On Dec. 7, 1988, an earthquake devastated much of northern Armenia, killing at least 25,000 people. Several hundred thousand more were made homeless and the local economy was paralyzed. Humanitarian organizations brought tents and emergency help. The Soviet government, beginning to suffer under dramatic economic troubles, provided temporary-living containers and promised new housing.
But when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the recovery program and the financial support to Armenia suddenly stopped. Those who didn't receive a new home at the time were out of luck.
A year later the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh between newly independent countries Armenia and Azerbaijan sent new waves of refugees westward toward poor Armenia. Border and economic blockades by Azerbaijan and Turkey put an even deeper economic strain on Armenia. By then, the victims of the earthquake were long forgotten.
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Belgian freelance photojournalist Nick Hannes travelled over land from Brussels to Vladivostok and back from October 2006 to October 2007, filing stories and photos of his discoveries on his news blog. During his 12-month journey Hannes covered 50,000 kilometers crossing the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Mongolia, China and Russia, meeting earthquake refugees, imams, nomadic shepherds and many more. EurasiaNet is presenting a four-part series of audio-enhanced slideshows, highlighting key stops on his trip. More photos and notes from his trip can be seen at www.nickhannes.be.