Thursday, February 20, 2020

Belarusians Don’t Avoid Protests Out of Fear but Rather from Lack of Information and Sense of Efficacy, New Survey Shows

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 13 –Belarusians are far less passive than they are reputed to be and are certainly not inactive primarily because of fear, according to a new survey by MIA Research. Rather this poll shows, they are less active than they might be because they lack information about the issues and groups involved and lack a sense that such actions can be effective.

            That of course means, commentator Artyom Shraybman, says that the Lukshenka regime hasn’t intimidated Belarusians into inaction and that they could be more active if they were given more information and a sense of efficacy (

            Overwhelmingly, Belarusians, especially older ones, do not take part in NGOs, GONGOs, or protests; but their failure to do so reflects their lack of information about these groups and a sense that they cannot be effective rather than fears of official retribution, according to the MIA Research study.

            One indication of this, the study says, is that Belarusians are dissatisfied “by everyone except themselves” when it comes to solving local problems. They believe they can act effectively as individuals to solve problems but doubt that others can either singly or organized in groups or protests.

            That means, Shraybman says, that many more of them could and should take part in civic activism if they were provided more information about the groups involved and given examples where such activism led to positive results. Only six percent say they are afraid to take part in protests, for example.

             Some of course aren’t going to want to take part even if those things are provided. A majority – 55 percent – say they aren’t interested in working in NGOs. But, Shraybman says, “the situation changes when the question is asked in a different way.” When asked if they will take part in something to address their problems, an overwhelming majority says they are.

            Thus, “Belarusians do not avoid civic activity as such,” but rather for them to take part, “it is important that people see the specific use of doing” rather than making a decision about some “abstract” organization whose membership and activities are “often unknown to the majority.”

            The poll found that “almost 36 percent” of Belarusians say that “no one has asked them to take part or invited them to do so.” “Twenty-one percent do not believe that participation will change anything; 14 percent don’t believe they are competent, and 11 percent doon’t know how it is possible to participate.”

            It is thus clear, Shraybman says, that “the notion that Belarusians are frightened and therefore passive is a myth.” NGO leaders need to recognize that such a view is incorrect and act accordingly, providing Belarusians with more information and evidence of efficacy and inviting them to take part in protests rather than assuming in advance that Belarusians won’t.

            Most Belarusians say that Belarusians should be more active, the commentator concludes; but he does specify that those who say that are somewhat less likely to declare that they personally should become so as opposed to  believing that the entire society should change in this regard.

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