Anthropological Notes on a City that Survived an Earthquake

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Gayane Shagoyan

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Abstract

The city of Gyumri experienced a devastating earthquake on December 7, 1988, not long before Armenia’s independence. This article analyzes how perceptions of Gyumri’s urban space changed in the aftermath of that experience. The paper draws on a range of sources to address historical, mythologized, and existential levels of perception of that space, the latter based primarily on the international avant-garde art biennales that have taken place in Gyumri since 1998. The article also discusses the transformation of Gyumri residents’ identity through an analysis of public discourse about images of the city before and after the earthquake. Each of the city’s historic names (Kumairi–Gyumri–Aleksandropol–Leninakan) is associated with a certain image and championed by different groups of residents. Comparisons with capitals and “second cities” in Armenia and elsewhere serve to place Gyumri on different discursive maps. In Russian, summary in English.
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