Dagestan: the most multinational republic of Russia

Main facts:

  • Administrative center: Makhachkala

  • Federal District: Caucasus region

  • Language(s): Russian, local (more than 12)

  • Population: 3,063,000

  • Timezone: UTC+3

  • Main religion: Islam (96%)

Top 10 attractions:

Sights map of Dagestan Republic

Travel around Dagestan Republic

The Republic of Dagestan is a place unfamiliar to most Russian and foreign tourists. Most worry about the safety, confrontation and misunderstanding with a completely different culture (language, religion, mores, etc.), lack of transport accessibility and high-quality infrastructure. Partly, these fears are justified, but most of them are incorrect. Dagestan is one of the safest republics in Russia; in terms of the number of small and medium crimes, it occupies one of the last places among the regions. Here are very hospitable people who speak Russian perfectly, many interesting sights and national traits, for which it is worth to come here. The history of Dagestan goes back hundreds of years, and the ability of local folks (and there are more than 15 of them!) to get along with each other and negotiate with neighbors from generation to generation inspires and respect. For the most part, the inhabitants of Dagestan profess Islam, and this imposes certain restrictions on the look of foreign cultures, for example, in terms of open clothing, drinking and cursing. In Dagestan, the tourist infrastructure is really poorly organized, also as the transport communication, poorly Internet access and the scarcity of information about this land create difficulties for potential tourists. Nevertheless, this should not be attributed to the unwillingness of local residents to receive guests (quite the opposite), the lack of infrastructure at all (also wrong), or even the absence of beautiful sights, which "would have been mantioned" long ago. In Dagestan, there are many beautiful places, historical monuments, fascinating culture and nature; but I have to admit that to attract tourists there is still much to be done.

The territory of the Caucasus has long been inhabited by various nations. Rocky terrain and harsh living conditions put most of the people on the brink of survival, and therefore the struggle for a piece of arable land or a territory suitable for life often turned into bloodshed and blood feud. Geography here influenced ethnos so much that in ancient times several dozens of different nations lived in the territory of the South Caucasus, who spoke very different languages ​​and (which was especially surprising) often did not even know about each other. For the small peoples of the Caucasus, the only way to survive in these harsh lands, where there is little suitable place for agriculture and cattle breeding, is peace treaties with neighbors. Nevertheless, the general small number of peoples became their Achilles heel, and as a result, by the 10th century AD almost all the peoples of modern Dagestan were ruled by the Persian shahs. At the same time, the ancient fortress-city Derbent was founded, where the majestic walls and Naryn-Kala fortress have been preserved to this day.

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At the beginning of the 13th century, Tatar-Mongol troops invaded these lands, who, thanks to their great numbers and excellent armament, captured the entire territory of Dagestan and moved further north and west. Their rule ended in the 14th century, when Khan Tamerlane, who had invaded from the south, defeated the remnants of the Tatar-Mongols and the peoples of Dagestan allied with them. As a result, the standard of living of the local peoples, which had improved thanks to trade with their neighbors, had once again rolled down. By the 15th century, Islam, which had come to these lands with invaders, had finally become stronger among the Dagestan peoples, who began to actively spread it throughout the Caucasus. The newly established agreements with neighboring nations were destroyed in the 16th century, when Russian troops of Tsar Fyodor Ivanovich entered Dagestan (already from the north). As a result, they were defeated, but so began the long confrontation of the Dagestan peoples with the Russian troops who wanted to strengthen themselves on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

It is important to understand: Dagestan has never been a single republic, and the common Dagestan people never existed. In these lands throughout the history there were many different nations who, through treaties, united into "shamkhals" and controlled their land plots. This is important because, to this day, more than 15 different nations have their own language, script, and traditions that differ from their neighbors in the territory of Dagestan. During the 16th and 17th centuries, several folks was sent messengers to the Russian emperors to accept them into the Russian Empire. In the two Russian-Persian wars that followed, Russian troops, together with the already allied "mountain" peoples, seized the lands of modern Azerbaijan and forced Persia to permanently abandon the territories of the Central and Eastern Caucasus. The Azerbaijani land was subsequently returned to the local khans, and the entire territory of Dagestan was under the control of Russia by the mid-19th century.

But religious and ethnic differences, as well as disputes over territorial control between the Russian and local authorities, soon led to open confrontation. In 1829, the Caucasian Imamate was proclaimed on the territory of modern Chechnya and Dagestan, who proclaimed Sharia law and declared war on the Russian invaders. Known in history as the "Caucasian War", it lasted 30 years and as a result ended in the defeat of the "mountain" peoples. Their national hero, Imam Shamil, was captured and later became one of the closest mountaineers to the court of the Russian emperors. Subsequently, on the territory of Dagestan, several more uprisings on religious grounds took place, but they were all severely suppressed.

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The history of the Caucasus folks is full of associations, which, unfortunately, do not last long. This happened after the October Revolution in Russia, when the Bolsheviks came to power. The Caucasian peoples almost immediately declared the creation of an independent Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus, which, after the withdrawal of the Turkish troops, became a full-fledged Islamic republic, living according to Sharia law. However, the two-year history of the republic ended as a result of the capture of the capital by general Denikin's troops. Immediately, those who disagreed with this situation revolted, and in the mountainous regions of Chechnya and Dagestan volunteer detachments began to gather and unite, wanted to dislodge the invaders from their lands. At some point, Uzun-Haji, who united all of them, proclaimed the creation of the North Caucasus Emirate, which was to replace the Mountain Republic and eventually take control of all the lands of the North Caucasus. However, the state based only on the leadership charisma, but not on the real unity of the nation, ceased to exist with the imminent death of the leader, and from 1921 a new republic appeared in the Soviet Union - the Dagestan ASSR.

Initially, Sharia courts along with the Soviet courts operated in Dagestan, but by the middle of the 20th century they were abolished completely. But the struggle for the freedom of the peoples of the Caucasus did not end, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a new attempt was made to seize power and sever territory from Russia. Thanks to the support of radical Wahhabis and Chechen militants, the territory of Dagestan and mountainous Chechnya passed into the hands of the armed Islamists, who declared their struggle against the Russian occupation. The Dagestan War and the Second Chechen War, which as a result put an end to radical militants in the Caucasus, led to the complete control of the territories by the Russian government, and since then only some radical militants have defied federal power and organized rare terrorist attacks. Today, the entire territory of Dagestan is safe, and the local population does not accept any attempt to challenge the power of Russia. However, recent history has not yet faded, and most Russian residents remember the difficult situation of the beginning of the 21st century in these places. This has largely formed a negative stereotype of danger in these places, bad people and a tense atmosphere. However, today the situation has changed, and the majority of the local population will be happy to receive any guests.

And now about why are there so few tourists in Dagestan. First of all, this is a real absence of a good hotel, excursion and transport infrastructure, as a result it is difficult to find a comfortable hotel, quickly get to the right place or find an excursion, most of the organization has to be done personally. Rather high poverty among the rural population does not allow them to restore rare historical monuments, advertise a landmark on the Internet or provide an adequate level of comfort. Plus, the majority of the local population as a whole are engaged in completely different things, adhere to traditional views and, in my opinion, have a little “stuck” in history. However, this is exactly what is called ethnic tourism! At least for the sake of this, it is worth coming to Dagestan and seeing how the local people live today - with the traditions and rules established centuries ago. For example, the ancient fortress-town of Derbent is a storehouse of history and national traits, the mountainous village of Kubachi in Dagestan is the center of folk craftsmanship in the North Caucasus, and the natural beauty that fills the entire republic has been repeatedly sung by Russians and local poets! Here are harsh mountains, huge canyons (The Sulak Canyon is bigger than the Grand Canyon in America!) and blue lakes, the highest sand dunes in Eurasia, steppes and hilly semi-deserts, where sometimes you will not find a single living creature.

Dagestan is a harsh and original, but certainly a great place to visit. It requires total dedication, willingness to take matters into their own hands and plan a journey from A to Z, but the pleasure of contemplating local beauty is felt a hundred times stronger. After all, this is abput you have achieved yourself! Dagestan is about overcoming your fears, getting to know Muslim culture and enjoying the nature of the Caucasus. For this it is worth coming here!

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