On December 7th, 1988 Armenia was hit with a powerful 7.2 earthquake destroying the city of Spitak and 58 villages. Such cities as Leninakan, Stepanavan, Kirovakan, as well as other 300 villages, were partially destroyed. The earthquake killed at least 25,000 people; 514,000 lost their homes.
Geologists and earthquake engineering experts laid the blame on the poorly built support structures of apartments and other buildings built during the ‘stagnation’ era of Leonid Brezhnev. The Soviet Union was harshly criticized for its inability to carry out rescue operations. The country was not ready for a catastrophe of this kind.
It’s been over 20 years since the deadly tremor, however, a lot of Armenian people still have to live in temporary metal structures called ‘small houses’.
Spitak with a population of 16,000 people located close to the epicenter, was wiped out. Above, you see a mass grave of the victims of 1988 Spitak Earthquake.
Over 3,000 families have to live in metal temporary houses and winter is the most difficult part of the year for them.
A boy in a half destroyed house in the city of Gyumri (former Leninakan).
Apart from houses, the earthquake destroyed a lot of the country’s monuments of architecture and historical sites. Factories and shops were destroyed either completely or partially.
One of the citizens of Gyumri shows photographs taken right after the earthquake. He says that they received help from people from all parts of the Soviet Union: equipment, construction material, motor transport, humanitarian aid, medicaments, fuel.
People in the kitchen of one of the ‘small houses’.
An old soldier, Gyumri.
After 20 years of living in a ‘small house’, this man received his own apartment. Although government promised to provide all families who lost their homes in that earthquake, over 4,000 people are still in the line for a new apartment.
Another resident of the ‘small house’.