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.