Kazakh Conundrum
Karim Massimov: spy chief, former prime minister, collector of rare books

Kazakh Conundrum

Bradley Hope

What will become of the letters of Napoleon Bonaparte?

In 2012, then-Prime Minister Karim Massimov reportedly spent nearly €100,000 on original letters written by Napoleon. The Kazakh "Renaissance Man" was also a collector of antiquarian books, such as a 1907 edition of Chinese Diaries and the 1886 edition of A Guide for the Traveling Explorer, as well as rare prayer manuscripts from the Ottoman empire.

The signature piece was a letter written in Napoleon's hand on February 21, 1793 in Corsica to Marshal Pierre-Paul Colonna – his first-known "War Letter." Back then, Napoleon was a mere lieutenant colonel commanding a group of volunteers. In the letter, he asked directions for his defeated soldiers. The letter cost Karim more than €80,000.

Nowadays, Karim would be writing his own humbled letters to friends abroad if only he had access to a pen. He was arrested on charges of treason on January 8th after the unprecedented turmoil in Kazakhstan just after New Year's Day last month. The statement announcing his arrest came from the same spy agency he'd led

His sudden arrest is part of a puzzling conundrum in Kazakhstan: what's actually going on over there? How did a student of history's great schemes and manipulations get out played by the rogues and tycoons who run the place? What does it mean for the great treasures of Kazakhstan and how they are divided among the oligopoly?

Below, we will lay out a few of the theories about what's going on from people we've talked to. They are contradictory; some contain puzzles within puzzles within puzzles. With all its twists and turns, Christopher Nolan could make the sequel to Inception about politics in Kazakhstan.

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