‘Mud Country’ is a long-term photography project that aims to provide a personal perspective for the Hungarian dirt roads beside the spreading of poverty, the mass departure of people and the local everyday problems.
The number of dirt roads is amazingly high in Hungary. Many people live habitually and inevitably along dirt roads in the rural areas of Bács Kiskun, Békés and Csongrád counties. While in Western Europe 96 percent of public roads are paved, this ratio in Hungary is only 38 percent. The difference is even more significant in rural areas.
The village of Csanytelek in Csongrád county is situated by the river Tisza. More than a third of the population lives along dirt roads. In rainy weather, the ground alongside the river becomes completely impassable. Years ago they spent 6500 Euros on the design, permits, and application required for preparing the renovation of three dirt streets in, particularly bad condition. The local government did not win the grant, because they failed to provide traffic count data and accident statistics to prove the need for a pavement. It is impossible to provide high traffic data to justify the necessity of renovating a road that is impassable during most of the year; nor do hay carts ever collide on a street where even jeeps get stuck. Just like in other settlements similar to Csanytelek, not only is it impossible for the ambulance to reach a patient with a heart attack within 15 minutes, it is virtually beyond any chance to find a tractor that could tow the ambulance to the patient.
Depopulated farmlands, emigration and the spreading of poverty also characterize “Mud Country”. Millions living in the deepest poverty, an extremely small middle class and more and more people who cannot provide for their family despite having a job – these are the features of Hungary. One in every three Hungarians that is 3,3 million people live in poverty. 1,2 million of them must endure extreme poverty, which is an extraordinarily high number for a country with a population of 9.9 million. Almost every second Hungarian is living in cramped conditions, every fourth flat is not properly protected against rain or has mould on the walls and nearly one million households do not have electricity, heating, and gas.
The “Mud Country” later on has also faced the problems of the mass departure of people, which severely affects rural villages. In Hungary already half of the people between 19 and 30 would like to work abroad. A significant proportion of youth and middle-aged Hungarians desire to leave the country and have already started planning their emigration. Currently, more than 600,000 Hungarians live abroad in the European Union.