor quality of goods make up a minority, and those are not young people (Table 1).
  • Independent television is one of the elements in the framework of Belarus' independent media. It is comprised of about 20 regional television companies, arpund 20 cable television companies, which broadcast in urban residential areas and a few companies, which produce original programmes, but have no access to broadcasting themselves. The average weekly broadcasts of a non-state television company make up 41.2 hours.

October 2014

  • In IISEPS publications on the results of June survey the role of propaganda in relation to Belarusians’ attitude to events in Ukraine was already analyzed: "There is a hypothesis about the almighty propaganda. According to it Belarusians’ evaluations of Ukrainian crisis are defined only by this propaganda. This hypothesis is true only partially. Indeed, the level of support of Russian position is significantly higher among those who regularly watch Russian TV.
  • Threat of separatism in Belarus doesn’t seem currently important. Over all the years of independence there was only one faint resemblance not even to separatism, but to protoautonomism – movement "Polisse". This movement quickly came (and was brought) to nought amid harshly negative attitude of all Belarusian political elite of that time. Moreover, we may add that ethnically Belarus is rather homogenous; there are no regions with high shares of representative of non-title ethnos.
  • One of the most cited results of the previous survey conducted in June became the answers to the question "If Russia annexed Belarus or its part, what would you do?" 14.2% of respondents answered that they would resist up in arms, 47.7% of respondents would try to adapt to new situation and 16.5% of respondents would even greet such changes. In light of events in the East of Ukraine these figures are not very inspiring. These events weren’t over in September, when this question was asked in a slightly different form (Table 1).
  • (Русский) Тот факт, что все стороны конфликта в Украине избрали Беларусь площадкой для переговоров – это, кроме всего прочего, признание политических талантов белорусского президента. В этой сложной и опасной ситуации он сумел (по крайней мере, пока) сохранить добрые отношения едва ли не со всеми прямыми и косвенными участниками конфликта.
  • As it was repeatedly noted in IISEPS works, Belarusian society in its majority supported Russian position both on the annexation of Crimea and on the armed protests in Donbass. September survey showed that answers of Belarusians on according questions almost haven’t changed over the quarter. Nevertheless, that doesn’t testify that Belarusians are ready to personally support the cause in Ukraine they consider right. At the same time events in Ukraine significantly influenced geopolitical priorities of Belarusians. Although – all in due time. Let’s begin with the evaluations of events in Ukraine in March-September 2014 (Tables 1-5).
  • Trust rating of oppositional parties froze on a minimal level amid the increase of A. Lukashenko’s ratings (Table 1). It has lost 5.9 points since December 2013. And it seems logic. Amid stormy political events in and around Ukraine the inability of oppositional parties and their leaders to make news, interesting for public opinion, became especially evident.
  • There was a hitch with Belarusian state ideology. And what an amazing start there was in March 2003. Let us cite the Report, made at the seminar on ideological work: "Ideology for a state is the same thing as immune system for a living organism. If immunity weakens, any infection, even the most insignificant, will become mortal. This is also valid for a state: when ideological basis of a society is destroyed, its downfall becomes only a question of time, no matter how strong and threatening may the state appear from the outside".
  • "Everything’s not so bad, it’s possible to live". This viewpoint on the current situation in the country is shared by a little bit more than one third of Belarusians (Table 1). This is by 6.9 points more than in September 2013 and in 2.2 times more in comparison with December 2011.
  • According to John Galbraith, an American economist, there are three main ways of forcing people to do something: ideal and material rewards and punishment. There are no societies where one of these ways would be absent. But their ratio in different societies may vary in wide ranges. In particular, societies, which pay greater attention to punishment, are called repressive. In the modern world they are opposed to merit-based societies.
  • Electoral rating of A. Lukashenko hit a new maximum over 4 years (Table 1). The previous time it was higher (53%) in December 2010 right after the presidential elections. i.e. at the moment of maximal electoral mobilization.
  • Public opinion is ambivalent by its nature. Hence blaming it for illogicality and inconsistency is a hopeless occupation. September survey registered a significant growth of adherents of market economy in Belarus. Over a year and a half their share in society grew by 10.5 points (Table 1) and amounted to 74.3%, which is in fact a repetition of September 1998 record! It is important to underline, that the share of supporters of market economy with significant or insignificant state regulations increased as well. At the same time the share of latter exceeded its historical maximum of June 2004 (43.6%).
  • Real gross monthly-average salary of working people in Republic of Belarus grew by 1.3% in January-August 2014 in comparison with the same period in 2013, notably in August 2014 it dropped by 2.2% in comparison with the previous month. Salaries went down in August; the survey was conducted in the first half of September. It would seem that it shouldn’t be complicated to predict the influence of such an unusual event on social indices. However despite the patterns which were formed over the last two decades, reality was different.

January 2015

  • December survey results demonstrate that pro-Russian aspirations and desires of integration with Russia in Belarusian society became somewhat more reserved. At the same time pro-European moods slightly increased. Change of attitude to Russia is probably explained by a certain re-thinking of Russian policy in Ukraine. During half a year evaluations of “Crimeaisours” were changing slowly, but steadily: the number of adherents of Russian version was slightly decreasing, while advocates of the opposite version were becoming slightly more numerous (graph 1).
  • The topic of social unity is one of the main topics of the head of state’s speeches. Naturally, he didn’t avoid it in his seasonal greetings, but this time he approached it differently, from the split viewpoint: "We saw for ourselves what internal feuding, hatred and intolerance lead to. The line between bright and loud slogans and society split is very thin. The line between this split and a war is even thinner. And if people forget about the value of peace and consent, they cross all these lines in a blink of an eye". Global practice shows that democracy is the most efficient tool to overcome splits. However, there is no such tool in the arsenal of present power.
  • A range of questions from IISEPS archive was included in December survey, and this gives us an opportunity to track the dynamics of social opinion in Belarus over two decades. In 1993 under the circumstances of democratic chaos (today A. Lukashenko actively resists its return) personal relations and dishonesty were seen as unarguable leaders in the list of sources of wealth (graph 1). The last place was taken by education. During the years of stability labor took the leadership, still personal relations never went lower than the second place.
  • Belarusian power spent the year 2013 in desperate attempts to increase efficiency of economy at the expense of technical modernization of state enterprises. But the only noticeable results of these efforts were multibillion losses (expressed in dollars). In 2014 it was decided to move from total modernization to pin-point modernization. This guaranteed a loss decrease, but however it didn’t solve the issue of economy efficiency increase. That is why in order to address the more and more acute external and internal challenges the power turned to ideas from the arsenal of soviet nomenklatura like tightening of discipline.
  • Growth of trust to the head of state and state institutions happened during the year when the level of evaluations of unfavorable changes in country’s economy was three times as high as the level of positive evaluations (graph 1). In September 2008, just before the beginning of the world financial crisis, shares of favorable and unfavorable evaluations was almost equal.
  • Approaching exhaustion of mobilization resource is also confirmed by dynamics of A. Lukashenko’s ratings (graphs 1-2). Their growth gave way to a reduction. Electoral rating (percentage of votes, which a politician received in answers to an open question "If presidential elections were held tomorrow, for whom would you vote?") dropped by 5.2 points in December compared to September. Despite that, the head of state’s "annual balance" turned out to be positive, and he should be thankful for this to Russian TV.
  • Real after-tax money income of population over January-November 2014 amounted to 101.1% relatively to the same period of 2013. A year before this figure was notably higher – 117.2%. However, such a considerable decrease of income growth rate influenced the perception of economic crisis quite paradoxically: in December 2013 68.6% of respondents shared the opinion that Belarusian economy is in crisis, while in December 2014 this share amounted only to 52.3% (graph 1).
  • While analyzing the results of December survey, one must remember that it was conducted before the government and the National bank made a number of decisions which restricted the conditions of foreign currency purchase. This is an official wording which in fact means a 30% devaluation of Belarusian ruble.
  • Wikipedia defines paternalism (from the Latin pater – father) as behavior by a state, which limits some person or group's liberty or autonomy for that person's or group's own good. In turn paternalism in regard to a state should be regarded as a form of rational adaptation of a person to almighty and uncontrolled power. When nothing depends on a person, he adopts this natural, normal and perfectly rational setup: there is no point in fussing, let the state take care of all my concerns now and in future.

April 2015

  • In the first quarter of 2015 there was a record drop of the share of "Euro-Belarusians", i.e. the respondents who spoke in favor of integration of Belarus into the EU. At the same time there was a slight increase of the share of supporters of integration with Russia. However this didn’t lead to an identification of interests of Russia and Belarus as equal. Majority of Belarusians don’t want Belarus to join Russian counter-sanctions against the EU countries.
  • As survey demonstrates, Belarusians’ evaluations of events in Ukraine didn’t change significantly. As before, majority shares Russian point of view on the annexation of Crimea and the armed conflict in Donbass. At the same time attitude to Ukraine and Ukrainians notably worsened compared to previous years.
  • Analysis of dynamics of social indices convincingly testifies that Belarusians haven’t lost belief in tomorrow. Despite a catastrophic fall of financial standing index, expectation index hasn’t changed. But for already almost two decades life of ordinary people is moving in a track defined by Belarusian economic model. Thus, belief in future cannot be formed in isolation from belief in the model.
  • Oscillation amplitude of A. Lukashenko’s electoral rating may reach dozens percentage points, as longstanding IISEPS researches demonstrate it. Having monopolized the power, he made himself "responsible for everything". That is why mood changes of the authoritarian part of Belarusian society (the so-called majority) directly influence the level of declarative support to the "only politician".
  • According to information from the National Bank of Belarus, de-dollarization of economy in the country continues, which is caused by stable exchange rate of the national currency, constant inflation decrease, and current exchange rate policy. It would be prematurely to speak about first successful results of the main financial regulator in de-dollarization for understandable reasons. However, March survey confirms topicality of this policy. 34.1% of Belarusians constantly check how their incomes change expressed in dollars, 43.5% do it from time to time, and only 17.6% – never.
  • Table 1 data are a visual demonstration of how public opinion’ evaluations of problems, which the country and its citizens face, change. Traditionally, the first position is taken by the "price hike". This time it has a record high value – 84.1%. Only in 2006, at the peak of evolution of Belarusian model, this problem was mentioned by 80% respondents.
  • Smooth transformation of Anomaly-2014 into Anomaly-2015 is confirmed by the head of state’s ratings. Despite the December devaluation trust rating remained almost the same (Graph 1). It is by 11.1 points higher than the last value registered before the beginning of "Crimeaisours" (the first column, December 2013).
  • March survey permits us to draw up an intermediate balance for Anomaly-2014 (growth of positive moods in Belarusian society amid decrease of macro- and microeconomic indices). Main conclusion: the resource of Anomaly-2014 is not exhausted and we cannot exclude that we may witness Anomaly-2015, although it won’t be as striking. Dynamics of social indices (Tables 1-3) gives ground for this hypothesis.

July 2015

  • Dynamics of social indices in the second quarter of 2015 continued to be formed under the influence of oppositely directed economic and political factors. Economic factor influence remains negative in general. Over January-May real disposable household income of citizens decreased by 4.2% comparatively to the same period of previous year, while January-March decrease amounted to only 3%. That is to say that income decrease rate increased. However, growth of consumer price index did not slow down. In January it amounted to 102.4% comparatively to December, in May it amounted 100.7% comparatively to April.
  • Over 70% of Belarusian citizens are ready to take part in the forthcoming presidential election. These are the results of a survey conducted by the Center of sociological and political studies of BSU, which were made public by the leader of the center D. Rotman on a TV-show on the 28th of June.
  • Electoral rating of A. Lukashenko, which lost 6.8 points in March, increased again and is close to its December value (Graph 1). Let us remind you that electoral rating is the percentage of votes, which a politician received in answers to an open question (no list) "If presidential elections were held tomorrow, for whom would you vote?"
  • In IISEPS survey conducted in June 2015 we asked a question on the attitude to the idea of the "Russian World". 39% of respondents evaluated it positively, 40% were indifferent and only 15% expressed negative attitude. In fact, there is nothing sensational in these figures. In 2011 survey, when respondents were asked to evaluate the statement of the then Prime Minister V. Putin on the "real and very desired" integration of Russia and Belarus, same 40% of respondents expressed positive attitude to this idea.
  • The 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazism intensified arguments about the sense and the meaning of that war for Belarus. Tragic events in Ukraine, when Russia uses the paradigm of the Great Patriotic War as an ideological basis for their actions and for the actions of separatists, give a new dimension to these arguments. Admittedly, these arguments in Belarus can mostly be found in social networks only. To what extent do these internet-passions reflect real changes in the notion of that war in general?
  • In June 2015 survey majority of respondents stated that people in the West live better than people in Belarus (Graph 1). Also, the majority of respondents (although only relative one this time) expressed their wish for their country to change its policy and approach the EU (Graph 2).
  • Level of public attention to annual messages of A. Lukashenko remains almost unchanged (Graph 1). Even turbulent events in March 2014 ("Crimeaisours") didn’t change anything. They didn’t increase the share of those who want to know official evaluations of current events. This indifference might be related to the fact that majority of Belarusians were in captivity of Russian propaganda and thus were not interested in local interpretations of Ukrainian events.
  • In March 2015 66.6% of Belarusian agreed that Belarusians, Russians, and Ukrainians are three branches of the same nation. Alternative viewpoint (i.e. different nations) was supported by 27.1% of respondents. Popularity of this tight unity of the Slavic triangle is not substantive. And this is not a secret. It is not for nothing that in 2003 the then President of Ukraine L. Kuchma published a book called "Ukraine is not Russia".
  • Trust rating of Belarusian government follows trust rating of the head of state like a thread follows a needle. And when there is a stabilization of A. Lukashenko’s rating, we should expect minimal changes of government’s trust rating as well. The June survey confirmed this conclusion: March – 37.0%, June – 35.9%.
  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

March 2016

  • Normalization of relations between the official Minsk and the EU, cancellation of European sanctions, and softening of the anti-Western tone of Belarusian officials led to a certain increase of pro-European moods in Belarus. In particular, this was registered in the answers to the standard IISEPS question about Belarus hypothetically joining the EU (Table 1).
  • As we’ve already noted it in IISEPS analytical materials, in relation to many aspects of Ukrainian conflict Belarusians mostly share Russian position. The results of March survey are not an exclusion. Before looking closer at the answers, related to practical aspects of conflict, it should be said that they are determined not only by skillful Russian propaganda, but also by ideological setups of Belarusians. These setups were formed long before the conflict.
  • Two last economic crises (in 2009 and 2011) were rather transient, and this gave people hope that they can wait through the crisis of 2015 too, despite the decrease of real incomes by 5.6%. However, "successes" of Belarusian model in the first quarter of the current year decisively cancelled these hopes.
  • Trust is a way of adaption to the uncertainty of future by means of ignoring this uncertainty. In other words, trust is the simplest and the most efficient way to cope with uncertainty. This pseudo-scientific definition of trust can be understood better based on the results of Table 1. How many goods will you be able to buy for one million of Belarusian rubles, if you save them in March 2016 and use them in a year (we’re factoring out the future denomination)? Even financial specialists cannot answer this question.
  • 87.8% of Belarusians admit that there is a crisis in the country, however only 24% of them think that Belarusian economy has collapsed. Relevance of this ratio is confirmed by results of Table 1. Crisis didn’t lead to a reevaluation of economic perceptions of Belarusians. In particular, it didn’t lead to a decrease of mass belief into efficiency of state-owned property. On the contrary, March 2016 survey registered an insignificant shift of economic priorities in favor of state-owned property.
  • 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.
  • (Русский) Judging by independent mass media, it’s easy to make a conclusion that Belarus is a typical police state. Information about arrests of oppositional activists comes in on almost daily basis. It would seem that amid the developing economic crisis, which cuts government’s ability to buy people’s loyalty, we should see an increase of the repressive constituent of stability maintaining. However, March survey doesn’t confirm this hypothesis (Table 1).
  • The last pre-"Crimeaisours" value of electoral rating of A. Lukashenko amounted to 34.8% (Table 1). One quarter earlier the rating was higher by 7.8 points, and amid the decrease of real incomes that was an almost sure sign of a negative trend. Possibly, the last trend in the long-drown political biography of the constant head of Belarusian state.
  • By Belarusian tradition, A. Lukashenko’s rating decrease did not lead to an increase of oppositional parties’ rating (Table 1). The list of reasons for such an unusual (according to the Western standards) phenomenon is caused by a set of objective and subjective factors. However, their summary input is overridden by the absence of politics as such in the country. And it isn’t a question of personal characteristics of the head of state (the only politician in Belarus). Authoritarian power led by one person, standing above the law, cannot be reproduced in a competitive environment. And when there is no competition, there can be no politics.
  • Conflict between individual entrepreneurs and Belarusian authority over the conditions of trade caused various evaluations of the positions of conflicting sides and of the role played by individual entrepreneurs in the national economy. In particular, one of the expressed opinions said that in the past, in the nineties, individual entrepreneurs actually played the key role in filling up consumer goods market with cheap goods, but now trading networks squeeze them out and there is no need for their work.
  • Crisis has significantly adjusted respondents’ answers to the question "Do you think that nowadays young people can make a successful career in Belarus?" (Table 1). Majority still believes in the possibility of a successful career, but this majority is not absolute anymore, and in comparison with September 2014 it decreased by 9.9 point
  • There is nothing surprising in the fact that Deputy Prime Minister in Belarus can afford to make a statement which would cost their job to a Western colleague. Belarusian model doesn’t include a real mechanism of social responsibility of the "servants to the people". However, Belarusian officials don’t come from Mars, and many of their public statements, inadmissible according to the Western standards, don’t cause rejection of people.
  • Polling data reveals that the economic situation in the country has become more favorable in the past year. Thus, over the past two years the number of those who think their well-being improved has increased more than twofold – from 6.5% to 13.7% (See Table 1). On the other hand, the number of those who think their well-being deteriorated has decreased twofold (from 41.6% to 21.2%).

June 2016

  • The results of June IISEPS survey demonstrate which countries respondents consider friendly, and which hostile. These results confirm a high level of stability of Belarusians’ “picture of the world”, however the observed changes are quite instructive.
  • June IISEPS survey demonstrated that, as previously, Belarusians consider the US as the most hostile country to Belarus – 52.4% of respondents share this opinion (only 4.2% of respondents believe that the US is a friendly country). For comparison, the next country in the list of hostility is Germany with 23.7% of votes.
  • It’s worth a reminder that in February the EU cancelled sanctions against Belarus, and the normalization of relations between Belarus and the EU entered a new phase. It might be supposed that it was this factor that determined the improvement in attitude towards the EU, which was also reflected in the growth of pro-European moods.
  • In April 2016 the Parliament adopted amendments to the penal code, providing a juridical base for criminal prosecution of Belarusians participating in battle actions in Ukraine on both sides of the front. In May these amendments came into force.
  • Belarusians are not very interested in the US elections, as opposed to 2008. Not many of them are ready to formulate their preferences. Nevertheless, in their eyes Donald Trump has a small but significant advantage over Hillary Clinton.
  • Despite the seemingly successful assimilation of market-related social practices (e.g. those related to consummation), Belarusian society in XXI century kept its class-based nature. The term “fairness” is the basis term in class societies. In particular, allocation of resources is considered fair when it corresponds to the ranking in the class hierarchy.
  • Voting in elections is the indisputable leader of popularity among modern types of popular political activities for Belarusians. For example, in June 2016 65.5% of respondents confirmed that they take part in elections. According to European standards it’s a solid figure, but it’s significantly lower than the official one. Particularly, according to the CEC, turnout of presidential elections in 2015 amounted to 87.2%.
  • 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”.
  • Belarusians’ attention to the annual messages of the head of state oscillates in a pretty wide range. Over the last 10 years it achieved its high only in the year of the third presidential election (69%). It’s low coincides with the first year of the fifth term (49%) after the exhaustion of the mobilization resource of “Crimeaisours”.
  • In June Alexander Lukashenko’s rating changed in opposite senses comparatively to March. Electoral rating gained 2.2 points, while trust rating lost 3.1 points. These changes should be regarded as insignificant, so we can speak about a stabilization of public opinion on the actions of “the only politician” as the head of state on the first year of his fifth term. This stabilization does not contradict to the decrease in acuity of perception of the economic crisis by Belarusians, registered in March.
  • We’ve already noted many times that at the heart of demand for changes lies, in the first place, the dissatisfaction of Belarusians with their current financial well-being. That is why the relative stabilization in economy in the second quarter of the year didn’t significantly influence the number of supporters and opponents of changes.
  • “The state for the people, justice, protection of honest men,” said Alexander Lukashenko at the V All-Belarusian People’s Assembly, “are what was and is at the heart of the Belarusian sovereignty.”
  • Alexander Lukashenko signed the decree on the increase of retirement age on April 11, 2016. This decree stipulates that starting from January 1, 2017 retirement will be gradually increased by 6 months until it reaches 63 years for men and 58 years for women. Before the document was signed, there were two conferences in March on the development of pension system.
  • In the framework of the general trend to the improvement of social moods the share of positive answers to the question “Do you think that Belarusian economy is in crisis?” dropped by 6.9 points. Nevertheless, it is still abnormally high.
  • Analyzing May events in Belarus we’ve supposed that adaptation of the Belarusian society to crisis would be the main trend of the second quarter of the year. That is why with a high level of probability June survey should have registered the so-called “effect of negative stabilization”, based on public apathy and indifference. Belarusians will choose regime of economy more and more often.