In Search of Kazakhstan: The Land that Disappeared
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He entirely ignores the legitimate concerns of Kazakhstan human rights and democracy campa The disturbing aspect of this book is its unapologetic hagiography of Kazakhstan's dictatorship and one party state. He entirely ignores the legitimate concerns of Kazakhstan human rights and democracy campaigners and by so doing demeans their bravery. This book is positioned as an entertaining and light read- and I would forgive its superficiality if it was just a travel book. But it is deeply political in its own way and needs to be judged by that measure. For a mere travel writer Robbins achieved remarkable and never adequately explained personal access to President Nazerbayev including travelling in his entourage on a long trip across the country.
Robbins does nothing to betray this confidence and presents multiple cosy anecdotes from his conversation with Nazerbayev to share his wit, bravery, nation building prowess, and prove the adoration of his people. As one of the Goodreads reviews says "Mr. Robbins's description, Nazarbayev sounds like a nice enough guy who genuinely cares about his country's welfare". Independent evaluations show that Kazakstan is a deeply repressive and corrupt one party state. Like Mugabe, Nazerbayev made himself President for Life through a scandalous revision of the constitution.
Transparency International places it for corruption in equally unsavoury company. Of course it looks to Robbins as though people adore Nazerbayev- it often looks like that in dictatorships that suppress freedom of speech and critical media: Kazakhstan rates an appalling in the world for the Press Freedom Index.
And then again, he's not really interested in looking deeper. I bought this book before my own visit to Kazakhstan. In my own travels there I met many people who, in confidence, expressed deep unease or outright loathing for the government. None of this is reflected in this awful book. There is so so much more to say about its long struggle for freedom and the brave people who continue to fight for their rights. Sep 17, Christina rated it really liked it Shelves: nonfiction. Liked what I read so far, especially since I knew nothing about Kazakhstan.
But I did know apples are from Kazakhstan!!! Thanks, MP!
Anyway, now I know slightly more about Kazakhstan, like that the first settlers were descendants of Genghis Khan, and today if you can prove you're descended from him you get to say you're part of the White Bone. Who knew? But the book was due August 14th and the library is getting mad at me, so the rest of Kazakhstan's secrets will have to wait to be revealed.
Darn Robbins. But this book is fascinating. Two weeks ago I couldn't have told you more than three things about Kazakhstan, but now I feel like I know the country at some real level - its past, its people and the complexities of what it means to be a country. Robbins says as much in his book, since he didn't know much about Kazakhstan either at the start of it. So, I applaud his book and my newfound appreciation for the country that King Arthur came from.
Even if I weren't going to teach in Kazakhstan, I would have really enjoyed this book and given it the same rating.
Apples Are from Kazakhstan: The Land That Disappeared by Christopher Robbins
I feel very fortunate to have read the book before going to teach there and glad that my husband found and purchased it. The author lived and travelled in Kazakhstan for a couple of years to find out about Kazakhstan based on a chance encounter peaking his interest in the place and shares what he learned with us. We learn as we read about how Russia used and changed or abused Kazak Even if I weren't going to teach in Kazakhstan, I would have really enjoyed this book and given it the same rating.
We learn as we read about how Russia used and changed or abused Kazakhstan, but also about historical Kazakhstan, the people and the future of the country. I have never been so interested and entertained while learning so much. I am even more excited to teach there now than ever, partly from reading this book. However, I should warn you that it deals with some really depressing subjects and is critical of the Soviet Union.
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On the other hand, the author does have a humorous touch, but I wonder if some of the reviewers who called it hilarious even read it. Aug 17, Alexis rated it liked it. This is an easy-to-read and charming book. It's distinguished from the usual travelogue writing by the author's interviews with the president of the country which make up several chapters in the second half.
My favorite part of the book is the description of how Kazakhstan got its own currency, the tenge, through a covert operation! There is a lot of introductory information about Kazakhstan, in line with the author's contention that most people know nothing about it. The book is overwhelmingly g This is an easy-to-read and charming book. The book is overwhelmingly gung-ho about the country which some people might feel is a little naive but it's definitely worth it as a first look. Another good book about the area is Ryszard Kapuscinski's Imperium, which is a kind of journalistic memoir of a number of former USSR countries.
It's certainly not as easy to follow as this book if, like me, you're completely unfamiliar with these areas or their history, but you can pick up a lot and the writing is very evocative. Jul 02, Leslie rated it really liked it. The camel held my gaze for a moment, turned away, made a final tug at the indigestible tree, and moved on. In the meantime there was the familiar whirring sound of the ATM's electronic count, and out popped exotic, crisp tenge notes, a currency made unique in that it was introduced by stealth in a top-secret operation.
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Kazakhstan is one of those places no one knows anything about, but which has a rich history and culture. May 28, Ann Costello rated it really liked it Shelves: history-modernth-century. Apparently, apples really do come from Kazakhstan which is, according to the author, "one of the largest and least known places on earth.
I learned a lot about that part of the world, most of it positive.
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British author and publisher in quite a dense font. Jul 08, Minna rated it really liked it. So interesting I love taking a peek into another culture and informative- so informative that I felt rather ignorant about much of world history in Central Asia. I enjoyed Robbins' writing style and how he chose to introduce the range of material. I would recommend this book to anyone. Feb 14, Jennifer rated it really liked it Shelves: professional-interests.
Another entry in the travel diary-trivia-history-profile book genre. Generally well done and engaging. During his research, the author sought access to the President and may have gotten more than he bargained for in the end, when the Nazarbaev took a shine to him and invited him over all the time to talk and travel as part of his entourage. An uneven finish but glad I stuck it out. Jun 12, Lisa Blakely rated it really liked it. I liked the little bit of humor mixed in with this description of Kazakhstan, mostly in the earlier pages of the book. It is one travelogue that got me interested in various aspects of the country that I further researched.
A fantastic blend of storytelling and facts. After visiting Kazakhstan myself I was especially interested in the historical background of this hidden gem of a country, which most people myself included only know from the movie Borat. I highly recommend this book for anyone with an interest in USSR history or broadening their knowledge of Central Asian culture. Or just fans of good writing :. Dec 26, Rob Hellewell rated it it was amazing. Kazakhstan is equal parts desolate, harsh and beautiful, yet capable of bringing out the very best in humankind.
Jul 21, Anya rated it liked it Shelves: russian-central-asian-studies.
This book is effective in its goal to introduce Kazakhstan to the western imagination. In his telling, it seems Kazakhstan survived the USSR and its dip into capitalism on the backs of only men. And although I know better than to expect Robbins to use a feminist, anti-capitalism lens, I found his acceptance and enthusiasm for wealth-accumulation via natural resource extraction troubling.
Capitalism results in the same environmental ruin as the Soviet resource extraction so decried in the book. I was also troubled by Robbins' enthusiasm for Nazarbayev, though I was glad he recorded some of his doubt over the president's popularity and it was admittedly useful to read about Nazarbayev's upbringing and political career.
Feb 16, Becky rated it really liked it Shelves: nonfiction , middle-east-and-south-asia , I really enjoyed this book. While there were some parts that were not so interesting to me about the more distant history of Kazakhstan, for the most part this was an interesting glimpse into a country about which I knew absolutely nothing. A few interesting facts: - Kazakhstan is a mix of many different ethnic groups, a lot due to the fact that so many groups of people were exiled to Kazakhstan under Stalin.
According this book, there isn't a lot of conflict between these ethnic groups. Now a huge city has developed there. Picture in your head what you would guess this city might look like. Now do a Google image search for it. Are you surprised? I was too.
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That is not what my stereotype of Kazakhstan was at all. Like really amazingly cold. A view that is balanced by other journeys with more ordinary people With witty asides and the usual run of travellers' tale anecdotes, the real stories are told in straightforward journalistic style. There are few passages that I found moving the Gulag survivor aside , but much that is shocking in terms of the horrors inflicted in past times, which always become more real when individualised. The real gift of the book, though, is in the simple telling of things that we already know and things that we don't The nuclear tests and the precise moment when Sakharov finally understood the reality of his work.
The destruction of the Aral Sea Covert operations with the USA to deal with nuclear material that the Russians couldn't take back because they'd a forgotten about it, b wouldn't be able to account for it since it was 'missing' from the original records and c couldn't afford to deal with it if it was returned.
We travel with early English explorers and learn of the pre-flight rituals of the cosmonauts. Spend time in the Gulag Archipelago with its author, and discover how he is viewed in the country today It is still a country of contradictions. One coveted on all sides by China, by Russia, by Turkey but which chose to be nuclear free. A country which, when the higher echelons were accused of political assassination, invited the FBI to investigate - but is gradually turning its economic interests towards China. A country sophisticated enough to introduce a new currency virtually overnight, but one where barter was commonplace right at the end of the 20th century.
A place with a wealth of minerals that is only just beginning to reap their rewards. Where nomads might still hunt with eagles, but Sir Norman Foster is the architect of choice for civic structures. A country with some of the most beautiful, unspoilt places on earth and without a doubt some of the most devastated wasteland ever created by man.
It is a place that is not easy to visit - not because you won't be welcome, the Kazakh hospitality is legendary though vegetarians might struggle a little - but because of sheer scale of the emptiness. Compare with Britain's 59 million crammed into 93, square miles. Actually this vast place - the last unknown inhabited country in the world - is far more surprising and entertaining. For one thing, it is as varied as Europe, combining stupendous wealth, grinding poverty, exotic traditions and a mad dash for modernity. Crisscrossing a vanished land, Christopher Robbins finds Eminem by a shrinking Aral Sea, goes eagle-hunting, visits the scene of Dostoyevsky's doomed first love, takes up residence beside one-time neighbour Leon Trotsky and visits some of the most beautiful, unspoilt places on earth.
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