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autonomous republic within the Russian Federation
Dagestan is bordered by the Caspian Sea on the east, the republics of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Chechnya to the south and west, and the provinces of Stavropol and Kalmykia to the west and north.
Dagestan is the largest republic in the Caucasus, with an area of 19,421 square miles (50,300 square kilometers).
Although its name means "land of the mountains," Dagestan actually has three distinct geographic zones. The high Caucasus mountain ranges in the south give way to high, flat steppe land in the north, with narrow coastal lowlands along the Caspian Sea.
As of the 2002 census, Dagestan had a population of 2,584,200. The majority of Dagestanis (57%) live in rural areas.
Dagestan is the most ethnically diverse of all Russian provinces, with more than 110 nationalities living within its borders. Chief among them are: Avar (26%), Dargin (16%), Kumyk (13%), Lezgi (11%), Russian (9%), and Lak (5%). With all those nationalities, it is no surprise than more than 30 languages are spoken in Dagestan, with Avar and Russian being predominant. The majority of Dagestanis are Muslims.
The principal city of Dagestan is Makhachkala, which also serves as the capital, with a population of 466,800.
Dagestan is governed as a semi-autonomous region of Russia. Although all matters pertaining to national security, foreign affairs, and relations between the various Russian provinces are the responsibility of the Russian national government, the government of Dagestan has almost completely independent control over affairs within its borders (much like a state of the United States). Its President is elected by the Dagestan Parliament, with the approval of Moscow, and acts as Dagestan's chief of state and official leader. Day-to-day governmental affairs are overseen by a Prime Minister.
Agriculture is the principal industry of Dagestan, with the growing of grains, vegetables, and fruits, winemaking, and the raising of sheep and catle being the chief occupations. Aside from the generation of hydroelectric power, the only other major industries in Dagestan center on hand-made carpets and textiles, for which Dagestan is world-renowned. The capital city is home to some oil and gas refineries, chemical factories, and manufacturing facilities. Although Dagestan does have considerable oil and gas reserves, they remain unexploited due to inaccessibility.
Persia ceded the Muslim khanates of the Caucasus region to Russia in 1723, but the region remained fairly independent of direct Russian rule for over a century. In the 19th century, however, the Russian Czar began asserting his authority over more and more territory. Beginning about 1828, Imam Shamil led the tribesmen of Chechnya and Dagestan in a resistance movement against the Russian Empire. The resistance held off the Empire until 1859, but it was finally crushed and Dagestan came under Russian rule.
The Dagestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was created on January 20, 1920. With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Dagestan became an autonomous republic within the Russian Federation.
This page was last updated on April 08, 2017.