Michael's Reviews > Apples Are from Kazakhstan: The Land That Disappeared

Apples Are from Kazakhstan by Christopher Robbins
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's review
Aug 03, 2008

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Read in November, 2008

One of the blurbs describes this as a "travelogue" but it is a book about the author's investigations into modern Kazakhstan after he became interested in the country. It includes both his own first person descriptions of his experiences as a visitor, including quite a few meetings with the president of the country, but also sidebars on different aspects of the history of Kazakhstan.

The title as used in the U.S. gives the impression this might be one of those "fun" travel books, but although there are some amusing anecdotes, mostly this is a serious book.

At the end, he relates a conversation over a long lunch with a friend who complains that his book will be too negative, too much about the problems of the Aral Sea, of the Gulag in Kazakhstan, and so on, and not enough about the good things in Kazakhstan. I tend to think this is a fair criticism of the book as it turned out. It also spent too much time on Russians whose lives intersected with Kazakhstan but who are hardly central to the history of the country, such as Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn.

Certainly anyone with an interest in Kazakhstan should read this. You get a strong sense of what distinguishes Kazakhstan from its neighbors, particularly Russia, and how it has developed since the fall of the Soviet Union. Whether anyone who isn't particularly interested in Kazakhstan would find it interesting is hard for me to judge.

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