Friday, October 26, 2018

Belarusians Back Activists But Don’t Trust Organizations They Head, New Survey Shows

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 25 – A new survey conducted over the past summer in Belarus documents a problem that exists throughout the post-Soviet world: many people there approve and trust individual activists, including anti-government ones, but they do not trust the organizations these individuals have created and lead.

            That personalist approach and distrust of institutions limits the ability of these leaders to mobilize the population. At the same time, it is a mirror image of the situation which obtains in the government sector where ordinary people may identify with and support a leader but aren’t willing to support institutions created by him.

            Natalya Ryabova, a senior official of one of the two agencies which conducted the poll of some 1200 Belarusians, has now shared this and some of the other findings its organizers came up with (

                According to the survey, she says, Belarusians were slightly more inclined to approve of the work of public activists than to disapprove, 46 percent to 40.7 percent; but they showed little trust in government or non-government instituitons, disapproving of them overall 50.5 percent to 28.2 percent and disapproving of NGOs in particular 47.6 percent to 24.6 percent.    

                Intriguing, Ryabov reports, were the poll’s finding that 36 percent of respondents favored having the government create favorable conditions for all organizations “without exception.” At the same time, only 10 percent said that the government should give such opportunities only to those groups which support the regime and its agenda.

            And perhaps most important of all as far as the future is concerned, only 6.9 percent of those taking part in the poll said that any NGO must show “loyalty to the powers that be and support its initiatives.”

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