One of the 21 autonomous republics of Russia, on the west coast of the Caspian Sea, extending south into the Caucasus Mountains, where it borders Azerbaijan and Georgia. On the west it borders Chechnya, and on the north it borders the autonomous republic of Kalmykia. The area is about 50 000 km2 and the population about two million.

The capital is Makhachkala, which between 1857 and 1922 was called Petrovsk-Port.

Daghestan (sometimes spelt Dagestan) is home to many different ethnic groups, many speaking North-East Caucasian languages, and others being Turkic, Iranian, and Russian. The name comes from the Turkic dagh meaning mountain.

Daghestan was a Persian province before taken by Russia in 1813. There was continued resistance throughout the nineteenth century. Before the Soviet era there was a North Caucasian Emirate in the area. It became an ASSR in 1920. The president of Daghestan has been Magomedali Magomedov since 1987.

The flag in the Soviet area was one of the dull variations on the hammer and sickle, with the letters DASSR on it; in 1954 a blue stripe was added at the hoist. The post-USSR flag is a horizontal tricolor of green, light blue, and red. Between 1993 and 1994 an alternative design was in use, with unequal horizontal stripes of yellow, light blue, yellow, and light blue.

Dagestan is made up of over 19 ethnic groups that all pretty much hate each other. Only the mountainous terrain, combined with the corrupt but indolent ex-communist leadership keep violence here from getting any worse than it is.

Dagestan is a major trans-shipment point for arms entering Chechnya and is also used as a base for many of the Islamic Terrorist/Rebel groups fighting in nearby areas.

Below is a list of players and their interactions:

Avars: population 524,000
Dargins: population 314,000
Kumyks: population 249,000
Lezgins: population 231,000
Laks: population 98,000
Tabasarans: population 94,000
Russians: population 85,000
Azeris: population 84,000
Chechens: population 62,000
Nogai: population 32,000
Rutuls: population 19,000
Aguls: population 18,000
Tats: population 11,000
Ukrainians: population 9,000
Tsakhurs: population 7,000
Tatars: population 6,000
Osetians: population 2,000
Jews: population unknown, but probably under 2000

The Laks and Chechens don't get along. In 1944, the Soviet Union forced the deportation of all the Chechens living in the Auskhovsky district, and forced 15,000 Laks to move in. They came from their remote mountain towns to find the Chechen villages intact, and moved right in. The Chechens now want to move back into this area and friction is inevitable. Blame the Russians for this one.

The Laks and Kumyks are having problems as a direct result of a proposed solution to the Lak-Chechen problem. In 1992, some of the land used by the Kumyks was allocated to the Laks, so they could make way for the returning Chechens. The Laks tended to take more land than the Kumyks could stomach for their farming and irrigation projects, and there were some armed clashes. So far this hasn't widened because few Laks are actually leaving to resettle in the Kumyk areas. Yet.

The Russians and Avars have hated each other for a long time. The Cossacks are opposed to any loosening of ties with Mother Russia and have threatened to transfer any land they own to Russian control. They have formed an unofficial Army, and are petitioning the Russian Government for recognition as a Military Caste. Avars make up the largest ethnic group in Dagestan and are antagonized by this continual irritation from a shrinking minority. Not to mention what happens when Chechens and Russians run into each other in any large numbers.

The Lezgins and Azeris are bumping skulls not because of any problems within Dagestan, but due to the fact that their ethnic groups cross between the borders of this country and Azerbaijan. The Lezgins accuse Azerbaijan of suppressing their language and culture on that side of the border, and Russia has even been accused of using the issue as leverage against Azeris when negotiating on other problems. It's not as bad as some of the other problems in the area, but it's something to watch.

Chechens have been using Dagestan's loose borders, and the general chaos in Central Asia, to launch many of their attacks against Russian forces within Chechnya. This obviously has a destabilizing effect on the local neighborhood, and has resulted in Russian army incursions into Dagestan in order to squash this resistance. Much of the refugee population of Chechnya ended up in Dagestan and is being recruited in the war against the Slavs. The strain of caring for all these people, and the complications attributed to the fighting, have left much of western Dagestan in tatters.

Another charming vacation spot.

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