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Most people associate Kazakhstan with the character Sacha Baron Cohen popularized in the 2006 film Borat , but Robbins's (The Empress of Ireland ) delightful and masterful travelog reveals that it is in fact a country rich in history, natural beauty, and, perhaps most important, tolerance. On a flight to Moscow, Robbins chances upon a man from Arkansas en route to Kazakhstan to meet his future bride. Intrigued by the man's assertion that apples originated in Kazakhstan, Robbins sets off to see if this is indeed the case. Once there, not only does he discover that it is, but he also learns that Kazakhstan is a country of wild tulips, oil, minerals, 46 principal religions, and a seemingly equal number of ethnic groups. But the picture is not all rosy. Robbins writes about the gulags, the ecological disaster of the Aral Sea, and the scorched earth of nuclear test sites under Soviet rule. Despite these discoveries, however, he manages to make this an overall hopeful book by combining grave topics with less grave ones and adding a good dose of wit. This book will do for Kazakhstan what John Gimlette's At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig did for Paraguay. Highly recommended for all libraries.-Lee Arnold, Historical Soc. of Pennsylvania, PhiladelphiaCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.