“If you want to know Armenia, you must come to Gyumri”
Gyumri is Armenia’s second-largest city, situated 122 kilometers north of Yerevan. Gyumri is a significant location to visit and admire because it is one of the most ancient settlements in Armenia. Nowadays, most people associate Shirak Province’s capital with the enormous tragedy of the earthquake and its aftermath.
Gyumri was struck by two devastating earthquakes in the twentieth century. Unlike the earthquake of 1926, which destroyed buildings and became part of history, the earthquake of 1988 destroyed not only buildings but also the city’s spirit.
About 526 buildings were destroyed, including schools, factories, residential buildings, etc.
The 7th December earthquake killed 25 thousand and left 530 thousand people homeless. After the tragedy, thousands of railroad containers were brought to Gyumri to house the population, they were un-insulated, without water and heat.
The USSR declared that the disaster zone would be rebuilt in three years. The government devised a recovery plan for Gyumri, but it was shelved. The new plan called for the new districts to be built not in Benjamin on seismically stable rocky ground, but on the arable lands of neighboring Marmarashen, where the ground was the same clay with running subterranean waters.
Around 400 acres of Marmarashen arable land were removed and there were built two districts: Ani and the Austrian district. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the builders left behind dug-out foundations and unfinished buildings.
A new program for the rehabilitation
The Government of Armenia in 1994 adopted a new program for the rehabilitation of the disaster zone, according to which the restoration was to be completed in 1998-2001. But the current state of the city proves the opposite.33 years after the earthquake, there are still 2,856 domiks in Gyumri. Hundreds of families still live there, although many housing projects have been implemented and many more apartments have been built. Gyumri domiks are located on secondary streets of the city and have been transformed into separate settlements within the city, with a high level of poverty.
This outbreak of poverty, economic turmoil turned life upside down for the population. Moving forward, it was understood that the only way to survive was to build a new Gyumri by relying on sustainable goals.
The Distrikt wishes to make Gyumri’s environment healthier and more livable by improving air quality, water resources, and land use, conserving ecosystems and implementing climate change mitigation and adaptation measures. The main goal of the Distrikt is to end poverty in Gyumri by providing quality education, skills, job opportunities.
Gyumri: 30 years in a disaster zone
Relocation Project in Gyumri
On December 7, 1988, an earthquake shattered the north of Soviet Armenia. Three decades later, the region is yet to recover from a disaster that killed more than 25,000 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes.→
In the initial years after the tragedy, as many as half of the earthquake survivors suffered from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder ranging from palpitations, sweating, and anxiety to flashbacks and recurring nightmares about the event. More than two decades later, many of the survivors had put the psychological distress behind them and were leading productive and fulfilling lives, but a substantial portion – as many as 20-25 percent – continued to experience PTSD and other mental health after-effects that severely impaired their quality of life.→