As a boy, Philip Currie dreamed of digging for dinosaur fossils in the vast deserts of Outer Mongolia. Currie was inspired by the books of Roy Chapman Andrews, who led the American Museum of Natural History's expeditions to Central Asia in the 1920s. Years later, as head of his own dinosaur program at the Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Alberta, Canada, Currie attempted to pursue his dreams.

"In 1982, we approached the Mongolian government and ran into a bureaucratic brick wall," he recalls. "They appeared pleasant, but nothing came of it - another way of saying no. It was like throwing paper into a vacuum." But that was before Mikhail Gorbachev and the era of openness in the Soviet Union and its Communist allies, which has spread to include antigovernment rallies in Outer Mongolia last month.

Last fall, Currie's dreams came true - at least in part. His letters and...

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