Based on extensive original research, this book tells the astonishing story of early Soviet Abkhazia and of its leader, the charismatic Bolshevik revolutionary Nestor Lakoba. A tiny republic on the Black Sea coast of the USSR, Abkhazia became a vacation retreat for Party leaders and a major producer of tobacco. Nestor Lakoba became the unquestioned boss of Abkhazia, constructing a powerful local ethnic "machine" that became an influential component of Soviet patronage politics, provoking along the way accusations of nepotism, corruption, blood feuds, embezzlement, racketeering, and extrajudicial murder on a scale that shocked even hardened Communist Party investigators. Lakoba and his group faced a series of trials, investigatory commissions, and tribunals over allegations of malfeasance, yet they were repeatedly able to convince their powerful patrons of their irreplaceability, until at last they were destroyed through a public show trial during the peak of the Stalinist Terror. Through the prism of tiny Abkhazia, this book provides invaluable insights into the nature of the early Soviet system and the governance of Soviet national republics.

chapter 1|15 pages


chapter 4|37 pages

The “Rif Revolt”

chapter 6|20 pages

The Mirzabekyan Commission – 1928–1929

chapter 7|37 pages

The Deluge – 1929–1930

chapter 8|22 pages

The changing circumstances of the 1930s

chapter 9|17 pages

Lakoba’s final trial

chapter 10|19 pages

Identity, contestation, and memory