A look through the window of an abandoned school toward Dunavtsi, a town of waning population in Bulgaria, on October 27th, 2014. Bulgaria has the most extreme population decline in the world — much of it due to post-1989 emigration, high death rates and low birth rates. There are so few people of child-bearing age in the nation 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.
This photo is from a project that aims to gauge the state and effect of democracy in the former Soviet satellite nation Bulgaria, two and a half decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The story of democracy in Bulgaria at age 25 is a cautionary tale about transplanting one-size-fits-all Western values to a nation still undergoing social and economic upheaval. Bulgaria is still one of the poorest, most corrupt nations in the European Union, its post-1989 hopes wilted by political instability, high crime rates and skyrocketing inflation. While Bulgarians can now freely vote and protest without much threat to their freedom, their new oppressor is corruption - which is at a 15 year high, across political and civil sectors alike. The ennui is so casually etched on the passerby's face that it becomes routine - one that fits in sadly well against a startling backdrop of rotting architecture, joblessness, and a vast population decline. Despite what democracy has changed in Bulgaria, the daily struggles of its populace remain largely untouched, trapped in a post-communist time capsule.