Photos of resilient cities that recovered from war
Wars have decimated many of the world’s most famous cities challenging survivors and governments with the task of reconstruction time and time again. In particular after World War II parts of Europe and Asia had been reduced to rubble and had displaced millions of people from their homes. In Germany an estimated 70% of all housing was destroyed while in the Soviet Union—1,700 towns and 70,000 villages were wiped out. Europe lost the majority of its ports and Asia suffered a loss of ports as well.
Cities were faced with the question of whether they should be left in ruins as a monument to the war or rebuilt as if the war never happened. Some saw the opportunity to build entirely new cities. While reconstruction efforts in cities around the world have moved quickly thanks to the inspiring resilience of locals the process is slow—and for some never completely finished. For example visitors to Dresden, Germany will find construction sites throughout the city even though the war ended more than 70 years ago.
Stacker has compiled a list of 15 cities that have undergone remarkable and awe-inspiring recoveries from violence. Read on to see how these war-torn places around the world were able to rebuild.
During the Civil War in the United States, Richmond was the capital of the so-called Confederate States of America. In 1865 the city was evacuated and orders were given to destroy stockpiles of supplies; army officials burned tobacco warehouses, causing fires worsened by strong winds.
Mobs seized control of the city when the Confederate army withdrew and riots ensued—portions of the business district were burned down, but the residential areas were left untouched. The Union army proceeded to put out the fires within the city and a week later Robert E. Lee surrendered the Confederate army to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.
In 1870 Virginia adopted the “Underwood Constitution” to reform the tax system create public schools and recognize the 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution—which ensure equality for emancipated slaves. However, the state continued to pass further legislation to control the civil liberties of free blacks.
Richmond—along with the rest of Virginia—came under military control after the war ended and took several years to rebuild physically and economically. Former slaves were transported from the countryside to the city and proved to be adept both in the workforce and in the democratic process—so much so that 33 black men served on Richmond’s city council between 1871 and 1898.
After the attack almost 1 million people were left homeless. Dry and windy conditions aided the spread of fires and consequently almost 16 square miles of Tokyo were completely destroyed. The Japanese refer to the day of the bombing as the “Night of the Black Snow.”
On March 9, 1945, U.S. warplanes dropped 2,000 tons of bombs on Tokyo for 48 hours, killing between 80,000 and 130,000 Japanese citizens—the worst firestorm in history. Japanese fire brigades were understaffed and poorly prepared for the attack. The bombing focused on the district of Shitamachi, which consisted of wooden-frame buildings that were quickly set ablaze.
After the war ended, the United States occupied Japan and implemented sweeping economic political and social reforms. The Japanese adopted parts of American culture and eventually found its economic stronghold as an electronics manufacturer. Instead of rebuilding old structures, the city replaced its ruins with modern buildings.
The Japanese government provided the infrastructure to rebuild Tokyo, but its citizens were the ones ultimately tasked with building the city back up. As a result construction was undertaken neighborhood by neighborhood, making the city a mix of large unplanned settlements. Even today Tokyo has been described as a collection of villages.
The United States dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima in Japan during World War II, sparking the country’s surrender and in the process killing 90% of the city’s population. Tens of thousands of people later died from radiation exposure.
In 1949 national politicians passed the Peace Memorial City Construction Law, which established Hiroshima as a peace memorial city and opened previously closed funding to reconstruction efforts. Now aside from the few standing relics from the A-bomb era, the city resembles a typical one featuring offices, chain stores, and nightlife.2018 All rights reserved.