Today, the focus of the international community is justifiably on the war in Ukraine. Belarus, which has become part of the Russian military aggression, continues to play a significant role in it. At the same time, there is no doubt about the instability in the Belarusian domestic political arena, lasting since 2020, which causes the discrepancy between the official position and the
opinion of the population, the assessment of the current state of affairs in the region and the role of Belarus in the observed processes.
It is important to emphasize that due to the continuation of the official Minsk policy of all kinds of restrictions on human rights and freedoms, repression against media, civil society, political forces, it is extremely difficult to conduct any kind of opinion polls. Conducting public opinion research remains prohibited and criminally punishable at the State level. In addition, to date, according to Belarusian human rights activists, 1,198 political prisoners have been illegally convicted in Belarus, which causes fear among respondents when discussing the political and public situation.
Despite the current situation, the Belarus Initiative of the Chatham House conducted a public opinion survey on April 8-15, 2022. It should be emphasized that the survey was conducted among people with Internet access (75-82% of the total population of Belarus).
Considering the conducted research, one should note that a third of the Belarusian population (32%) supports Russia’s actions in Ukraine, while 53% of respondents are confident that the war will bring negative consequences for Belarus.
In addition, Belarusians’ views on economic prospects are rather pessimistic: 66% of respondents believe that prices for goods will rise sharply, 60% — that the living conditions of ordinary people will worsen, and only 15% — that the economy of Belarus will stabilize. Such an opinion is based in particular on the indicators of a reduction in real income of the population, as well as annual inflation of 16.8% according to the results of April and restrictive measures imposed by the EU, the US and the UK.
Belarusians also think that they do not deserve to be perceived by Western partners as negatively as Russians (only 12% of respondents consider the role of the Belarusian society in this war as big as the Russian one). At the same time, only 15% of respondents believe that Belarusians are partly to blame for the fact that military actions were carried out from the territory of their country.
It should be emphasized that only 6% of respondents support the participation of the Belarusian army in the war on the side of Russia, while 28% support the actions of the Kremlin, but do not want Belarus to participate in the conflict.
The potential behavior in case Belarus enters the war is also interesting: 15% of respondents are ready to participate in protests and demonstrations, while 9% would like to join the army, and 7% would support it by other available methods. The protection of personal economic interests will remain a priority for the majority of Belarusians.
Besides, the lack of consideration by the authorities of civil opinion, repressions largely contribute to the formation of uncertainty about the potential refusal of the Belarusian militaries to participate in the war: 22% of respondents believe that servicemen will refuse to follow the orders and lay down their arms, 10% think that they will surrender to the Ukrainians. It is essential, that 31% found it difficult to answer such a question, that is also caused by the lack of understanding of the Belarusian public opinion.
Thus, given the active line of the Belarusian authorities to support the Russian side in the war, a significant part of the Belarusian population does not share such a position. A small number of the population want to be part of the conflict, many are worried that Belarus may be drawn into it. At the same time, the majority of Belarusians do not see their fault in unleashing the war in Ukraine, and also expect the general economic situation in the country to continue to deteriorate.