EASTERN SLAV NATIONS SEEKING REINTEGRATION

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MOSCOW, May 25 (RIA Novosti's Nikolai Zherebtsov) - The idea of reintegrating the three Eastern Slavic nations that gained independence with the breakup of the Soviet Union polarizes remains a divisive issue with experts and politicians. But in the end, any integration processes should rely on the will of the people and their striving to unite.

As recent surveys indicate, most of the Russians, Ukrainians and Belarussians believe that their nations have grounds for reintegration and a mere 6 percent in Russia and Ukraine and 10 percent in Belarus say they have too little in common to reunify.

Speaking of commonalities between the three Eastern Slavic nations, 22 to 42 percent of the respondents mention historical heritage, kinship, and economic interest. Interestingly, common historical background is what comes first with the Russians whereas the Ukrainians and the Belarussians make a stronger emphasis on shared economic goals.

Between 8 and 19 percent of those surveyed justify the need for reintegration by similarities of the cultures and languages and by common political interests. The Russians tend to put cultural and linguistic aspects above politics while most of the Ukrainians and the Belarussians believe that political factors are more important.

For the Russians, the main argument in favor of reintegration is common cultural and historical heritage; the Ukrainians and the Belarussians are motivated by economic and political concerns. Only 4 to 9 percent of the pollees mention exterior threats as a motive for Eastern Slav reunification.

Curiously, Russian respondents mention kinship bonds as a basis for reintegration just as frequently as Ukrainian and Belarussian counterparts (28%, 30%, and 25%, respectively), this notwithstanding the fact that half as many Russians have relatives and friends in Ukraine and Belarus (34% against 57% and 69%).

People in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus have different attitudes to the prospect of forming a union with other nations. Half of the Russian respondents (51 percent) say they don't want their country to join any bloc. Ukrainians and Belarussians, by contrast, are keen to become part of an interstate alliance. The former (23 percent) seek reintegration with their Slav neighbors while the latter (28 percent) show more interest in EU membership. Between 15 and 19 percent of the interviewees hail the idea of reviving the Soviet Union.

The statistics cited comes from surveys carried out by Russia's VTSIOM pollster in association with counterparts in Ukraine and Belarus. In each of the three countries, interviews have been conducted with a representative sample of 1,200 to 1,800 adults.

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