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THINGS COME APART
The Baltic republics of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, once hailed as economic powerhouses after they broke away from the Soviet Union in 1991, have shrunk economically since the 2008 global financial crisis. Latvia, along with the rest of the former Eastern bloc, adopted neo-liberal economic policies from the IMF and World Bank, where local elites made a fortune as their countries were integrated into the capitalist market. For a young adult in Latvia today, life is increasingly insecure, with job prospects harshly disproportionate with educational levels and economic expectations. Only one-third of young adults in Latvia are employed, and it is common to find youths with university degrees working entry-level jobs at fast food restaurants. The working age and able-bodied population of Latvia often decide to leave the shrinking economies of their homeland in search of employment and financial security in other countries. Over 200,000 of the population of 2.2 million have left in the past decade; the majority between the ages of 20 and 30. Friendships and relationships are easily fragmented by this increase in emigration, and alcohol and drug problems are on the rise. However, despite the struggles facing this generation, there remains a deep connection to the national identity, especially to the rich and fertile nature of the countryside, accompanied by a drive to create a better future from the relationships and resources they are left to work with. The photographs were made in Krāslava and Davgapils in the Latgales region in Latvia.