Data from a national poll in March, which was conducted by specialists registered in Vilnius of the Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies, recorded a very significant increase in pro-European sentiment and a cooling of the Belarusians to the prospect of union with Russia.
However, in comparison with the previous December’s poll, the number of “Belorossy” has practically not changed, but significantly – by 7 percentage points – the proportion of those who do not want to unite with Russia has increased. This percentage was the highest over the past 10 years and for the first time exceeded the symbolic mark of 50%!
The situation in March 2011 and June 2006, when three months had also passed after the last presidential elections, was the mirror opposite – the respective shares were swapped. Confirmation of these trends are provided by the answers to a divisive question, where respondents were asked to choose between Russia and Europe.
The answers to this question show a record high proportion of supporters of European integration, and a record low of those in favour of integration with Russia. This is a mirror picture to that of June 2006, conclude the experts of the Institute. The reasons for this abrupt geopolitical turnabout in public opinion is not very clear. On the eastern “front” a lull has recently just prevailed; they are no longer showing films of the “Godfather”, trade wars are in the past (or are awaited in the future), and the small skirmish on oil in January was not comparable in scope and in resonance of information to last year’s gas and oil and battles.
At the same time on the Western “front” things are as hot as ever. A growth of pro-European sentiment in 2008 occurred against the backdrop of the normalization of relations between the official Minsk and Brussels, and a reduction in the temperature of the anti-Western (or at least anti-EU) campaign of the official Belarusian media. Now again there is a “cold war” between Belarus and the EU, and for a wide range of Belarusian officials visa sanctions have been imposed…but a pro-European sentiment continues to grow at an impressive pace.
The explanation, which lies on the surface, is to be found in the fact that Belarusians did not support the acting government in the elections, and therefore in their eyes, extra sympathy went to the West, which did not recognize the elections; but their attitude towards Russia has cooled, because it recognized the elections, albeit through gritted teeth…
Note: the national poll of general opinion was conducted in March 2011 by independent pollsters (by face-to-face interview they questioned 1,524 people aged 18 and over; the maximum error of representativeness is less than 0.03).