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Analysis: What Do Vodka And Sex Have To Do With Lukashenka's Rule? --> The Minsk-based Independent Institute of Socioeconomic and Political Studies (NISEPI) studied some aspects of the everyday family life of Belarusians in a June survey and tried to correlate aspects of their lives to the respondents' political preferences and social status.

In particular, NISEPI asked its respondents about the most important joint activities in their family life and the frequency in which alcoholic beverages are consumed. Some results of this inquiry and derived correlations turned out to be fairly unexpected and even amusing.

In asking what are the most important joint activities in family life, NISEPI offered 12 different answers. The respondents could tick more than one answer. The results were as follows: bringing up children -- 46.3 percent; having breakfast and dinner together -- 40.1 percent; doing housework -- 39.3 percent; visiting relatives and friends -- 30 percent; watching television -- 22 percent; going to the countryside -- 19.4 percent; relaxing at the dacha -- 17.3 percent; going to the movies, theaters, museums, stadiums, exhibitions -- 12.9 percent; going for vacation -- 12.9 percent; having sex -- 11 percent; walking -- 9.3 percent; playing sports -- 5.1 percent.

NISEPI concluded that Belarusians are evidently more devoted to "traditional" family activities (such as bringing up children, eating together, and doing housework) than to "dynamic" and "open" ones (such as resting in the countryside, walking, and playing sports). A deeper analysis allowed NISEPI to deduce that bringing up children in Belarus is the most important family task that does not depend on such factors as the family's income, social status, and political views.
Therefore, it is not ruled out that "drinkers" and "sex-enthusiasts" may in the future prevail genetically and demographically in Belarus and -- as a democracy-oriented segment of society -- eventually relieve the nation from the authoritarian regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Leaning on these findings, NISEPI made the conclusion that for Belarusians "stability" is more important than "dynamics," not only in their family lives but also on a nationwide scale. To support this argument, NISEPI pointed out that despite the fact that some 70 percent of Belarusians traveled abroad in the past 10 years and more than 40 percent of Belarusians want to emigrate, official statistical data show that in Belarus's 13 years of independence more Belarusians came to live in Belarus than left the country. NISEPI also speculated that this "social immobility" of Belarusians may account for their reluctance to actively support democratic forces advocating changes in the country. Despite the fact that more than two-thirds of respondents in NISEPI polls declared their will to support parliamentary candidates who stand for change, opposition rallies in the past several years have gathered no more than 2,000-3,000 people.

According to NISEPI, the penchant Belarusians have for stability in society and patriarchal traditionalism in family life is also reflected in the fact that they prefer doing housework almost four times as much as having sex. Since the birthrate in Belarus is not falling faster than in other European countries, the pollster explains this baffling finding by suggesting that either Belarusians are more prone to having extramarital sex, categorize "sex" as "housework," or are too shy to speak about sex in public, even anonymously.

NISEPI's question: "How often do you consume alcoholic beverages?" was answered in the following way: every day -- 0.7 percent; several times per week -- 10.1 percent; several times per month -- 34.8 percent; several times per year -- 37.2; I don't use at all -- 15.8 percent. Adding the first three answers, NISEPI concluded that 45.6 percent of Belarusians drink alcohol "quite regularly."

Drinking For Democracy

NISEPI delved even deeper into the problem of alcohol and sex in Belarus and made a "social portrait" of those who drink alcohol more often than others (45.6 percent of Belarusians) and think that having sex is an important joint activity of the family (11 percent of Belarusians). It turned out that these two groups ("drinkers" and "sex-enthusiasts") are generally more dynamic, forward-looking, educated, economically active, critical of the authorities, as well as supportive of democracy, a market economy, and European integration than Belarusians who do not drink at all or drink a little and do not consider having sex an important family activity ("abstainers" and "sex-ignorers").

In particular, NISEPI found that in 2001 Lukashenka's presidential bid was supported by 48.2 percent of "sex-ignorers" and 48.5 percent of "abstainers," while his backing among "sex-enthusiasts" and "drinkers" was 20.9 percent and 37.4 percent, respectively. What is more, Lukashenka's initiative to prolong his presidential powers for a third term is supported by 37.2 percent of "sex-ignorers" and 37.8 percent of "abstainers," while "sex-enthusiasts" and "drinkers" are evidently less excited about the idea and declare support of 19.5 percent and 28.9 percent, respectively.

It is also enlightening to know that a majority of "abstainers" and "sex-ignorers" among Belarusians (50.2 percent and 48.8 percent, respectively) support Belarus's merger with Russia, while "drinkers" and "sex-enthusiasts" are primarily for joining the EU (56.2 percent and 42.9 percent respectively).

According to some sociologists and family-planners, having sex and drinking alcohol (in reasonable amounts) are factors that promote procreation. Therefore, it is not ruled out that "drinkers" and "sex-enthusiasts" may in the future prevail genetically and demographically in Belarus and -- as a democracy-oriented segment of society -- eventually relieve the nation from the authoritarian regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who now seems to rely on support from primarily abstemious and sexually restrained voters.