Bulgaria has the most extreme population decline in the world — mostly due to post-1989 emigration — combined with a high death rate and low birth rate. There are so few people of child-bearing age here that population statistics project a 30-percent decrease by 2060, from 7.2 million to just over 5 million. In other words, Bulgaria’s population declines by 164 people a day, or 60,000 people a year; 60 percent of them aged over 65. Experts on distribution of E.U. funds cite the high concentration of investments and resources in certain regions at the expense of others as a contributing factor.In 2012, depopulation pushed 172 towns to the verge of extinction, and completely erased 24 from Bulgaria’s map. I explored one such village on the Serbian border. Of approximately 50 houses, only three were populated, totaling its inhabitants to six. I was also grabbed by a regional airport, now completely defunct, a former tobacco factory, and an abandoned school. As depopulation further saps the nation of its men and women, these visions of severe structural and industrial decay sadly become increasingly common – and so, with each visit, I witness more and more of my country vanishing.Photos and text by Paskova. Paskova’s project is supported by a grant from The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
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