Republic of Dagestan
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
The principal city of Dagestan
is Makhachkala, which also serves as the capital,
with a population of 466,800.
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
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