HINTERLAND is a long-term project to document the slow change of the Croatian region Hrvatsko Zagorje. We started in 2001 and since then we have continuously photographed a number of families, their environment, but also the landscape of Zagorje.
Hrvatsko Zagorje is the region north of the capital Zagreb and it means Croatian hinterland. A beautiful mountainous landscape with small villages is extended to the Slovenian border. The region is characterized by traditional rural structures and a deep rooted belief, that this area is the source of the Croatian culture. It is said that Zagorje is the only part of Croatia the Serbs did not want to conquer in the civil war during the 1990s.
The people of Zargorje are attached to their native soil. Besides their regular jobs (or their small pensions) most of them are still self-sustaining famers. They keep a couple of chicken, pigs or plant their own groceries.
But of course Zagorje is not the Happy Isles. The catholic church is almost unweakened. Traditional family values and a strong nationalism are common sense. For young people it is difficult to leave their parents home. They hardly find jobs with a salary that suits for economic independence. Xenophobia is often drastic, even though you won't find too many foreigners there. It is more a prophylactic attitude.
The region is in a quiet (but lasting) transition. The downfall of the iron curtain led to huge investments from many foreign investors. Croatian labor force is still cheap, compared to Western European standards. So many corporations have build facilities and provide new jobs.
All kind of consumer goods are now available – but for Western prices. To participate on the modern way of living, they are often drawn on a credit. These credits are in most cases bound to the Euro and not the national Croatian currency. That makes the credits a risky bet on the future economic situation.
The change in Zagorje is also different for the generations. While the parents who are now 45+ have quite the same prospects as before, the youth have virtually a broader variety of chances.
The tension between modernity and tradition is there, but maybe the people of Zagorje will find an answer to live with both. We will continue to follow that development in the future.