Stunning Photos Of Romania's Post-Communist Industrial Decay

Tamas Dezso/Courtesy of Robert Koch GalleryThe flooded village of Geamana, Romania.

From 1965 to 1989, Romania was home to one of the most repressive totalitarian regimes in history under Nicolae Ceausescu. During that time, Romania underwent a period of intense industrialisation and urbanization under a program known as “
systematization“.

With a stated goal of doubling the number of Romanian cities by 1990, the program consisted of rural resettlement and the demolition of whole ways of life. What is left is a landscape of concrete apartment buildings and abandoned factories.

Since 2011, Hungarian photographer Tamas Dezso, who has photographed for Time and the New York Times, traveled to Romania to capture the crumbling structures left behind by the communist regime and the disappearing culture and people of Romania’s villages. Because the majority of Romanians have fled the country looking for work, only a few people are left in the villages.

“I began photographing the scenes of a world irreversibly decaying, the transformation of a Balkan country surviving the region’s hardest dictatorship,” Dezso wrote for Lensa Magazine.

The collection, called “Epilogue,” is currently on display at the Robert Koch Gallery in San Francisco until November 2, 2013.

Ocna Mures is a town situated next to a large deposit of salt, mined in the past until the ceiling of the mines collapsed from water infiltration in 1978.

This tunnel was excavated as part of the construction of the Vidraru Dam, on the Argeş River. When it was completed in 1966, the dam was the 9th largest in the world. 1.7 million cubic meters of rock and earth were moved during the construction, permanently changing the micro-climate.

Sheep farming has long been a large part of Romania's agricultural tradition. Despite the efforts of the totalitarian regime from 1950-1989, sheep farming has remained in the hands of small, peasant farmers.

In 1978, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu decided to open Roşia Poieni, one of Europe's biggest copper mines. The government forced the inhabitants of the nearby village of Geamana (pictured below) to move out so that an artificial lake could take its place and serve as a catch-basin for the mine's contaminated sludge to flow into. All that is left is the flooded town.

Victor Praţa and his wife Ana are the last two inhabitants of Geamana, where he grew up. Victor worked at the copper mine whose toxic sludge drowned the town.

A man collects metal scrap to earn his living, common amongst the poorest people in Romania. Collecting scrap metal is dangerous, illegal, and not very profitable. One kilogram of metal sells for 30 cents while a kilogram of bread costs $US1.50.

The tiny village of Moisei is one of the oldest in the country, first being founded in 1213. It was the site of the Moisei Masscare, when the Hungarian Army killed 39 Romanians and 3 Jews.

Almost 100 per cent of refuse in Romania ends up in garbage dumps, compared to a European Union average of 38 per cent. The dumps are usually found at the outskirts of towns.

Closed in 2000, the Moldova Nouă mine is the second largest copper mine in Romania. During the Soviet occupation from 1944-1958, Romania's vast natural resources were drained by joint Soviet-Romanian companies.

The statue of Dacian king Decebalus (a national hero in Romania) is the largest rock sculpture in Europe. It was built from 1994 to 2004.

An old chair in a house in the remote village of Ursici in the Translyvanian Alps. The village has no electricity or running water and the furniture is homemade.

Anastasia is one of 35 inhabitants left in the village of Livada. Almost all young people left to escape unemployment.

On New Year's Day in Romania, young children dress in bear furs and dance to ward off evil spirits.

These are the remains of the Hunedoara Steel Works. Hunedoara was the country's largest city dependent on a single industry. The transition to a market economy at the beginning of the '90s found the works ill-equipped to survive, with their technology not having been upgraded since the late 1970s.

Now see what the rest of Eastern Europe looked like under communism.

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