On the morning of April 26, 1966, the city of Tashkent was hit with a destructive earthquake. It was rated 8 out of 10 on the Richter scale doing extensive damage to the ancient capital of Uzbekistan, and forever changing the city’s image.
In a matter of minutes, almost everything in a radius of ten square kilometers was wholly or partially destroyed. Over 36 thousand residential and public buildings were crushed, and the central part of the city suffered the most damage. More than 78 thousands families were left homeless, and official figures state that eight people lost their lives and hundreds were wounded.
One witness remembers the city’s first reaction "That night I was tight asleep, I woke up from a push, as if someone kicked our house from below. Certainly I ran outside into the yard, but you could not see anything from the dust rising off the ground. Someone was screaming out ‘War’. But I remember one of our neighbors walking out onto his balcony, and for some reason shook his mat over the edge, and calmly walked back inside to go back to sleep. That calmed me down, even though I stayed outside in the yard the entire night, before going to work in the morning". Most people lived in the yards of their homes, as going inside was still dangerous. Additional damage was sustained from the aftershocks that followed over the next three months.
In the first hours after the initial shock, a government delegation, headed by the General Secretary of the Communist Party Leonid Brezhnev, arrived from Moscow. They organized a commission to lead the recovery, and help in the rebuilding and construction of a new city. More than a thousand tents were sent up, nearly 600 temporary shops, public eating places, and hospitals were opened. Families were evacuated to other cities of Uzbekistan, and union republics. Children were sent to summer camps in many regions of the USSR.
Thousands of people from all the USSR’s republics arrived to rebuild the capital, transforming Tashkent into a city nearly twice its original size. By winter time, over 300 thousand people received housing, and in the course of three years, Tashkent was completely reestablished. Many damaged buildings were replaced with newly designed brick multistory houses, and new schools, recreation centers, shops, and libraries were erected