Primary Sources

U.S. Reaction to Armenian Earthquake


On 7 December 1988, an earthquake with a 6.9 magnitude struck the Soviet Republic of Armenia. With powerful aftershocks continuing for months following, Armenia struggled to recover. By United Nations' estimates, more than 25,000 people were killed, 15,000 more injured, and the physical damage equaled $14.2 billion (U.S.). In order to respond to the disaster Soviet authorities allowed international relief organizations to lend assistance. In this speech, U. S. President Ronald Reagan acknowledged the contributions made by American relief workers in Armenia. In addition to his thanks, several of his comments were intended for Soviet authorities, with comments such as his "universal message" that "every life is infinitely precious." By stressing the unity of mankind, President Reagan suggested a better future, free from Cold War competition between the United States and the Soviet Union.


Ronald Reagan, "Remarks to American Participants in the Armenian Earthquake Rescue Efforts," speech, The White House, Washington, D.C., May 12, 1988, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Public Papers, Reagan Library, (accessed May 1, 2007).

Primary Source—Excerpt

Over the last two weeks, the hearts of the American people have gone out to the people of Armenia as they grappled with the earthquake disaster and its aftermath. The world wept at the terrible magnitude of the destruction and the tremendous loss of life: whole villages and cities virtually leveled. Great numbers of men, women, and children were trapped beneath fallen buildings in one of the worst earthquake disasters ever to occur. Tens of thousands were killed, countless numbers injured, and many others tragically missing.

But no sooner had we learned of the disaster and of the great need that existed than you and so many other Americans organized to help. Rescue workers and medical teams from across the country flew to the Soviet Union where you searched for the living and gave care to those who were injured....

Those of you who answered the appeal for help, who have assisted in the relief effort, and those who flew to the Soviet Union and sifted through the rubble, searching for life against all odds, carried with you a message from America. It was a message of peace. You conveyed what was truly a universal message, one for us all to remember at this time of year: that every life is infinitely precious, a gift from God. So, whatever language we speak, whatever country we may live in, whatever our race or religious faith, we're all one people on this Earth. And in times of suffering, in the face of natural disaster, we're drawn by our common humanity to help one another, to join in a great brotherhood of man.

How to Cite this Source

President Ronald Reagan, "U.S. Reaction to Armenian Earthquake," Making the History of 1989, Item #176, (accessed November 28 2021, 6:16 pm).