Wednesday, July 10, 2019

New Study Demolishes Stereotypes Belarusians have about Themselves and Others have about Them, Lavnikevich Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 9 – Few nations in the world suffer more from the stereotypes others have about it and that even its members have about themselves than the Belarusians, and that makes a new study which considers and discards many of these stereotypes especially important, Minsk commentator Denis Lavnikevich says.

            Among the most widespread and wrong stereotypes others have about Belarusians, Belarusians have about themselves and Belarusian commentators have about members of their nation is that they have high expectations about the government and no confidence in entrepreneurial activity.

            Those and many other notions about Belarusians are simply wrong, the commentator says, acknowledging that he has often discussed his nation as if these were bedrock truths (

            Now thanks to a 69-page study by Darya Urban of the IPM Research Center entitled “The Values of the Population of Belarus” (in Russian) that was financed by the European Union, the full text of which is available at, Lavnikevich says he will now approach his own nation in a whole new way. 

            In the first of what he promises will be a series of commentaries exploring Urban’s findings, the Minsk analyst focuses on two issues, the attitudes Belarus have about entrepreneurial activity and their attitudes toward and their expectations about the Belarusian state.

            With regard to entrepreneurial activity, the report finds. Belarusians say that connections matter, but they do not exclude all the other qualities necessary for success. Moreover, Urban reports, the share of Belarusians committed to entrepreneurial values has risen from 35.8 percent in 2008 to 46.8 percent or nearly half last year.

            What is really surprising given what many believe is that “no more than 20 percent” of Belarusians say they favor a socialist economy – and most of those are people of pension age or close to it who lived in Soviet times. It is widely thought that Belarusians hate those who have been successful, but the numbers don’t support that at all – and across all demographic groups.

            Attitudes toward the state are very different than many assume. Belarusians are far less paternalistic with regard to the state than many assume. They do not look to the state but to their own resources to solve problems, and most would prefer higher incomes with greater risks than lower incomes with the certainty of stability.

             If Belarusians are asked whether the state should do this or that, more than 90 percent of them will answer in the affirmative, leading some to conclude that they are dependent on the state. But if they are asked similar questions in a different way, their answers are very different and point to far more self-reliance than many assume.

            At present, only 20 percent “consider that it is better to work for a state enterprise than a privately owned one” and only 18.6 percent oppose selling Belarusian enterprises to foreigners.  According to Urban, only about 5.5 percent of the population is paternalistic – and most of those are pensioners.  Among workers 18 to 44, few display paternalistic qualities regarding the state.

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