The Center for Integration Studies of the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) published the “Integration Barometer” - the results of the second monitoring study of the attitude of the population of the republics of the former USSR (with the exception of the Baltic States) to the integration processes in the CIS. The survey results paint an interesting and at times unexpected picture - some countries seem to have finally left the post-Soviet space, while the population of others, despite the position of the ruling elites, is still focused on integration with Russia.
The EDB Integration Barometer survey was conducted using a sociological survey method in the 11 states of the CIS and Georgia. In each country, a nationwide sample was surveyed from 1 to 2 thousand, the total number of survey participants exceeded 14 thousand. Attitude towards Eurasian integration was analyzed in three areas: economic, political and socio-cultural attraction, each of which included a separate set of issues. The first study of this kind was conducted by the EDB Center for Integration Studies in 2012 (Turkmenistan did not participate in it), which made it possible to trace a number of indicators over time.
One of the features of the study is that the participating countries take different positions with regard to Eurasian integration. Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan have already formed the Customs Union, which will soon be transformed into a Eurasian Union. Therefore, the population of these countries in the course of the survey answered the question about the attitude not to the prospects for future integration, but to its real fruits. Ukraine and Moldova at the November summit of the Eastern Partnership in Vilnius are going to sign an association agreement with the EU. In both countries, with the money of the European Union, there is a powerful information campaign, designed to convince people of the benefits of the association, which undoubtedly affects public sentiment.
The third group of countries consists of candidates for membership in the Customs Union, which include Kyrgyzstan and, more recently, Armenia, which for the sake of it refused an agreement with the EU. Tajikistan is adjacent to this group, the leadership of which declared the possibility of joining the Customs Union, without taking any practical steps, however. Finally, there is still a group of “non-aligned” countries - Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia, which for many reasons are not going to join the Customs and Eurasian Unions. In all these states, the attitude towards Eurasian integration turned out to be different, and it is determined not only by the sympathies and interests of the population itself, but also by the position of the ruling elites and the media controlled by them.
The attitude to the Customs Union within its “core” - Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus - paints a rather positive picture. From 2 / 3 to 3 / 4, the population of the founding states of the CU perceives it positively. True, compared with 2012, the level of a positive attitude towards the CU in two of the three countries of the union showed a negative trend, falling from 80 to 73% in Kazakhstan and from 72 to 67% in Russia. But this is most likely due to the consequences of the second wave of the economic crisis, which became noticeable just over the course of 2013. In Belarus, the level of a positive attitude towards the CU compared to 2012, on the contrary, increased from 60 to 65%. Belarus was also the only one among the CU countries where the level of negative attitudes towards the Customs Union decreased twice (from 6 to 3%), while in Russia it remained at the same level (5%), and in Kazakhstan it grew from 4 to 6%.
In the majority of “third” CIS countries, the Customs Union has a positive attitude from 1 / 2 to 3 / 4 population, and only in Azerbaijan their share is only 37%. Oddly enough, the leader in the positive perception of the CU was Uzbekistan (77%), which not only does not plan to join the union, but defiantly refused to participate in the CSTO and EurAsEC. Tajikistan is in second place in terms of a positive attitude towards the CU (75%), followed by Kyrgyzstan (72%), Armenia (67%), Georgia (59%), Moldova (54%), Ukraine (50%) and Turkmenistan ( 50%). It is noteworthy that the level of positive perception of the CU in Georgia, with which Russia does not develop relations, is significantly higher than in Moldova and in Ukraine, which are much closer to the Russian Federation.
This is reflected in the results of an active PR campaign in favor of an association with the EU, which has been actively pursued recently. Her results were not long in coming. If in Georgia the share of negatively adjusted to the CU was 16%, in Moldova - 24%, and in Ukraine - 28%.
Residents of Azerbaijan are most negatively disposed towards Eurasian integration, 53% of whom responded negatively to the question about their attitude to the CU and only 37% answered positively. This is the only CIS country where the share of negative answers exceeds positive ones. In mental terms, Azerbaijan has actually left the post-Soviet space, and is more focused on Turkey, the US and the EU than on the CIS countries and Russia. In many respects, the position of Azerbaijanis is determined by the smoldering conflict with Armenia due to Nagorno-Karabakh and the role of Russia as a military-political ally of Armenia. But it is interesting that in Georgia, just five years ago, who fought with Russia, the share of negatively related to the CU is three times lower, and positively - one and a half times higher. Azerbaijan is affected by a higher standard of living associated with the availability of export revenues from the sale of oil and gas resources, as well as the popularity of the Turkish model of society and the state, which is considered a kind of Turkic archetype. It is no coincidence that Azerbaijan is the most active supporter of the Turkic integration, to which other Turkic-speaking CIS countries do not show much interest.
The lowest level of negative attitudes towards the CU is recorded in the countries of Central Asia. Moreover, in Tajikistan (3%), Uzbekistan (5%) and Turkmenistan (9%), the first of which considers the possibility of membership in the union only in perspective (after Kyrgyzstan), and the other two do not even think about integration, the negative attitude towards the CU is much less lower than in Kyrgyzstan (14%), which is already at the stage of developing accession mechanisms. Such a situation may indicate both insufficient information efforts on the part of the Customs Union itself, as well as a conscious policy on the part of the Kyrgyz elites, fearing loss of income, and serving the interests of the media community. In the countries of the Caucasus is the opposite situation. The lowest level of negative attitude towards the CU is observed in Armenia, which recently decided to join it, while Georgia and Azerbaijan are leading by a negative perception of the union.
It is interesting to compare the attitude towards integration in the republics of the former USSR and the EU countries. According to the Eurobarometer, the population of the current EU members generally perceives participation in it positively, but the level of positive assessments varies at the level of 50% (in the CU countries it ranges from 2 / 3 to 3 / 4). Moreover, in some EU countries (Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Austria, Latvia, Greece, Cyprus) the share of negative evaluations is comparable with positive ones or even exceeds them. Of the six EU candidate countries only in Macedonia and Montenegro, the share of positive European integration ratings exceeds 50%. In the CIS, the share of positive assessments does not fall below 50% anywhere else, except for Azerbaijan, while in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan it reaches 3 / 4 of the total population.
That is, the attitude towards Eurasian integration in the existing CU countries and other post-USSR republics looks much more positive than the perception of European integration in the current and future EU territory.
The economic attractiveness of various countries of the world is estimated by the inhabitants of the CIS in different ways. The population of more prosperous living standards of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan is considered economically more attractive by the United States and the European Union countries (Russia plays a similar role in Kazakhstan). This applies both to consumer preferences (goods) and to assessing the attractiveness of countries in terms of importing investments and labor resources. In other CIS countries a somewhat different picture emerges. The countries of the “rest of the world” located outside the borders of the CIS and the EEC became the most attractive source of investment for them. China has become such a country for Tajikistan, the United States for Georgia, Japan for Uzbekistan, and Turkey for Azerbaijan. In Georgia and Uzbekistan, compared with 2012, there is a noticeable increase in interest in investments from the CIS countries. And in Georgia in the first place as a source of capital among the countries of the Commonwealth was not Russia, but Ukraine.
As a country where people would like to get an education, neither Russia nor other CIS countries have any particular competitive advantages. Republics of the former USSR as a place of receiving education dominate only in Tajikistan (52%), Kyrgyzstan (48%) and Turkmenistan (44%), where there is a high demand for studies in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. EU countries for education most often indicated residents of Georgia (58%), Armenia (47%) and Ukraine (45%). And in Europe, the inhabitants of Russia (34%), Belarus (33%) and Kazakhstan (32%) would also like to study.
Such statistics indicate an important and not very pleasant trend for Russia. With the exception of individual states of Central Asia, it is losing ground as a research and educational center for the CIS, setting the tone in key areas of modern science.
The consequences of this negative trend will be long-playing. Students who have been educated with the United States and the European Union will be oriented towards other educational and cultural standards, which will inevitably lead to weakening the still strong humanitarian ties between the CIS countries.
In the field of political and military cooperation, there is no such spread of opinions as in the sphere of economy and culture. The population of the majority of the post-Soviet states in the politico-military respect is focused on the CIS countries. The exceptions are Georgia and Azerbaijan, preferring to cooperate with the United States and the EU. At the same time, Russia is regarded as a friendly country by more than 90% of the population of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia, more than 80% by Kazakhstan and Belarus, and more than 70% by Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Moldova. As a “main friend” within the CIS, Russia did not make it to the first place only in Azerbaijan, whose residents preferred Georgia, and Georgia itself, which considers Ukraine and Azerbaijan as its main partners. A key partner outside the CIS for residents of Azerbaijan, as expected, is Turkey (47%), and Georgia - the United States (56%). And their value is several times higher than Russia, which their population does not perceive as friendly.
Estimates by the population of the prospects for the further development of integration processes in the CIS are ambiguous. The number of those who believe that the republics of the former USSR will move away from each other, more inclined towards rapprochement only in Azerbaijan. A negative view on Eurasian integration is held by 1 / 5 residents of Ukraine, Moldova and 1 / 6 - Georgia, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. And in Kyrgyzstan, their share for the year increased from 9 to 13%. Although, in general, the percentage of “integrationally” adjusted population in all the CIS countries, except Azerbaijan, is more “anti-integrationists”. Processes of rapprochement of the CIS countries will dominate in the opinion of 2 / 3 residents of Uzbekistan, around 1 / 2 - Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and more than 40% - Turkmenistan, Belarus and Russia.
The overall survey results paint a very heterogeneous picture. While politically and politically, the CIS states still consider Russia and other former Soviet republics as allies (with the exception of countries with long-lasting bilateral conflicts like Armenia-Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan-Uzbekistan), they are often oriented in the economic and humanitarian sphere on the “rest of the world” states. Russia is still the center of gravity for the people of Central Asia, but the situation is different in the South Caucasus. Azerbaijan is focused on relations with Turkey and the United States, and Georgia maintains a rather strong orientation towards the United States and the European Union, although the sympathy of its population for the CU has increased markedly compared to last year. Pro-European sentiments over the past year are intensifying in Ukraine and Moldova.
In the mental-psychological sphere, the process of fragmentation of the post-Soviet space continues, often directed by external players.
In some places, the process of disintegration of the republics of the former USSR, by all appearances, has already become irreversible, and attempts to include problematic and negative-minded states in it will only negatively affect the final results of integration.