In our week 7 seminar today Jo Laycock will be telling us about dilemmas of humanitarianism in early Soviet Armenia. So it struck me that a post on late Soviet Armenia might be in order, especially as we’re coming up to the 25th anniversary of the 1988 Spitak earthquake. Mikhail Gorbachev’s formal request to the USA for humanitarian assistance in the wake of this hugely destructive earthquake was the first such request made by a Soviet leader since the second world war: it’s a late cold war example of humanitarian disasters leading to temporary relaxing of suspicions between mutually hostile states (cf. the Greek-Turkish earthquake diplomacy of a decade later). In the end over a hundred countries provided humanitarian assistance.
This image, from the Armenian architecture website Virtual Ani, shows the city of Alexandropol in the 1870s, with the church of the Holy Saviour dominating the skyline. By 1988, tsarist Alexandropol had become the Soviet city of Leninakan and the same church was surrounded by poorly-constructed apartment blocks. Here’s a picture of the church after the earthquake from the US National Geophysical Data Center’s natural hazards image database:
The church now stands in the Armenian city of Gyumri, and has largely been reconstructed—Virtual Ani has more, and Wikipedia has a detailed page on the 1988 earthquake. But tonight we’ll be hearing about an earlier period in Soviet Armenian history.
Click images for source