EN | BA

Serbian villages depopulated, turn into ghost towns!

Repušnica centar | panoramio

The Serbian village lying at the border with Bulgaria, Repusnica has been declared by authorities as closed in 1998 due to depopulation. Repusnica was once a bustling village on the slopes of Mount Stara Planina in Serbia. Today, its houses stand shuttered and nobody walks its streets.

The depopulation, according to the authorities had been caused by mechanization of the economy, the closure of state factories and an exodus from Serbia linked to the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

A report said that many nearby villages today suffer the same fate of Repusnica, the population has immensely decreased and sometimes just an elderly couple or a single person is left. Schools, clinics, veterinary stations and shops are closed. Visitors are rare. Roads are sprinkled with potholes.

“Some people left, moved away to seek better living standards. The village was neglected and ignored especially when it came to infrastructure,” said Rade Bogdanovic, a retired veterinarian in Kalna, which is part of the Knjazevac municipality that also includes Repusnica.

Between 2002 and 2011, Serbia lost more than 377 000 people or 5% of its population of around 7 million, according to census. Numbers have fallen in 86% of the country’s 4 600 villages, according to the Serbian Academy of Science.

Some other countries in the Balkans and south-eastern Europe suffer from the same situation, said the report. In the past 50 years, the eastern Serbian municipality of Knjazevac fell by half to 30 000 people. The report also noted that in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, around a million left to seek jobs in the West. An estimated 700 000 left Serbia during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

In the year 2000, a transition to a market economy saw many state factories close and a trend towards smaller families has seen the average age rise to 42 according to the 2011 census, up from 40 in 2002.

The Serbian government has been trying to resolve the problem by improving infrastructure and offering incentives to younger people to stay in villages but the effort is yet to yield results.

In 2015, a human rights official appointed by parliament said the country should ask migrants flooding through the Balkans from the Middle East to settle in empty villages, but the idea has been abandoned.