The EAEU does not live by economy alone: the phenomenally high level of social ties between the Union’s countries and their trust in Russia are an irreplaceable integration capital

07 december 2017

Who are our friends? The EAEU countries see Russia as their main ally

When asked what countries are friendly and can support their country in a difficult time, the majority of respondents named the CIS region (as in the previous five years of surveys). The population of Tajikistan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Kazakhstan express the highest trust in their CIS neighbours for the sixth year in a row (95%, 94% and 90%, respectively).

Russia continues to be perceived as the most “friendly country” by all respondents, named by an average of 76% of them in the six surveyed countries. Kazakhstan goes second (31%) and Belarus third (21%) (Figure 1). It can be stated that today the EAEU countries and Tajikistan demonstrate a high level of mutual trust as seen by their population. This is an important prerequisite to strengthen the Union and its attractiveness to the current and potential member states.

Below we describe the most noticeable changes in the preferences for certain countries in 2016-2017. In Kazakhstan, the indicator of trust in Uzbekistan grew by 9 percentage points (to 24%, the relations between the countries begin to improve), in Turkey and China by 7 percentage points (to 18% and 16%, respectively), in Belarus by 6 percentage points (to 41%), and in the Kyrgyz Republic by 5 percentage points (to 33%, the highest score over the six years of surveys).

The Russian citizens consider Belarus (61%) and Kazakhstan (54%) as the friendliest foreign political partners. Armenia replaced China in the third place (an increase by 4.5 percentage points, to almost 40%). The perception of India’s friendliness declined by 12 percentage points (to 17%). The Russian population gained more trust in Uzbekistan (by 4 percentage points, to 26% – the highest indicator over the six years of surveys), Moldova (by 5.5%, to 21%, another record high) and Turkey (by 4 percentage points, to 7%).

These are the results of population surveys in seven countries (five EAEU countries, Tajikistan and Moldova) where at least 1,000 people were polled (totalling approximately 8,000). The EDB Integration Barometer polls have been conducted yearly since 2012 as a joint project by the EDB Centre for Integration Studies and Eurasian Monitor, an international partnership.

The EAEU member states have a phenomenal density of mutual social ties

The EAEU member states and Tajikistan have the world’s highest density of mutual social ties: between 51% and 80% (except Russia) of their populations said they have ties with relatives, friends and colleagues from the CIS countries that they maintain continuously. The highest figures in 2017 were recorded in the Kyrgyz Republic (80%), Armenia (79%) and Tajikistan (66%). In Russia, 31% of the population maintain social ties in neighbouring CIS countries. This indicator can also be considered high taking into account comparative size of the population.

However, the people’s interest in education offered by neighbouring EAEU countries is declining (Figure 2). The region’s population most often prefer studying abroad, primarily in the EU, rather than in neighbouring CIS countries. This is especially typical of Armenia, Moldova, Belarus and Russia. In addition, over the recent three years, two-thirds of Russians expressed no interest in studying or educating their children abroad. Most citizens of Belarus also demonstrate no intention to study abroad (59% in 2017). Education in Russia as the most popular destination within the CIS is in the greatest demand in Tajikistan (36%), the Kyrgyz Republic (28%) and Kazakhstan (24%). At the same time, however, the share of respondents in Tajikistan who would like to study in Russia has reduced by almost 25% over the recent two years.

“A single educational space forms the basis for cooperation in key economic sectors – mechanical engineering, energy generation and transport. The training of future teachers promotes the knowledge of Russian as the language of interethnic communication. Innovative instruments are needed to improve the mobility of students and teachers so as to change the situation,” Evgeny Vinokurov, Director of the EDB Centre for Integration Studies, comments.

Finally, the population of the surveyed countries express rather significant interest in cultural industries of neighbouring CIS countries, including film production, literature and music. The highest interest has been shown in Tajikistan (69%), Kazakhstan (68%) and Belarus (60%) and the lowest in Armenia (36%). However, the overall attractiveness of the EAEU and CIS countries has been gradually declining in the cultural sphere too. 

These are the results of population surveys in seven countries (five EAEU countries, Tajikistan and Moldova) where at least 1,000 people were polled (totalling approximately 8,000). The EDB Integration Barometer polls have been conducted yearly since 2012 as a joint project by the EDB Centre for Integration Studies and Eurasian Monitor, an international partnership.

The full version of The EDB Integration Barometer - 2017 and additional material are available for free at the EDB’s website: https://eabr.org/en/analytics/integration-research/cii-reports/edb-integration-barometer-2017-/


Figure 1. Perceived friendliness of countries (top‑three in each country on average in 2015-2017, %)

Armenia: Belarus: Russia:
Kazakhstan: The Kyrgyz Republic: Tajikistan:

Question: Which countries on the list are, in your opinion, friendly towards our country (whose support can we rely on in a difficult time)?

Source: EDB Integration Barometer 2017, EDB Centre for Integration Studies

Figure 2. Preferences for foreign education (top three in each country on average in 2015-2017, percentages of different answers, %)

Armenia: Belarus: Russia:
Kazakhstan: The Kyrgyz Republic: Tajikistan:

Question: What country would you personally like to go for studies (or send your children for studies)?

Source: EDB Integration Barometer 2017, EDB Centre for Integration Studies

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