By ANDRES OPPENHEIMER
Herald Staff Writer
Alexander A. Fursenko, chairman of the Russian Academy of Sciences' History
Department, is hopeful that Russia will soon declassify a wealth of Cold War-era
documents from the former Soviet Union.
``I'm optimistic,'' Fursenko said Friday during a visit to Miami to speak
1997 book One Hell of a Gamble: The Secret Story of the Cuban Missile Crisis,
which he co-wrote with Timothy Naftali. ``There are many influential people in
Russia who are pressing to open these archives.''
A government-appointed commission to declassify documents is being formed
may expedite regulations calling for the release of documents that are at least 30
years old, Fursenko said. President Boris Yeltsin has yet to sign an executive
order authorizing the commission to make public files from the Soviet Politburo
and other Communist Party agencies, he said.
``There is a misconception out there that Russia opened up its archives
1991,'' when the Soviet Union collapsed, said Naftali, of Yale University. ``But
what has come out so far is mostly stuff from the Soviet Foreign Ministry, which
was way down in their political food chain.''
Fursenko and Naftali are working on a book about the history of the Cold
during the Nikita Khrushchev years as seen from Moscow and Washington.
At a speech at the University of Miami last week, the two historians expanded
the key points of their last book, which said Soviet officials did not perceive Fidel
Castro as a Communist in the early years of the Cuban Revolution -- contradicting
some Castro biographers who assert that the Cuban leader was a closet
Communist from his early days as a guerrilla.
Among the curious details in One Hell of a Gamble is a report that Castro
applied to Harvard University, and was turned down. Quoting from published
reports, including a 1959 Harvard Crimson interview with former U.S. official
McGeorge Bundy, the book says Bundy used the story of Castro's failed
application to Harvard when he introduced Castro to 8,700 members of the
Harvard community in April 1959.
``Caught up in the exuberance of the event, he [Bundy] declared that Harvard
ready to make amends for its 1948 mistake. It had decided to admit him. How
different the world might have been had Fidel Castro accepted a place in the
Harvard class of 1963!''
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald