This chapter lays out the framing concepts of informality and networks in the early Soviet periphery, the ways in which the Bolsheviks’ institutionalization of authority and implementation of nationality policy led to a kind of local “capture”: in order to create viable local “titular” ethnic elites in the national territories, they had to make a choice on whom to coopt for this role; since the success of the center depended on the performance of the chosen local client group, this gave the local elites leverage over the center. The chapter also gives a brief overview of the biography of the central figure in the book, N.A. Lakoba, the “boss” of Soviet Abkhazia during the 1920s-1930s, and a background of Abkhazia as the “Soviet Riviera.” The chapter frames the central question of the book: what was the role of clientelism and Soviet nationality policy in allowing Lakoba and his group to maintain power for such a long period.