Value transformations in Belarus and Europe


Emancipation is a brand of the West; resistance to it—a brand of Eurasia. Belarus is closer to Eurasia, but it has some peculiarities

BISS focused on a multifaceted study of the values ​​of Belarusians—one that would take into account as many indicators as possible. To do this, we employed the conception of human empowerment by German political scientist Christian Welzel, director of the World Values Survey Association. Welzel’s conception makes it possible to cover 24 indicators and analyse them at three different levels:

  • at the level of micro-blocks or ‘bricks’, which are these 24 indicators (eg attitude to religion, trust in the army, attitude to homosexuality, etc.);
  • at the level of value subsystems such as ‘agnosticism’, ‘autonomy’, ‘equality’; there are eight subsystems, and each of them consists of three micro-blocks;
  • at the level of value systems: secularism and emancipation; each of the systems consists of four subsystems and 12 micro-blocks.

Main findings:

A. Geocultural
  • In the realm of secular values, there are no differences between the West and Eurasia, but there is a sharp difference between them in the realm of emancipatory values.
  • The biggest gap between the West and Eurasia exists in ​​attitudes towards the women’s role in public space (the equality subsystem) and in the demand for the possibility of influencing decision-making at the national and local levels (‘voice’).
  • In terms of defiance, Belarus clearly stands out, not only against the background of the Eurasian group, but also against the background of Western and Central and Eastern European countries.
  • Skepticism, that is, distrust of the main state institutions, is a feature of those countries of the post-communist bloc that have either democratized or allow some elements of democracy. Among the least skeptical are three authoritarian post-Soviet countries: Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus.
  • Three countries of the Eurasian group—Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan—top the ranking of ‘relativism’.
  • The overall rate of secularism is declining, and this applies to Western, Eurasian and Central and Eastern European countries. However, in one of its areas—agnosticism—positive dynamics prevail over negative ones.
  • In the realm of emancipation, on the contrary, there is a positive trend, but it applies only to Western and Central and Eastern European countries.
B. On Belarusian society as a whole
  • In terms of secularism, Belarus is ahead of all Western, Eurasian and most Central and Eastern European countries. In terms of emancipation, it is ahead of all Eurasian countries, but is behind all Western and almost all Central and Eastern European countries.
  • Belarus is the only country in the Eurasian group where agnosticism has grown during the second decade of the 21st century.
  • In terms of agnosticism and defiance, Belarus is closer to the West than Eurasia.
  • In terms of relativism, choice, equality, voice and autonomy, Belarus is closer to Eurasia than to the West.
C. On particular segments of Belarusian society
  • The younger, the more emancipated. This is clearly the case in relation to choice and autonomy subsystems; to a lesser degree—in relation to gender equality.
  • Women for equality, men for the rest. Generally, men are more committed than women to emancipatory-secular values, but there are some exceptions. In relation to equality, men are much more conservative than women. The biggest divergence takes place in relation to women’s political leadership. While this comes as no surprise, the phenomenon of ladies-of-sixties does (see below).
  • Born at the turn of the millennium break patterns. Among all age groups, those born in 1994–2002 are characterized by the highest gender polarization, relatively high support for prolife, high levels of autonomy, and the lowest level of patriotism.
  • The phenomenon of ‘ladies-of-sixties’ (women born in 1964–1973) While women in other age groups take a conservative position on most issues, women in this group are different:
    • Among the ladies-of-sixties the percentage of ‘highly defiant’ is 2.5 times higher than among the men of the same age.
    • Ladies-of-sixties are much more tolerant of homosexuals than their male peers.
    • They are more relativistic than men.
    • They surpass men in their preference for ‘voice’ values.
    • They surpass men in the non-obedience parameter (not considering obedience as an important quality to be nurtured in children).
  • There is no ‘east’ and ‘west’. In Belarus, there is no value cleavage ​​between geographical areas (west, east, centre). At almost all levels—macro, meso and micro—value preferences are distributed more or less evenly across the areas. If we consider individual regions, we can find a number of characteristic features:
    • Brest region—a bastion of conservatism. Of all the regions, the Brest region is the most religious, with a low rate of autonomy and the least relativistic.
    • Vitebsk region—a region of inconsistent progressives. On the one hand, this region is the most agnostic, it has the highest index of autonomy and defiance. On the other hand, there is the lowest level of commitment to gender equality but the most pronounced attachment to stability factors (as opposed to voice values).
    • Gomel region—the area of ​​polarization. Extreme options (strongly agree / strongly disagree), more often than in other regions, outperform middle options (rather agree / rather disagree / neither agree nor disagree).
    • Grodno region—patrimonial, but with a demand for a local ‘voice’. This region is the leader in attachment to patrimonial values: patriotism, parental opinion and a desire for greater respect for the authorities. There is, however, one important nuance: the desire for greater respect for the authorities is mainly characteristic of… urban population.
    • Mogilev region—a pro-choice bastion and a supporter of respect for the authorities. In the Mogilev region, there is the lowest percent of those who regularly attend religious services, the highest rate of acceptance of abortion and the highest commitment to gender equality. At the same time, the region is leading in its commitment to increasing respect for the authorities and in favouring stability factors.
    • Minsk region—the most skeptical region. Residents of the Minsk region have the highest index of skepticism, which is manifested in distrust of the army, police and the judiciary.
    • Capital—tolerant of homosexuals and positive of gender equality. Along with the Mogilev region, Minsk is a leader in terms of gender equality.
  • Rural—urban: differences are barely noticeable. There are no deep differences between the rural and urban populations in relation to both secular and emancipatory values.
  • Protestants lead in accepting gender equality. They are also leaders in the de-sacralization of state power (skepticism). 
  • Roman Catholics have a relatively high index of tolerance for homosexuals and defiance. In both cases, the group leads among the main denominations.
  • The Orthodox are characterized by widespread agnosticism. Among the denominational group, they are least practicing and least inclined to regard religiosity as an important element in the upbringing of children.
  • Wealth contributes to secularism and even more to emancipation. The correlation between the size of income and the acceptance of secular-emancipatory values ​​is very clear. At the same time between the level of education and commitment to these values, the correlation is barely noticeable.

Full research paper in Belarusian

Abridged research paper in English