Geospatial science professor Grigory Ioffe received a $19,882 university grant for his proposal “The Republic of Belarus: Geopolitical Leanings and the Phenomenon of Lukashenka.” Ioffe has studied and written about Belarus and its president, Alexander Lukashenka, whom Ioffe interviewed twice in the summer of 2011 for his upcoming book about the president. This study will investigate the national identity of the country’s people.
“Belarusians who live between Russia and the European Union have a weak national identity. In other words, they are not certain who they are,” says Ioffe. He says that there seems to be a cultural divide within the country, since its west may lean more to Europe while its east to Russia. Ioffe’s project would test the existence of that divide on the basis of national survey results. These results will be examined based on regions. Ioffe will also examine the popularity of Lukashenka.
“Belarus is ruled by a man who is described – in the West – as a dictator. Yet, this dictator used to be genuinely popular in Belarus and continues to be popular, although not as much as before. Using the same surveys, the spatial pattern of his popularity will be researched. In other words, is he liked everywhere or, for example, less in the west than in the east, in which case his popularity correlates with the same cultural divide,” says Ioffe.
Ioffe will use this preliminary research to apply for national and international grants to continue his study of Belarus.