Number of Belarus-Russia union supporters falls by third - poll

Over the past year, the number of supporters of the union with Russia has decreased from 60.4% to 40.4%, a recent sociological survey reveals.

It was conducted in December, 2019 by the Belarusian Analytical Association. Among the respondents there were people from different regions of Belarus, residents of both urban and rural areas. A representative sample included 1,061 persons who were interviewed face-to-face.

According to the information by the association, the Belarusian society experienced a change of geopolitical orientation in 2019. The percentage of sympathizers of union with Russia decreased from 60.4 to 40.4%. Thus, if a referendum on the geopolitical choice of Belarus were held these days, they could not gain the absolute majority.

In September-December 2019, pro-Russian sentiment was reportedly losing ground among Belarusians: the number of Russia-Belarus Union adherers dropped by 14.7% over the four months (from 54.8% to 40.4%). At the same time, the growth of pro-European sympathies was spotted: the number of backers of Belarus’ joining the EU has increased from 24.4% to 32%.

In the period from September to December, the integration talks and anti-integration protests were reaching the peak. In September 2019, the two countries agreed on a draft action plan for further integration and a list of roadmaps. In October and November, the governments were holding negotiations on the content of maps; they were expected to be signed by the heads of state in December, but it did not happened. In December, a number of pro-independence rallies took place in Minsk and other Belarusian cities.

The vast majority of Belarusians (74.6%) believe that Belarus and Russia should remain fully independent states, but there should be the open border, the lack of visas and customs control. At the same time, 6.6% of respondents want the relations with Russia to be no different from the relations with other countries, i.e. border and customs control should be in place as well as the obligation to get entry visas.

12.8% of interviewees are in favour of Belarus’ and Russia’s unifying into the Union State; only only 3.7% are supportive of Belarus’ accession to the Russian Federation.

Аnti-integration protest in Minsk, 21 December 2019.
Photo: VASILY FEDOSENKO / Reuters / Forum

When reached by, Andrey Vardamatski, Head of the Belarusian Analytical Association, said there had been two stages in the pro-Russian sentiment’s sweeping down: gradual (January to September) and landslide (September to December).

There had never been anything like that before. A reason for such a plunge is of media nature. The truth is that Belarusian mass media have changed their tone when reporting about Russia and Belarus-Russia relations. The tone has become more negative,” the expert stressed.

In 2020, Belarusians’ geopolitical views will continue to be shaped by the issues and cases in the bilateral relations as well as their coverage in media, he believes.

“A gradual rollback is not ruled out, but it will be quite difficult to carry out. After all, a certain slide in pro-Russian sentiments is seen to be on trend,” Vardamatski added.