The Russian Republic of Dagestan is situated in the Northern Caucasus region. withChechnya and Georgia to the west, Azerbaijan to the south and Caspian Sea to the east. One-fifth of the population of Dagestan consists of the Avars who form the largest ethnic group in the country. Apart from Avars, a substantial part of the population consists of ethnic groups such as Dargins, Kumyks and Lezgins. About 10 per cent of the population consists of ethnic Russians. Dagestan is rich in oil and gas reserves and the Republic has also got fisheries offered by a share in the resources of the Caspian Sea. In the early 1920s when the Bolsheviks tried to control the Republic, Dagestan became an autonomous Soviet Republic within the Russian Federation. But even after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Republic’s authorities have been
regarded as loyal by the Kremlin.
The Republic is also prey to organised crime and regional instability. In the 1990s the warlords from Chechnya openly led arms operations in Dagestan on several occasions. In 1995 and 1996 these Chechen warlords held thousands of hostages in hospitals in the towns of Budennovsk and Kizlyar. Ninety per cent of the population of the country is Muslim for whom Sufism combined with local tradition is the main faith, and they are very much averse to conflicts that happened due to the Chechen rebels and warlords. The Republic went through numerous bombings targeted at the Russian military with its forces stationed at Kaspiysk, Buynaksk and Budennovsk. Russian forces have since been the target of numerous smaller scale attacks, for example at least 10 died in a bomb blast in the capital, Makhachkala, in July 2005; a leading journalist was killed in 2008; and in 2009 a senior police investigator and the Republic’s Interior Minister were shot dead. Russia accused Magomedali Vagabov, a Dagetsani militant, of being behind the attack on the Moscow metro by two female suicide bombers in March 2010, in which 39 people were killed.