In one of the worst earthquakes of the Soviet Union, the second-largest city in Armenia was destroyed on December 7, 1988. Twenty years after the devastation, Gyumri (formerly, Leninakan) and much of northern Armenia isn’t completely rebuilt.  Today marks the 20th anniversary of an honor that took 25,000 lives and made half a million people from a population of 3 million homeless. They were other damages too:


  • The number of the wounded: about 20.000 people, from which 12.500 people were hospitalized
  • The material losses were about 10bn USD
  • Destroyed or severely suffered: 21 towns and 342 villages
  • Destructed: 50% of the housing – about 8mln m2
  • Stopped functioning 170 industrial enterprises with 82 000 jobs, the industrial capacity was 1,9bn USD
  • Severely suffered or destroyed 917 centres of people’s education with 200 000 jobs, 250 health units, 324 clubs and houses of culture
  • Destroyed 24 000 head of cattle, 45 000 head of sheep, 8000 pigs.
  • From 8461 architectural, art and historical monuments of the disaster area completely destroyed 1255, seriously damaged – 984, became half-destructed – 1216.

    Before Armenia could start rebuilding Leninakan in late 1988, struggle for independence from the Soviet Union intensified, and a war with a former Soviet neighbor, Azerbaijan, became inevitable. Leninakan was renamed Gyumri as Armenia became independent in 1991, but reconstruction took a slow path. Those who survived the earthquake started another chapter of struggle.


    In the face of economic hardship in all parts of Armenia, many residents of Gyumri left the country with a hope for a better life. They had seen how rich and generous the rest of the world was. Massive aid and support had reached Armenia following the earthquake, even bringing Jeb Bush, the son of America’s president-elect and vice president George Bush Senior, to the falling walls of the Soviet Union.


    Twenty years after the destruction, northern Armenia still bears the marks of the earthquake. May the dead rest in piece. Hope and salute to all the survivors, including to my ex-girlfriend A. whose baptism cross was lost in ruins during the earthquake (she was just a year old at the time).