Basic contradictions in Belarus are not being resolved.
Can tightening the nuts break the threads? Henadz Karushnou, ex-director of the Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, answers this question for the website “Belarusians and Market”.
- Where is the threshold of people's patience? This question is more psychological than sociological. When a person suffers, it is always a stressful situation. Stress involves the accumulation of negativity, and that must somehow spill out. If the stress remains inside, then it destroys its carrier. And this applies not only to a person, but also to any system.
From a sociological point of view, we can talk about the formation of some kind of new normality. A person cannot withstand constant stress: the psyche adapts and perceives the events taking place around them as a variant of the norm, for all their abnormality.
A growing flurry of repressions, again someone was arrested, convicted, like yesterday and the day before yesterday - this happens regularly and becomes a new, perverted “normality”.
We see that people have become less active in expressing their dissatisfaction on the streets. The recession was predictable and logical: winter, the second wave of COVID, a change in cycles at the beginning of the year at the level of the economy and everyday life. Plus violence, injustice on a constant basis. It seems to me that psychologically Belarusians are getting used to “incarceration” and violence.
However, an outburst of discontent can occur at any moment, because the basic contradictions are not resolved. And there is another key factor - the speed of social dynamics.
If nothing changed at all, if everything was really stable, this is one situation. In our country, the domestic and foreign political situations are changing extremely quickly. With a combination of certain stress factors, an explosive accumulative effect can again occur.
Last year there was a “perfect storm”. Many psychological, political and economic factors coincided, the coronavirus made many think about the threat to their own lives, the lives of parents and children.
It is difficult to predict whether Belarusians will tolerate or splash their stress out in the streets or in other ways. At some point, all waves can enter into resonance, and again there will be an explosion, but when this happens, no one knows.
Now we can say something only on the basis of large, obvious trends. In this regard, it seems to me that the economic factor will strongly influence the social dynamics. I mean the rise in unemployment, and the decline in living standards. For Belarus, the “bottom line” will come when people will no longer be paid wages, and they will have nothing to feed their children for.
Some may think that this situation is far from us. But let's look at material inequality in the Belarusian society from a geographical point of view. In this regard, our society is heterogeneous.
Maybe in Minsk and regional cities the situation is more or less stable, but the further into the regions, the poorer the people: there are fewer jobs and much lower wages.
Now enterprises are optimizing their personnel policy, people are being fired, information periodically appears that there have been wage delays for a month or two. It is difficult to say how many such people are, and where they are concentrated, but in general the trend is clear.
I think, in addition to the problems that were revealed last year, this year we will see new challenges that were previously hidden, and were not discussed. These are socio-economic problems that will make themselves visible primarily in the regions. And it is this factor that will prevent Belarusians from adapting to the “new normality”.