Surprising Tales of World History
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because sometimes a bold move, a bold idea or even just a bold face can turn the tables in leadership.
The Nuclear Power That Wasn’t
Modern Kazakhstan’s legacy as an unwitting testing ground for the Soviet Union’s nuclear program factored heavily in the decision that newly installed President Nursultan Nazarbayev made to wash his hands of some 1,400 nuclear warheads — the fourth-largest arsenal in the world at the time — that were left in his country when the USSR collapsed in the early 1990s and to return them to Russia for safekeeping. Nazarbayev was a pragmatist. He calculated — correctly — that giving up the nuclear cache would score him major points with the West and could earn Kazakhstan a measure of status and support in the global community. Two decades later, Kazakhstan has emerged as the unquestioned leader of Central Asia, with an economy that has grown nearly tenfold and includes a booming energy sector. Read the story here.
The Improbable Life of Alberto Fujimori
And to the foibles and flight of Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori (yes, that’s his real name). Let’s be clear: Fujimori is no hero in this story — in fact, he’d be described in starkly different terms by most historians. For starters, here’s what you’d see on his ledger: war crimes, human rights abuses, murder allegations, exile, death squads. How on Earth does a guy of Japanese descent win an election in Peru? And with the slogan: “A president like you”? Bizarrely enough, by being ethnically Japanese. Though Fujimori is known (sometimes affectionately) as El Chino, his face may well have carried him all the way to the top. Read the story here.
From Whence Came the BJP
The man now running the world’s largest democracy comes from a bubbling cauldron of religious tensions and soap-operatic history. Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, is a right-leaning Hindu nationalist party. Three decades ago, the BJP could barely win two seats in the national parliament — the key decision-making body in India. Now, it’s ended the rival Congress Party’s nearly half-century of dominance in parliament. How’d that come to be? Read the story here.
The Enlightened Jihadist
Sayyid Qutb is widely regarded as al-Qaida’s biggest ideological influence, but he radicalized only after an American education. Here’s a look at how a devout but not particularly radical Muslim transformed into a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, a virulent opponent of the secular Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and a martyr for the ages. Read the story here.