Vanishing lives: Moldova’s abandoned countryside MF

Nearly 1 million people have left Moldova since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Economic and political dysfunction, a declining standard of living, and a scarcity of decent jobs have caused the population to shrink from 4.37 million in 1991 to 3.5 million today. And even those numbers don’t tell the whole story, as 600,000 who are counted as residents actually live and work abroad.

This depopulation is taking a terrible human toll. As villages empty out, rural schools have closed, and children are left behind with relatives or in boarding schools while their parents work abroad. Further, an epidemic of loneliness has hit the rural elderly, who have no one to look after them.

Health care has suffered, too, as medical specialists have left villages and even the country, exacerbating a trend that began with the disappearance of Soviet-era collective farms and their accompanying medical facilities.

As part of a team of multimedia journalists, I would like to go to the places that have been nearly emptied out, remote rural villages where just a few people remain, and even fewer young people. The Moldovan countryside has lost nearly a generation of young people in this exodus.

In addition to Moldova proper, we will include in our project Transnistria, the Russian-speaking breakaway region with its own de facto government, where I was born. We will produce a combination “long read” and multimedia piece that will appear on domestic and international websites. We will also conduct a series of interviews with people dealing with Moldova's brain drain, including anthropologists, sociologists, journalists, documentarians, and activists, to create a package of information on depopulation that is accessible in one place.

Among our key goals are to bring a visually rich and interactive element to this story and to attract more attention to Moldova’s dying rural areas.

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