Ronald Reagan’s historical address to the Armenian people -


Ronald Reagan’s historical address to the Armenian people

Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan

Photo: Getty Images

Thirty years ago, on December 24th of 1988, U.S. President Ronald Reagan addressed the American nation in a traditional Christmas radio message. It was traditional in every aspect but one, as the speech was titled “Radio Address to the Nation on the Holiday Season and the Earthquake in Armenia”, making it historically exceptional. Not only Ronald Reagan singled out a Soviet republic, one of the fifteen in the union, but he also dedicated a significant part of his speech to Armenia and found emotional, encouraging words for the country.




A part of Ronald Reagan’s “Radio Address to the Nation on the Holiday Season and the Earthquake in Armenia” 

December 24, 1988


I know all Americans have joined with me in grieving for those who perished in the Armenian earthquake. Tragedies of this nature afflict our spirit; it's hard to see why such a thing happens, what it might mean. But the Armenian people are showing us they know they are loved. They know they can renew their strength and rebuild and rededicate themselves to life.


We have been witness to the breathtaking bravery of the people of Leninakan and Spitak as they ready themselves for the task of going on. And, yes, they will go on, for the Armenian people are made of hardy stuff. As Hazel Barsamian, an American of Armenian descent, says, and I quote: “We have a history of this kind of tragedy. We are fighters. We are survivors. We stand together, and we will survive.”



And at a time of such terrible calamity, something happens in the world, something worth thinking about at Christmastime. For a time, the real differences that divide us - and will continue to divide us - fall away. Closed borders open. Friends and enemies alike share the burden and hope to help. From Israel and war-torn Lebanon alike, supplies and aid have been sent to Soviet Armenia. And from the United States the response has been staggering: relief workers, tens of millions of dollars in private contributions, food, clothing, a cascade of good will and fellow feeling. Christmas is the time of the Prince of Peace, and we are therefore reminded yet again that our differences are not with common people but with political systems.


In Armenia, the birth of our Lord is not celebrated until January 6th. It is an Armenian tradition that priests travel to the homes of their flock and there make a special blessing with bread, water, and salt, representing life and substance. This season, more than ever, may the blessings of the priests over the bread and water and the salt provide the Armenian people with the strength to persevere and triumph.




On December 7, 1988, when a powerful earthquake shook cities and villages in Armenia, USSR leader Mikhail Gorbachev was visiting the United States for a session of the UN General Assembly. He cut short the trip and returned to Moscow, from where he traveled to Armenia on December 10.


Gorbachev had a business lunch with President Reagan and Vice President George Bush before returning to Moscow. He had been informed about the earthquake at that point and shared the news with Reagan and Bush at the meeting, revealing the horrible scale of the tragedy.



In particular, the USSR leader told that the earthquake was strong enough to bury a whole village, which just disappeared underground. 


U.S. Vice President George Bush inquired about the number of casualties, but Gorbachev did not have concrete information and could only confirm that “hundreds of people” were killed by the earthquake.




On January 1, 1989, Ronald Reagan addressed a congratulatory message to Mikhail Gorbachev on the occasion of New Year holidays, which he began with words dedicated to Armenia:


“On behalf of the American people, I send you greetings on the coming of the New Year.


In your country and mine, the New Year is a time of hope and renewal. Never have these qualities of the spirit been more necessary than now, as Soviet Armenia begins to heal from its wounds. You have our deepest sympathy. You have our prayers. And you have a personal hope from my wife, Nancy, and me that in the effort to rebuild what was shattered you will find your solace.”


Anna Bubushyan


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