Apples Are From Kazakhstan, by Christopher Robbins.
The following review is from Amazon.com. I went there to get a helping hand with describing this wide-ranging book, and discovered that someone had already written the perfect review. I wholehearted endorse and adopt this review as expressing my opinions more eloquently than I myself could do. Please do not quote this review as having been written by me. Give proper credit. Thank you!
Christopher Robbins, a guy you'd love to have a beer with and swap
stories of adventure, absolutely captured a piece of Kazakhstan with his
clever and witty book. He takes on a tough task covering the creation
of a country from the rubble of the Soviet days. He adds some history
and perspective of an enormous sweeping land and a complex society held
together by clans and relations, a land often invaded and subjugated but
which has maintained a unique identity with wonderful friendly people.
of the world knows nothing of Soviet Central Asia, a region kept under
restrictive cover by Moscow for 75 years. This is the land of Ghengis
Khan and Marco Polo, of the Golden Horde and Trotsky, of annihilation of
male populations in 2 World Wars fought 4,000 miles away, and of shady
modern-day JR Ewing's with foreign and local accents. Only in the late
1980's were foreigners allowed in, and from that time forward Kazakhs
have experienced a rapid introduction to the modern international world,
modern day carpet baggers, internal and external swindles, and a rapid
investment from abroad.
Mr. Robbins captured with humor and
cynicism the post-Soviet modernization era as Kazakhs have gone through
growing pains as a Soviet test ground and land of disastrous Moscow
policies that led to devastation of the Aral Sea and contamination of
vast areas of Kazakh steppe (this was the nuclear test center for
Soviets with over 400 above-ground tests and more underground tests, and
significant cancer rates in the area around Semey where the testing was
carried out). Yet the Kazakh people have strong national resilience
and have moved forward step-by-step, led by Nursultan Nazarbayev, a
consumate leader in the right place at the right time to lead his people
while carefully balancing competing interests of Western investors and
the US government, Russian power and influence, Chinese economic and
population pressures, and fundamentalist Islamic forces in the south.
It's a tough neighborhood, and President Nazarbayev has done as good a
job as anyone could do.
From the dank and seedy basement bar of
the Otrar Hotel in Almaty to the grandiose presidential palace in
Astana; from the empty steppe space center in Baikonur to his visit to
the Aral seaport with no sea for 45 miles, Robbins does a terrific job
with humor of capturing this amazingly interesting land of the Kazakhs
and the people who live there as they build a new country. Having been
involved in Kazakhstan since 1993, I found Mr. Robbins did a fantastic
job capturing the heart and spirit of this fine people during an
unbelievably difficult period in their history.