Yulia Grigoryants, Armenia
Inhabitants of the Empty "In 1988, a 7.0 Richter-scale earthquake struck northern Armenia. The quake killed at least 25,000 people in the region. Thousands more were maimed and hundreds of thousands left homeless. Gyumri, Armenia's second largest city bore much of the damage. Large-scale war by the early 1990s, the collapse of the Soviet Union, an energy shortage, and a blockade that left landlocked Armenia with just two open borders contributed to exacerbating the region's already prevalent social and economic problems. A quarter of a century later, Gyumri has the country's highest poverty rate at 47.7%. The city has lost nearly half of its population since 1988, due in part to the migration of the labor force. A few thousand families are still living in makeshift shelters, waiting for help. Many of them are not eligible for new housing, since they are not considered to be direct victims of the earthquake. 25 years later, they are still waiting for urgently needed improvements to their dwellings. During the Soviet era, these huge twin dormitory buildings on the outskirts of Gyumri accommodated around 60 families each. Today there are just four families living here, among decaying walls and corridors. "