SUKHUM / AQW'A ― On 1 May 1893, Nestor Lakoba, a prominent Abkhazian political figure and revolutionary, was born into a peasant family in the village of Lykhny in the Gudauta region. Today, on the 130th anniversary of Lakoba's birth, AW looks back at the Civil War hero and champion of the freedom of the people of Abkhazia.
After completing school in 1905, Lakoba, overcoming numerous obstacles that the tsarist regime imposed on impoverished peasant children, managed to enter the Tiflis Theological School with the assistance of a village teacher and his connections. There, he received support from a charitable society dedicated to promoting literacy among Christians in the Caucasus.
Soviet state and party leader Mikhail Bgazhba writes that in 1910, the seventeen-year-old Lakoba enrolled in the Tiflis Theological Seminary.
According to Bgazhba, at that time, Lakoba's mentors still hoped to shape him into a submissive servant of the church and autocracy, but all their efforts proved fruitless.
"While studying at the seminary, young Nestor persisted in developing a revolutionary worldview. He sought and found any opportunity to do so," Bgazhba noted.
In his works dedicated to Lakoba, Bgazhba highlights that in early 1919, the Sukhum prison, filled with communists, was visited by the Menshevik executioner Valiko Djugeli. Speaking to Nestor Lakoba, he asked:
— What would you have done if I had fallen into your hands as a captive?
Lakoba calmly replied:
— We would have undoubtedly executed you!
The Menshevik authorities were forced to release Nestor. Lakoba and other communists. They feared the people's masses, who everywhere demanded the immediate release of their genuine protectors from prison.
Lakoba later said, "…The Mensheviks always felt uneasy, like they were on pins and needles, knowing they had no prospects and that sooner or later the working peasantry and workers would overthrow their power… The working peasantry and workers of Abkhazia remained loyal to the slogan of the October Revolution…".
Upon his release, Nestor Lakoba immediately immersed himself in underground revolutionary work with his characteristic energy, despite maintaining an outwardly "well-intentioned" lifestyle in the eyes of the Mensheviks. In April 1919, following the proposal of the Sukhum District Underground Bolshevik Conference, supported by the Caucasian Regional Committee of the RCP(b), he accepted the Ochamchira District Administration's offer to take the post of police commissioner in the Ochamchira District.
From a young age, Nestor Lakoba became involved in the socio-political transformations of the country: the events of 1905-1907, the February Revolution, and the October state coup in 1917, according to the scholar.
"By nature, as an Abkhaz, Lakoba was not a true communist and did not possess an in-depth knowledge of Marx's teachings or the theory of communism. The young Nestor was captivated by its humanistic ideas and socially just slogans: 'land to the peasants,' 'factories and plants to the workers,'" historian Igor Marykhuba shared in an interview.
Under the extreme socio-political conditions, with Abkhazia occupied by the Menshevik Georgian forces supported by German bayonets, Nestor Lakoba had to lead the national liberation struggle of the Abkhaz people and create the peasant army-militia "Kiaraz," the historian noted.
"For three years – from June 1918 to March 1921 – Abkhazia was drenched in blood. The people were under the yoke of the occupying forces of Menshevik Georgia. It was the 'Kiaraz' fighters, led by Nestor Lakoba, the Danton of the Abkhaz revolution, who saved the country during that time," said Igor Marykhuba.
Many historians concur that Stalin had already decided to physically eliminate Nestor Lakoba by early 1935.
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Lakoba's outstanding military merits in the fight for the victory of Soviet power were highly appreciated by the Soviet government. He was awarded the Order of the Red Banner.
In the evaluation of Lakoba presented to the USSR government and signed by the secretary of the Abkhaz Regional Committee of the Communist Party of Georgia, Sturua, it was stated:
"The entire history of the uprisings of the working people of Abkhazia and their revolutionary activities is inextricably linked to the name of Nestor Lakoba – their main leader and organiser. Comrade Lakoba has proven himself as a brave revolutionary and rightfully earned colossal popularity and love from the working population of Abkhazia..."
On February 17, 1922, following the election of the Central Executive Committee of the SSR Abkhazia by the First Congress of Soviets of Abkhazia, the Revolutionary Committee relinquished its authority. At this congress, Lakoba was unanimously elected as the Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of Abkhazia. At the same time, he was entrusted with leading the republic's highest economic body – the Economic Council.
Bgazhba writes that Lakoba perished as a result of the cunning actions of political adventurer Beria.
"A few months after Lakoba's death, he was falsely declared an 'enemy of the people.' Slanderous accusations also led to the demise of some other leading party and Soviet workers in Abkhazia, including the talented organiser, remarkable propagandist, and secretary of the Abkhaz Regional Committee of the Party Vladimir Ladaria, the outstanding Abkhaz writer who served for many years as the chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the Abkhaz ASSR, Samson Chanba, and others," Bgazhba wrote.
Historian Igor Marykhuba, in his work, described Nestor Lakoba as an outstanding national-state figure and socio-political figure in the history of 20th-century Abkhazia. His efforts were continued by Vladislav Ardzinba, the founder of modern Abkhaz statehood.
Marykhuba believes it can be confidently stated that in the 20th century, there were no more prominent leaders of the national liberation struggle of the Abkhaz people than Nestor Lakoba and Vladislav Ardzinba.