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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; At the Brink; Interview with Fyoder Burlatsky, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Fedor Burlatskii (Fyoder Burlatsky) was a speechwriter for Nikita Khrushchev and an adviser to Mikhail Gorbachev. In the interview he discusses the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 and subsequent Soviet-American relations. He describes Kennedy and Khrushchev before the missile crisis, and explains the motivations that led the Soviets to put missiles in Cuba. He describes the lessons of the Missile Crisis; especially that it is possible to avoid a nuclear war even in a tense conflict. He describes the personal relationship between Khrushchev and Kennedy (including his views of the different socio-economic backgrounds of the two leaders), as well as Khrushchev’s feelings about the American people. He think that the American people, especially its leadership, do not learn lessons from their past, whereas the Soviets take into account what they learned from World War II, the Cuban Missile Crisis, etc. He also gives an account of his personal family history during World War II.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
At the Brink
Program Number



Interview with Fyoder Burlatsky, 1986

Series Description

The first atomic explosion in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, changed the world forever. This series chronicles these changes and the history of a new era. It traces the development of nuclear weapons, the evolution of nuclear strategy, and the politics of a world with the power to destroy itself.

In thirteen one-hour programs that combine historic footage and recent interviews with key American, Soviet, and European participants, the nuclear age unfolds: the origin and evolution of nuclear weapons; the people of the past who have shaped the events of the present; the ideas and issues that political leaders, scientists, and the public at large must confront, and the prospects for the future. Nuclear Age highlights the profound changes in contemporary thinking imposed by the advent of nuclear weapons. Series release date: 1/1989

Program Description

In October 1962, the Soviet Union and the United States are at the brink of nuclear war, the 13 most harrowing days in the nuclear age.

“I remember leaving the White House at the end of that Saturday and thinking that might well be the last sunset I ever saw,” recalls former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara of Black Saturday, the day the Cuban missile crisis pushed the world to the brink of nuclear war. Aleksandr Alexseev, Soviet ambassador to Cuba at the time, recalled, “We and the Cubans decided that, in order to avoid a United States invasion, we should supply Cuba with missiles.” The US effort to overthrow Fidel Castro at the Bay of Pigs was an expression of President Kennedy’s disbelief about the missiles in Cuba while it surprised Soviet leader Khrushchev according to his speechwriter,Feodor Burlatsky. Major General William Fairborne, speaks about how “We loaded whole blood and a hundred coffins onto the carrier Iwo Jima.” Looking back on those 13 days, former Secretary of State Dean Rusk reflects, “...we’ve got to find some way to inhabit this speck of dust in the universe at the same time.”



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Soviet Union
Sorensen, Theodore C.
Nuclear weapons -- Testing
Strategic Defense Initiative
Mao, Zedong, 1893-1976
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Brezhnev, Leonid Il?ich, 1906-1982
McNamara, Robert S., 1916-2009
United States
Berlin (Germany)
Nuclear disarmament
Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, 1894-1971
Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994
Cuba -- History -- Invasion, 1961
World War II
Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1963)
Nuclear arms control
Reagan, Ronald
Nuclear weapons
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
Dulles, John Foster, 1888-1959
Moscow, Russia
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Burlatskii, Fedor Mikhailovich (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; At the Brink; Interview with Fyoder Burlatsky, 1986,” 03/28/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; At the Brink; Interview with Fyoder Burlatsky, 1986.” 03/28/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; At the Brink; Interview with Fyoder Burlatsky, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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