photo by Andrei Aliaksandrau and "EuroBelarus" Information Service
Does Belarus have an invisible analogue of Right Sector? Why do litigators and secluded xenophobes live among us? Scientists from Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia discuss civil society’s diagnosis.
State and prospects of the Belarusan civil society was the subject of discussion at the 5th Congress of Belarusan Studies in Kaunas. Representatives of the International Consortium “EuroBelarus”, scientists from Lithuania, Ukraine, and Russia took part in the corresponding panel. Reports touched upon a large spectrum of civil societies in several countries.
Andrei Yahorau, political scientist, the Director of the Center for European Transformation (CET) reported about the potential of solidarity of the Belarusian society based on the sociological analysis.
In their work, the method of Charles Osgood’s semantic differential is used. The researchers offered the respondents the following significant political events for evaluation: events of “national pride” - March 25th, July 3rd, Belarus and Europe, Ukraine and Russia, human rights and stability, and two social stances with different value orientations – a businessman and an official. After that researchers tried to pick out groups that have close evaluations, i.e. solidary groups.
The results showed that a number of these objects have disintegrating potential, noted Andrei Yahorau. In particular, such stumbling block of opinions is Ukraine. Second object that causes confusion among Belarusans is an “official”. Europe and human rights also have disintegration potential.
Besides, the citizens of our country have a crisis of trust. Belarusans are locked within the close circle of friends and relatives. Public institutions don’t play much role in the life of Belarusans. And only law enforcement bodies – militia and court authorities – evoke trust among some Belarusans.
The fact that family outshines all group identities offered to the respondents proves that the potential for solidarisation among Belarusans is quite low, emphasized the researcher.
The analysts divided all respondents into three groups of potential solidarity, different in density and ratio: “basis for Belarusan system”, “European renovation”, and “ignore”. The most numerous group is “ignore”: it includes about 41.2% respondents, who don’t care about the political life of the country, solidarity actions, and “Ploshcha”.
Second place is taken by the group named “basis for Belarusan system” with 38.6% of the respondents. It is interesting that the “basis for Belarusan system” group is consolidated and has solidarity potential. Though its potential is oriented at the support of Lukashenka’s regime.
In comparison to stability admirers, the third and the scantiest “European renovation” group, which lives according to European norms inside our country, lacks potential of solidarity and basis for consolidation. Those, who got included in this group, trust state bodies, including militia and local authorities, the most. The respondents in this group took part in solidarity actions more often than two other groups and are more concerned with the problems of their cities and ecological problems.
It is interesting that 80% of the respondents don’t have leaders in the Belarusan society that they should orient at. Among the names that were voiced flashed Darya Domracheva, threefold biathlon Olympian champion.
What social diseases does the crisis of institutional trust lead to?
“It generates a whole set of Belarus’ social diseases, - noted Andrei Yahorau. – At least, the theory dictates so”.
The society can suffer from predetermination, hope for the miracle, and corruption as an illegal way of resolving problems, excessive suspiciousness, barratry, xenophobia, self-isolation due to mistrust of others, paternalization in hope of the “strong hand”, and others.
Ukrainian philosopher Sergei Datsyuk addressed Andrei Yahorau and a group of CET analysts with the question about research of “sleeping” solidarity of the Belarusan society.
“You are not researching the “sleeping” solidarity, - he said. – The forecasts of sociologists about Maidan also equaled zero. And what did it result in?”
The researchers assumed that there exists an invisible analogue of the “Right sector” in Belarus. For it to come to light the clients of such researchers – Europe-related CSOs – also became “apparent”, became visible. In that case the Belarusan analogue of the “Right sector” will find the researchers itself, voiced his thought Uladzimir Matskevich, philosopher and methodologist, the head of the Board of the International Consortium “EuroBelarus”.
The relations between the state and the third sector in Belarus can hardly be named “lofty”. Politicization and depoliticization of the society studied Tatsiana Chulitskaya, candidate of sociological studies from the European Humanities University. She based on the results of the research that she performed together with her colleagues in 2015.
According to her, Belarusan society is in the state of depoliticization. “This is the society that actors of advocacy are working with”, - noted Chulitskaya and gave a short remark about advocacy: by this she means targeted actions of different actors aimed at changing of the existent politics or influence on decisions of the elites in the government, in state institutions by means of encouraging civic participation, movement towards the common goal, and social interest.
Both in democratic and in non-democratic systems, tactics and strategy are important for the process of advocacy. A big problem for it is that sometimes it’s very hard to understand, forecast, and explain factors of variables that influence the processes of change in the society, emphasized the researcher. For example, it’s not always possible to trace cause-and-effect relation between the actions of the activists and the developments and results following these actions.
What is advocacy aimed at? It is aimed at the change of public policy, improvement of conditions for advocacy as well as (which is very important) change of political, administrative, and social practice. Besides, change of relation of the society to the problem.
The subject of research was the complex of public campaigns, projects, and initiatives that were focused on representation and protection of social interest. They were considered during the political and business cycle – during the last five years.
“We were trying to understand what the success of advocacy in Belarus depends on and see the scale of its work”, - explained Chulitskaya.
What were the results of the survey? Activists believe that they can influence the inclusion of the social problem to discussion by deputies and officials. In Belarusan system it is more successful to act through officials than through deputies; but such cooperation is very problematic. It was repeated that sometimes substitution of real participation to some kind of informing of activists about the work that authorities o is happening. The authorities often eagerly accept suggestions of the activists, but these suggestions remain where they were.
Second stage happens when activists offer deputies and officials variants of solving problems, but none of the respondents took part in decision. There international pressure as one of the instruments that lie outside the national field’ frames should be used, assumes the researcher.
What difficulties in communication with authorities did activists note? Why is it hard to work? We lack a clear, transparent mechanism of decision-making; we don’t always have access to officials; and the order of informing the public is ineffective. The biggest difficulty is politicization of the topics that activists work with; it leads to decline in possible resolution of the issue. That’s why activists are trying to depoliticize the problem in every possible way and distance themselves from politics.
There are contradictions between the different bodies of state administration. I.e. the agreement with one authority doesn’t lead to positive solution of the problem with the other.
Belarus and Europe in the semantic space of activists of Belarusian NGOs were in the focus of attention of Oksana Shelest, the candidate of sociological sciences from the Center for European Transformation.
She told about the corresponding research conducted by a group of analysts from the Center for European Transformation.
The peculiarities of changes of the target groups’ needs in modern Belarus studied Leanid Kalitsenia, MA from the Center for Social Innovations.
A sector of Belarus’ youth organizations and initiatives from the point of view of cooperation potential in resolving civic tasks was the subject of research for a group of CET analysts, preliminary results of which presented Alena Zuikova, MA in Political Studies.
Maidan prehistory – solidarity demonstrations of the Ukrainian society that became the jumping off-place for the downfall of Yanukovich’s regime and sharp turn towards the EU – was told by OlgaMikhailova from the Ivan Kuras Institute of Political and Ethnic Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. “From allegiance to citizenship” was the topic of her research of evolution of social consciousness of Ukrainians.