Kazakhstan is a country three-quarters the size of western Europe, with oil reserves second only to those in Russia and the Persian Gulf, but the Western scholar who knows the country best doubts its chances. Olcott is far from writing it off, but she fears that an increasingly imperious and venal leadership has set the wrong course. Not daring to deal with the country's deep ethnic divides, its weak sense of identity, and its growing socioeconomic inequalities by giving society a political stake, the president and his cohort have essentially appropriated the state and much of the economy. They have done so, Olcott adds, not merely for selfish reasons but with the mistaken notion that stability can best be preserved that way. Her account of what has happened to independent Kazakhstan in its first ten years not only shares the lucid insights and depth of a seasoned observer, it also greatly enriches the literature on post-Soviet transitions.