Small towns in Bulgaria – hopes and reality after local elections

Unpaved streets, outdated water supply networks, frequent power outages, unregulated landfills, poor transport services, unemployment and depopulation - these are the major problems more and more small towns in Bulgaria face. That is why, in the recent local elections residents of such towns voted with the hope that quick solutions would be found for their problems.

An interesting fact during the local elections in the region of Kardzhali in southern Bulgaria is that in more than half of the villages, there was only one runner for mayor. Experts explained this with the ever-escalating process of depopulation. The lack of jobs causes young people in the village of Pripek to leave it. Fidanka Basheva, a woman from the village, told Bozhidar Cholakov from BNR – Radio Kardzhali more:


"Young people have been leaving and going to Sofia, Kardzhali, or abroad. We, the elderly are living the way we can. We are growing less and less tobacco, but we have a cow, we plant potatoes, beans, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, and so on. But we don't have a doctor. Once a week, for a couple of hours, a doctor from the nearby town of Dzhebel comes here. If someone is seriously ill we call for an ambulance to take them to a hospital in Kardzhali, Plovdiv or Sofia. We still have a school and a kindergarten, but if nothing changes, in ten years there would be only old people living in the village.  More time would pass and the village will be depopulated.”

Drangovo is one of the large villages in the region of Kardzhali, with a population of about 1200 people. It is located 4km from the border with Greece. Problems there are similar to those in Pripek – lack of jobs, low incomes, fewer young people.


"Things are not going very well," says Tsvetana Topchieva, a teacher in Drangovo. "There are enough children for the school and kindergarten to stay open, but their number is steadily declining. Currently, we have 19 children in the kindergarten, while just a few years ago they were 50. There are 35 pupils in our school. It is good that the state protects it; otherwise the kids would have to travel to the village of Benkovski. We want a lot of things done by the new mayor, but most the important thing is to repair the broken streets and provide reliable water supply to the people.”

Not onlyin Pripek and Drangovo people are concerned about the work of the new local authorities. They want the mayor to work in their interest and in sync with the municipal councilors, so that young people like Monica Zhivkova stay in her home place.

"I have been working abroad for three years, in agriculture. After New Year, I am leaving again," she says. “I definitely do not see my future in Bulgaria. I work for 10 euros an hour abroad and here I work must work a whole day for this money. My parents work in a sewing workshop – one of the few companies, along with cafes offering jobs in our region."


Angela Hadzhieva, also from Benkovski, is a student in Plovdiv. She spends her summers with her parents in the Netherlands, where they receive good salaries.

"Given that I do not pay for an accommodation but I live with my parents there, for two or three months I earn enough money to pay my taxes in the university and live for a year here.”

Both Monica and Angela say they are not interested in politics because they think nothing will change in their home country after the elections. However, they voted, hoping that something would improve. However, they express their concern that many of their peers already perceive their home country only as a tourist destination, which they visit once a year.


English: Alexander Markov

Photos: Bozhidar Cholakov

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