Learn more about Dagestan
| Ranked 55th |
- 50,300 km²
| Ranked 22nd|
- est. 2,576,531 (2002)
|Federal district||Southern Federal District|
|Economic Region||North Caucasus|
|Official language||Russian, languages of the peoples of Dagestan|
|President||Mukhu Gimbatovich Aliyev|
|Chairman of the Government||Atay Bashirovich Aliyev|
|Anthem||National Anthem of Dagestan|
The word Daghestan or Daghstan means "country of mountains", it is derived from the Turkic word "dağ" meaning mountain and Persian suffix meaning "land of". The spelling Dagestan is a transliteration of the Russian name and is rather modern.
The republic is situated in the North Caucasus mountains. It is the southernmost part of Russia.
- Area: 50,300 km².
- Highest point: Bazardyuzi Mountain (4,466 m).
- Maximum N->S distance: 400 km.
- Maximum E->W distance: 200 km.
- Average elevation: no data
 Time zone
There are over 1,800 rivers in the republic. Major rivers include:
Dagestan has about 400 km of coast line on the Caspian Sea.
Most of the Republic is mountainous, with the Greater Caucasus Mountains covering the south. The highest point is the Bazardyuzi peak at 4,466 m.
 Natural resources
The climate is hot and dry in the summer but the winters are hard in the mountain areas.
- Average January temperature: +2°C
- Average July temperature: +30°C
- Average annual precipitation: 200 (northern plains) to 800 mm (in the mountains).
 Administrative divisions
- Main article: Administrative divisions of Dagestan
Because its mountainous terrain impedes travel and communication, Dagestan is unusually ethnically diverse, and still largely tribal. Unlike most other parts of Russia, the population of Dagestan is rapidly growing, mostly because of migration.
- Population: 2,576,531 (2002)
- Urban: 1,102,577 (42.8%)
- Rural: 1,473,954 (57.2%)
- Male: 1,242,437 (48.2%)
- Female: 1,334,094 (51.8%)
- Females per 1000 males: 1,074
- Average age: 25.2 years
- Urban: 25.1 years
- Rural: 25.2 years
- Male: 24.0 years
- Female: 26.3 years
- Number of households: 570,036 (with 2,559,499 people)
- Urban: 239,338 (with 1,088,814 people)
- Rural: 330,698 (with 1,470,685 people)
Birth Rate : 15.98 (2004), 14.94 (2005).
 Ethnic groups
The people of Dagestan include over a dozen sizeable groups. According to the 2002 Census, the prevailing nationalities in Dagestan were:
- Avars—29.4% (758,438)
- Dargins—16.5% (425,526)
- Kumyks—14.2% (365,804)
- Lezgins—13.1% (336,698)
- Laks—5.4% (139,732)
- Russians—4.7% (120,875)
- Azeris—4.3% (111,656)
- Tabasarans—4.3% (110,152)
- Chechens—3.4% (87,867)
- Nogays—1.5% (38,168)
- Rutuls—0.9% (24,298)
- Aguls—0.9% (23,314)
Other ethnic groups each account for less than 0.5% of the total population.
There are also tiny groups like the Balkars (who mostly live in Kabardino-Balkaria), or the Ginukh, numbering 200, members of a complex family of indigenous Caucasians — some 40 groups, including other little-known peoples such as the Akhwakh. Notable are also Lak people who immigrated after a Soviet population transfer, and the Hunzib or Khunzal people who live in only four towns in the interior.
The lingua franca in Dagestan is Russian. Over thirty local languages are also commonly spoken.
The oldest records about the region refer to the state of Caucasian Albania in the south, with its capital at Derbent and other important centres at Chola, Toprakh Qala, and Urtseki. The northern parts were held by a confederation of pagan tribes. In the first centuries A.D., Caucasian Albania continued to rule over what is present day Azerbaijan and the area occupied by the present day Lezghians. It was fought over in classical times by Rome and the Persian Sassanids and was early converted to Christianity.
In the 5th century A.D. the Sassanids gained the upper hand and constructed a strong citadel at Derbent, known henceforward as the Caspian Gates, while the northern part of Dagestan was overrun by the Huns, followed by the Eurasian Avars. It is not clear whether the latter were instrumental in the rise of the Christian kingdom in Central Dagestan highlands. Known as Sarir, this Avar-dominated state maintained a precarious existence in the shadow of Khazaria and the Caliphate until the 9th century, when it managed to assert its supremacy in the region.
In 664 the Persians were succeeded in Derbent by the Arabs who clashed with the Khazars over control of Dagestan. Although the local population rose against the Arabs of Derbent in 905 and 913, Islam was eventually adopted in urban centres, such as Samandar and Kubachi (Zerechgeran), from where it steadily penetrated into the highlands. By the 15th century, Albanian Christianity had died away, leaving a 10th-century church at Datuna as the sole monument to its existence.
Due to Muslim pressure and internal disunity, Sarir disintegrated in the early 12th century, giving way to the Khanate of Avaristan, a long-lived Muslim state which relied on the alliance with the Golden Horde and braved the devastating Mongol invasions of 1222 and 1239, followed by Tamerlane's raid in 1389.
As the Mongol authority gradually eroded, new centres of power emerged in Kaitagi and Tarki. In the 16th and 17th centuries, legal traditions were codified, mountainous communities (djamaats) obtained a considerable degree of autonomy, while the Kumyk potentates (shamkhals) asked for the Tsar's protection. Russians intensified their hold in the region in the 18th century, when Peter the Great annexed maritime Dagestan in the course of the First Russo-Persian War. Although the territories were returned to Persia in 1735, the next bout of hostilities resulted in the Russian capture of Derbent in 1796.The 18th century also saw the resurgence of the Khanate of Avaristan, which managed to repulse the attacks of Nadir Shah of Persia and impose tribute on Shirvan and Georgia. In 1803 the khanate voluntarily submitted to Russian authority, but it took Persia a decade to recognize all of Dagestan as the Russian possession (Treaty of Gulistan).
Yet the Russian administration disappointed and embittered the highlanders. The institution of heavy taxation, coupled with the expropriation of estates and the construction of fortresses (including Makhachkala), electrified highlanders into rising under the aegis of the radical Muslim Imamate of Dagestan, led by Ghazi Mohammed (1828-32), Gamzat-bek (1832-34) and Shamil (1834-59). This Caucasian War raged until 1864, when Shamil was captured and the Khanate of Avaristan was abolished.
Dagestan and Chechnya profited from the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-1878 to rise against Imperial Russia for the last time. The Soviets afforded more autonomy to the region and, after more than three years of fighting White movement reactionaries and local nationalists, the Dagestan ASSR was proclaimed on 20 January, 1921. Nevertheless, Stalin's industrialization largely bypassed Dagestan and the economy stagnated, making the republic the poorest region in Russia.
In 1999, a group of Muslim fundamentalists from Chechnya under Shamil Basayev, together with local converts and exiles from the 1998 uprising attempt, staged an abortive insurrection in Dagestan in which at least hundreds combatants and civilians died. This helped prompt the Russian decision to invade Chechnya later that year.
 Dagestani conflict
Since 2000, Dagestan has been place of a low-level guerilla war, bleeding over from Chechnya; the fighting has claimed the lives of hundreds of federal servicemen and officials – mostly members of local police forces – as well as many Dagestani national rebels and civilians.
More recently, among other incidents:
- In early 2005, the government forces surrounded a group of five rebels in a two-story house on the outskirts of Makhachkala. For 17 hours, the rebels battled authorities, killing one of Russia's elite Alpha Group commandos and wounding another, until armored vehicles and a helicopter blew apart most of the house and a neighbouring one, killing all of them. It was later found that the rebels were only armed with pistols and had still managed to give such a tough fight.
- In the weeks preceding the battle, insurgents had derailed two trains, sabotaged gas supplies and shot dead a high-ranking intelligence officer from Moscow, as well as a local police chief. A month later, Major General Magomed Omarov, the deputy interior minister, was assassinated in Makhachkala.
- On July 1, 2005, eleven Russian MVD OSNAZ troops were killed and seven wounded in the capital when their trucks were bombed.
- On August 20, 2005, a remote-controlled bomb killed at least three police officers and wounded several more on a downtown street in the Dagestani capital. The bomb detonated as a foot patrol walked past a grove of trees in Makhachkala.
- In January 2006, at least three OMON and spetznaz servicemen died and more than ten were wounded in a 3-day battle on a mountain near Avary between some 3,000 Russian troops led by the republic's Interior Minister and a group of estimated eight armed rebels. Despite heavy artillery and aerial bombardment the fighters managaged to flee the encirclement, leaving behind an abandonened dugout.
- On March 22, 2006, a group of assailants fatally shot the chief administrator of the Botlikh district of Dagestan during a fierce gunbattle in Makhachkala.
- On August 27, 2006, three police officers and four suspected militants were killed during a two-hour gun fight in Makhachkala.
According to the Constitution of Dagestan, the highest executive authority lies with the State Council, comprising representatives of fourteen ethnicities. The members of the State Council are appointed by the Constitutional Assembly of Dagestan for a term of four years. The State Council appoints the members of the Government. The State Council is headed by the Chairman of the State Council.
The Chairman of the State Council was the highest executive post in the republic, held by Magomedali Magomedovich Magomedov until 2006. On February 20, 2006, the People's Assembly passed a resolution terminating this post and disbanding the State Council. Russian President Vladimir Putin offered the People's Assembly the candidature of Mukhu Aliyev for the newly established post of the President of Dagestan. The nomination was accepted by the People's Assembly, and Mukhu Aliyev became the first President of Dagestan.
As of 2000, the economy of Dagestan was broken down as follows:
- Industry: 24%
- Agriculture: 35%
- Construction: 26%
- Transport and communications: 5%
- Trade and services: 9%
- Other: 1%
Important industries include food processing, power generation, oil drilling, machine building, chemicals, and instrument making. Dagestan's major exports are oil and fuel. Important agricultural products include fish from the Caspian Sea, wine and brandy, and various garden fruits.
Dagestan continues to be the least urbanized republic in the Caucasus.
Most of Dagestan's population is Muslim - 90.4%, Christians make up only 9.6%. As with much of the Caucasus region, Dagestan's native Islam consists of Sufi orders that have been in place for centuries. In recent years there has been tension and even violence between local Sufi orders and Wahabbi missionaries who have come to the region seeking converts.
 See also
 External links
- (Russian) Official governmental website of Dagestan
- (Russian) Official Website of the Chairman of the State Council of Dagestan
- BBC Country Report on Dagestan
- University of Texas maps of the Dagestan region
- Radio Free Europe discusses religious tension in Dagestan
- ISN Case Study: The North Caucasus on the Brink
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