Michael Griffin at Literary Review:
Who are the real Kazakhs? Even by the end of Joanna Lillis’s wide-ranging survey of Central Asia’s wealthiest dictatorship, it’s hard to tell. The livestock-breeding culture of the Kazakh Khanate, a successor to the Mongol Golden Horde, was driven into the ground after its annexation by Russia in the mid-19th century as a result of successive waves of immigration and the Soviet policy of bringing its sprawling herds under state control.
Among the first to arrive, following the abolition of serfdom in 1861, were 400,000 Russian peasants. They were followed by nearly two and a half million farmers from Ukraine and central Russia and then a tragic procession of Chechens, Crimean Tatars, Germans, Turks and Poles, forcibly relocated for suspected disloyalty to Stalin. An 85-year-old Tatar, originally from Crimea, recalled, ‘My mother ran up to me and said: “You may be taken to dark places.” … So she gave me two light bulbs.’