Thirty years ago today, on December 7th 1988, the devastating magnitude 6.8 earthquake shook Armenia, covering 40% of the country's territory.
In a matter of seconds, the second and third largest cities of Gyumri and Vanadzor (Leninakan and Kirovakan at the time), the town of Spitak and over a 100 towns and villages across the country were levelled to the ground.
The estimated death toll was over 25,000; around 500,000 were left homeless. The disaster destroyed 17% of the country's housing fund (8 million square meters), causing damage to 230 industrial facilities hiring a total of 82,000 employees. The estimated damage to the country's economy was 13 billion Soviet Rubles.
A day after the earthquake, a delegation led by Nikolay Rizhkov, the president of the USSR Council of Ministers, arrived in Yerevan from Moscow.
Over 113 countries and seven international organizations lent their helping hand to Armenia.
Many states continued their assistance also in the subsequent years. Italian and Austrian specialists constructed residential districts in Spitak. A team of Norwegian aid workers built a hospital with state of the art facilities. Two years after the earthquake, Lord Byron School opened in Gyumri thanks to funds provided by the British government.
From 1989 until 2000, residential buildings with an estimated total area of 3.5 square meters were put into exploitation in the disaster zone.
The president of Shirak Center (non-profit organization in Gyumri), Vahan Tumasyan, says the past three decades have left their deepening imprint on the city, dividing it into two different parts.
“The aftermaths we are facing today are even more painful, with the divide being too deep between the two communities of our city's population. 10,000 people, i.e. – about 2,500 families, still live in wagons on the outskirts or in semi-solid apartment blocks. They have developed a specific kind of mentality after 30 years of life in temporary homes,” he told Tert.am, highlighting the extreme poverty as a pressing problem causing many families to move out to urban slums.
According to Tumasyan, the elimination of the disaster consequences is much more complicated today, with the psychological impact being “too heavy”.
“The first, and probably also the most optimal, solution has to do with the authorities’ willingness, their desire to look with open eyes upon the situation - instead of citing figures and offering excuses. Yes, they very often discuss possible reasons, focusing, for instance, on a family that was left homeless, etc. But that’s tantamount to insulting someone and thinking of what to do next to save his or her life … With the 30th anniversary approaching, [the 1988 quake] is a hot topic which may even attract the international media; yet, it is a forgotten calamity, as everybody forgets about everything after December 7,” he added.
Tumasyan noted that the generations born and living in makeshift homes have developed their certain specific psychological traits, adopting habits such as early dropout of school, early marriage and divorce, etc. He noted that many young men exempted from military draft are residents of those very wagons. “It looks like the entire poverty of Armenia has been concentrated in one place, while we keep on saying that [Gyumri] is a cultural city,” he said.
Credits to tert.am web page.
Since 2005 volunteers have been involved in the activities and cultural events of the Armenian Cultural Fund, being participants of the European Voluntary Service. The program enables volunteers to participate in various cultural events organized by the Armenian Cultural Fund during which the participants acquire new skills and knowledge.
The Armenian Cultural Fund attaches importance to the participation of the "Youth in Action" program, enabling young people to engage in cultural activities.
During the one-year volunteer program, the volunteers are usually involved in two trainings organized by the European Volunteer Program, during which volunteers from different countries share their skills, get acquainted with each other's culture, traditions and acquaintances. And the new volunteers of the Armenian Cultural Fund Mane Ayvajyan and Diana Yeghiazaryan already took part in one of those trainings. Volunteers have arrived in September 2018. The aim is to participate in all events, exhibitions, national and memorial events organized by the Fund, moreover, to write and translate news and articles about the Diaspora and cultural figures, to publish and post it on the www.armenians.hu website.
On May 26, the Armenian Cultural Fund in Hungary organized a meeting of young people and children, which was the first organized event in its nature. The goal was to give the opportunity to meet and get acquainted with each other to many Armenian families living in Hungary who heard about each other but haven’t still met. There are Armenian children who may have met in the kindergarten, whose parents have not yet met or even vice versa. According to the director of the Fund Nikoghos Hakobyan, this event was one of the most successful and the best organized work since Fund also had the opportunity to get acquainted with the new Armenian families living in different parts of Hungary, who hope to participate in this event in the coming year as well. The event succeeded so much, that many Armenian families joined, with 150 and more Armenians present, instead of 80 to 100. The program started at the cultural center, where Armenian families got acquainted with each other, as well as discussed the Fund's programs and perspectives, motivating Armenian families to participate in them later. The cultural center also featured Armenian national garment, after which the event continued in the open air. The children were busy with activities and games, and during the event everyone prepared Armenian dishes together. It was a good family-friendly meeting that everyone wanted and that must be continued.
"We receive many letters about the continuing nature of the event, people are interested in other programs and express their desire to participate in various programs. Of course, the program was not entirely financed by the Armenian Cultural Fund, but was also the financing of the Hungarian Ministry of Human Resource Program. Let's hope that it will continue next year and more and more people, especially children and students wanting to join the event would be a part of the event. "
Director of Armenian Cultural Fund
On November 9th, the "Hotel Yerevan" comedy by the Urartu Armenian Theater took place at the Veszprem Cultural House. Theater is a comedy story about Armenian family, in which events are developing in Budapest. The Armenian family names it Hotel Yerevan. It is also worth mentioning that the "Hotel Yerevan" Screenwriter is the Director of Urartu Theater Diramerian Artin. We can talk about "Hotel Yerevan" a lot, but the important thing is that the program has been of great interest to the audience. The play is in a comic genre that has helped the audience to relax and enjoy the theater. The "Hotel Yerevan" dramaturgy is exactly what can happen with all the Armenians living in the Diaspora. The goal of the Armenian Cultural Fund is to showcase the Armenians living in Hungary, Hungarians engaged in culture, and those who are interested in what kind of funny situations can happen to Diaspora Armenians.
"We believe that a good performance has been made and many people have been interested. There is a wish to present such events next year not only in Vessprem, but in the places where there are Armenian organizations or where there is a need to display Armenian culture. "
Director of Armenian Cultural Fund