Thursday, November 5, 2020

Russians Divide on Belarus Events Depending on Whether They Support Putin or Not, Levada’s Levinson Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 3 – Russians who approve and support Vladimir Putin tend to approve and support Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Belarus while those who disapprove and don’t support the Kremlin leader tend to support those Belarusians who are in the streets seeking his ouster, according to polls conducted by the independent Levada Center polling center.

            On the VTimes portal, Aleksey Levinson, the head of socio-cultural research there, says that the similarities that exist between the Russian Federation and Belarus make that pattern plausible and understandable (

            “In both countries, the presidents over the course of long years have had very braod support in society although recently this has been called into question,” he writes. “The recent elections in Belarus, like the referendum in Russia was a difficult stage in the process of extending these super-long-time presidencies.”

            Thus, one might reasonably expect that those Russians who continue to support Putin would support Lukashenka and those who don’t approve and support the Russian leader would also oppose the Belarusian one, Levinson continues. That is exactly the pattern that a series of Levada Center polls has found. 

            In August, among those who approve Putin, “almost 60 percent considered the [Belarusian] elections to have been conducted honestly, while a quarter said they had been dishonest.” Among those who don’t approve [the Kremlin leader], in contrast, almost the same 60 percent said the Belarusian vote was dishonest, and only 30 percent said they were honest.”

            Given that, it is not surprising that the share of those who support Putin desirous of having Lukashenka remain is higher than among the others. But at least as instructive is another finding: “among them, those who want Lukashenka to remain exceed the share of those who consider that he won the elections honestly!”

            For those who support Putin, elections are less important than having the leader in power remain there in both countries.

            Levada Center surveys also found a large share of indifference to events in Belarus among both Putin supporters and Putin opponents. More than a third of the former and more than a quarter of the latter said they were indifferent to what is going on in Belarus both with the elections and the protests.

            And while in September, 50 percent of Putin supporters said they were on the side of Lukashenka, 35 percent of Putin opponents said the same thing, with large shares of both groups expressing indifference to both the Belarusian leader and the Belarusian protesters, Levinson continues.

            This pattern suggests, he argues, that Russian attitudes toward what is happening in Belarus reflect a broader pattern of Russian thinking about elections and protests. And reactions to the Khabarovsk protests which have taken place at the same time reinforce this view: 47 percent of Russians are positive about those demonstrations, but a third are indifferent.

            Equally, among those who follow events in the United States, opposition to protests and disorders in American cities is found among Russians even more often than any positive attitudes toward the protesters. But the largest share – 49 percent – expressed indifference to those too.

            Apparently, Levinson concludes, “now in the eyes of many of our citizens not only elections but street protest too has been compromised,” although he says that this is true for “many but not for all.” It isn’t clear exactly why this is so widespread, but it may be a sign that “Russian mass consciousness has gone into a dead end.”

            Or perhaps, more hopefully, it is “something of a kind of the well-known response, ‘we are proceeding along a different path.’”

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