Commemorative event

The Missile Crisis 60 Years On: Part 2

International Institute for the Study of Cuba at the University of Buckingham

The Missile Crisis 60 Years On

Online Panel: Wednesday 14 December 2022, 1900h GMT

Event is free via Teams but registration is essential. To Register click HERE

The ruins of a Soviet hangar built to house the missiles in Pinar del Río, Cuba. Pic. by Haken Karlsson

On 16 October, 1962, the CIA placed before US President Kennedy the first confirmed pictures of Soviet nuclear missile emplacements in Cuba and what became known as the Missile Crisis or October Crisis began. The news of the discovery was not made known to the public until six days later, when Kennedy made his dramatic televised address to the US population and announced a naval blockade of the Caribbean island. While the US saw the emplacement of nuclear missiles in Cuba as aggression, the Soviets and Cubans viewed their actions as defensive. There followed 13 notorious days of worldwide terror at the prospect of a nuclear war between the superpowers. In Cuba, the population prepared for a military invasion, as the leaderships in Washington and Moscow struggled to find a diplomatic way to resolve their differences.

Now, as conflict between the ‘West’ and Moscow has reignited on the continent of Europe, what lessons can we learn from the events in the Caribbean sixty years ago? What is its legacy and how should it be remembered? This online panel, organised by the International Institute for the Study of Cuba at the University of Buckingham, brings together a two distinguished scholars to discuss the events of 1962, how it appears to us today and the relevance it may have to matters still facing the world.


Tomás Diez Acosta

Professor, Cuban Institute of History, Havana, co-author of October 1962: The ‘Missile’ Crisis as seen from Cuba, and with Håkan Karlsson of The Missile Crisis from a Cuban Perspective. Historical, archaeological and anthropological reflections. As an 18 year-old, Tomás served in the Cuban military during the Crisis.

In Defence of Principles

For Cubans, the crisis was a lesson that confirmed and strengthened their conceptions of how to defend the country. At the same time, it proved to the world the ideological strength of the principles upheld by the Cuban Revolution, because in face of the actions of the two superpowers, Cuba defended, with dignity and courage, its self-determination and sovereignty. Cuba firmly confronted the U.S. policy of arrogance and force. And, basing its stance on justice and reason, Cuba discussed the disagreements that emerged with the Soviet Union in the midst of the crisis, due to the unilateral manner in which the USSR negotiated to end the conflict. In those “brilliant yet sad” days, as Ernesto Che Guevara described them, Cuba’s policy was distinguished by having the necessary flexibility to make negotiations possible, without making any concessions of principle, despite the unceasing efforts of the U.S. government to exclude Cuba from the process.


Håkan Karlsson

Professor and Vice Head of the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden co-author of with Tomás Diez Acosta of The Missile Crisis from a Cuban Perspective. Historical, archaeological and anthropological reflections. And  La Crisis de Octubre. Detrás de la narrativa dominante..

The October Crisis from an archaeological and anthropological point of view

This paper presents a synthesis of the work carried out so far in the contemporary archeology project “A world crisis from below”, which for more than 15 years has worked with The October Crisis (1962) and its material and immaterial remains in Cuba. The project is a cooperation between Swedish archaeologists, Cuban archaeologists, historians and anthropologists. It focuses on the material that remains in the old Soviet nuclear missile bases, the reuse of the material from the bases in the fields and towns surrounding the sites, the memories and narratives held by local people and communities, and plans for this cultural heritage in local museums. The aim is to contribute with more human and complementary dimensions to the crisis and its “dominant narrative”, and in this way reach new forms of knowledge about the October Crisis. The project shows that it is possible to complement the dominant narrative of the crisis with material and immaterial remains.