A recent opinion poll showed that the number of Belarusians supporting a union with Russia over the EU dropped by 9 percentage points over the past year.
The data was provided by the Belarusian Analytical Workshop (BAW) led by Professor Andrei Vardomatsky, who explained what exactly Belarusians find attractive in Russia and in the EU.
A focus on Russia is more about values, while an orientation towards Europe is more material and pragmatic in nature.
When we asked respondents why they choose Russia, they usually reply: “The Russians are our people and Europeans are strangers to us with a different mindset.”
They usually mention a common mentality and language, life together in the USSR, and the Great Patriotic War. This is deep, psychological intimacy that can’t be explained by specifics or facts.
There is a high level of inconsistency. A person can recall many negative characteristics of Russia such as unemployment, low salaries, many crimes, and bad roads.
At the same time he can commend a state of affairs in Europe and still when you ask him about his final choice, he responds: “I am for Russia.”
Why the EU?
Pro-European members of focus groups are more factual – in their reasoning, they give more facts. They mention visa-free travel, work opportunities, income growth, education and work for young people.
Change of mind
We observed an interesting phenomenon – people changed their geopolitical preferences right during a conversation in a focus group. A person first declares his pro-Russian orientation.
But in the end, he says that he was taken aback: “I’ve heard so many stories and examples about life in Europe that I can’t say right now that I’m definitely pro-Russian.”
Explore the topic:
A focus group is a micro-model of media space. If even during a short event, a two-hour focus group, such a change occurs, this means that the possibilities of the media are colossal.
An intensive media campaign with a different tone in relation to Europe or Russia can significantly alter the number of supporters in the pro-Russian and pro-European groups.
In the last year’s polls, there was an option not to choose Russia or Europe, and as soon it was added it became the most popular.
This year there was a request for a sovereign state too, it was particularly noticeable in Minsk. People said that it would be better for Belarus to stay independent and avoid the unions.