Staunton, June 4 – Yury Baranchik, a Regnum news agency journalist notorious for his anti-Belarusian reporting, says that new polls show that half or more of Belarusians are interested in acquiring Russian citizenship, a clear indication of the success of Moscow’s “soft power” in their country.
But the data he offers in support of that claim (regnum.ru/news/polit/2641522.html) do not in fact support it. First, he cites what he calls a poll but which in fact was a self-selected group of Belarusian young people who visit a pro-Moscow Internet portal that shows 40 percent want Russian citizenship but 60 percent don’t.
If even those who visit such portals and show their willingness to interact with it are so negative to the idea, that is hardly the demand for Russian citizenship he suggests. Then, he cites another study, this one done in Minsk, that shows only 22 percent of young Belarusians are interested in Russian citizenship.
But from that he “extrapolates” to the entire republic, arguing that these surveys mean that 22 to 40 percent of the population of Belarus are ready to become “new citizens of Russia” and suggests that the figures may be even higher because, according to Baranchik, older people in Belarus are even more interested in becoming Russians than young ones.
The Regnum journalist also misuses a study prepared by the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. That study, which resulted in a new book A Socio-Cultural Analysis of Belarusian Society, found that large shares of Belarusian students identify themselves with Russians. But it does not find that they want to become citizens of Russia.
Baranchik’s work is likely to be republished or cited by other Moscow outlets as yet another reason why the union state should deepen to the point of the extinction of Belarus as an independent country. (It has already been reposted by the pro-Kremlin commentary outlet Rex News (iarex.ru/articles/66920.html).)
But it is critical to keep in mind just how much he has abused the data he employs to make his point and to recognize that the real picture in Belarus, however many problems with identity there are there, is both more complicated and far different from what he suggests.
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