Updated at 22:59,24-03-2017

Sociologist: 5-7% Belarusians would have Belarus join Russia

Siarhiej Pieliasa, belsat.eu

Sociologist: 5-7% Belarusians would have Belarus join Russia
How many Belarusians are in favor of an alliance with Russia or the European Union? The first results of the new opinion poll are available in an interview with Andrei Vardamatski, Doctor of Social Sciences, director of the Belarusian analytical center.

You conducted a study which summarized the results of 2016. They have not been published yet. The geopolitical choice of Belarusians aroused the major interest. What do Belarusians rather choose: an alliance with Russia or the European Union?

Indeed, there was conducted a nationwide representative case study. The distribution of responses was as follows: the pro-Russian position was expressed by about 65% of respondents, the pro-European stance — by 20% of respondents. That’s all roughly speaking.

Often, in the sociological study of a very important role is played by the very wording of the question. How did the question in your research sound?

The question was formulated as follows: “In which union of states, in your opinion, the people of Belarus would be better off: in alliance with the Russian Federation or the European Union?” The numbers that I mentioned are an answer to the question formulated in this way. This is some kind of integration mood.

I was amazed at these results, because I felt that the number of Belarusians who would choose the European Union as a place to live better would be higher — maybe not 20, but 40%. What can such results mean? What influenced the choice of your research respondents?

This result follows naturally from the social situation prevailing in the Republic of Belarus. There are a number of reasons for it. I will name four key reasons explaining the distribution of responses.

The first one is the domination of Russian media in Belarus. Previously, this dominance was absolute, we are now seeing some changes — there is now Belarusian informational product on the screens, TV shows, news and so on – but this dominance is still there.

The second reason is economic dependence on Russia. It is well understood by experts, politicians, economists, experts, but more importantly, it is perceived this way by the population.

The third point is the difficulties through which Europe itself is undergoing: first of all it is the refugees, the second one is brexit. Moreover, the refugees are pictured in such a way that there are thousands of people who have simply captured all European train stations. This is how it is presented in the Russian media, and often in Belarusian one. Therefore, it is perceived as a big problem.

As for brexit — although this phenomenon happened in the UK, it is presented and perceived in such a way that it is only the beginning, and then other “exits” will follow. People think that Europe is falling apart.

In addition, a very important detail for the Belarusians is that there has been no clear, unambiguous political message from the EU that they see us and look forward to having us in the family of European nations. And it gives an idea in the minds of Belarusians that they are not welcome in Europe, there is no place for them.