1st Edition

Clientelism and Nationality in an Early Soviet Fiefdom The Trials of Nestor Lakoba

By Timothy Blauvelt Copyright 2021
    264 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    264 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    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.

    1. Introduction 2. “Kiaraz” and the Formation of an Early Soviet Leadership Cohort 3. Consolidating Leadership in Soviet Abkhazia 4. The “Rif Revolt” 5. Patronage, Nationality, and Tsebelda Tobacco 6. The Mirzabekyan Commission, 1928-1929 7. The Deluge, 1929-1930 8. The 1930s and Changing Circumstances 9. Lakoba’s Last Trial 10. Conclusion


    Timothy K. Blauvelt is Professor of Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies at Ilia State University in Tbilisi, Georgia, and is also Regional Director for the South Caucasus for American Councils for International Education. He has published numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, and is the co-editor (with Jeremy Smith) of Georgia after Stalin: Nationalism and Soviet power published by Routledge in 2016, and (with Adrian Brisku) of The Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic of 1918: Federal Aspirations, Geopolitics and National Projects, forthcoming from Routledge in 2021.

    Awarded an Honorable Mention in the Ab Imperio Awards 2021 for the best study in new imperial history and history of diversity in northern Eurasia up to the late twentieth century

    'The achievement in this extraordinary book is the telling of an important story that has been obscured or avoided in earlier historical accounts. Blauvelt has recovered a lost history and written a new narrative against existing narratives, particularly nationalistic ones, that integrates the Abkhaz story into the broader Georgian, Caucasian, and Soviet stories. What looks like a micro-history of a small republic becomes here a deep dive into Soviet nationality policy and the fate of non-Russian peoples in the USSR that gives us greater immediacy and intimacy than we have had before. The Abkhazia case demonstrates how ethnicity was used to consolidate local control and build a patronage network so that a small people might survive in the fierce competition with stronger neighbors.' - Ron Suny, University of Michigan

    'Overall, Clientelism and Nationality is a worthy step towards the further demystificationof how nationality and nations were constructed in the early Soviet period in the Soviet periphery.' - Bryan Gigantino, European History Quarterly

    'Timothy Blauvelt’s Clientelism and Nationality in an Early Soviet Fiefdom: The Trials of Nestor Lakoba is a remarkable contribution to several fields, including Russian, Soviet, and Caucasus Studies. His research is based on primary sources and his insightful analysis creates a work that sheds light on an overlooked aspect of early Soviet history, contributing to our understanding of the early Soviet system and the challenges faced by those navigating its complex web of power.- - Naira Sahakyan, Caucasus Survey

    'Blauvelt’s meticulously researched book makes vital contributions to our understanding of Soviet nationalities policy by highlighting how it interacted with clientelism to affect the exercise of power at the local level. . . .Clientelism and Nationality in an Early Soviet Fiefdom should be essential reading for anyone interested in Soviet nationalities policy, the ruling elite and mechanics of power in the early Soviet era, and the history of the Caucasus.' - Ian Lanzillotti, Ab Imperio

    'Beyond the pale.' - B. George Hewitt, Slavonic and East European Review