The 21st Century Phenomenon



* DAGESTAN, which translates as “land of the mountains”, is the biggest Autonomy in the Russian Caucasus. DAGESTAN stretches on 50,300 km from the Caspian Sea in the East to Chechnya in the West and from the grassland of Southern Russia in the North to Azerbaijan and Georgia in the South. The south of DAGESTAN is very mountainous. Makhachkala, a port town, with about 500,000 inhabitants, on the Caspian Sea is the capital of DAGESTAN.

DAGESTAN has a population of over 2.7 millions, 97% of them Sunni Muslims. The population is a mosaic of many ethnic groups from Turkish, Iranian and Mongol descent. The largest group in DAGESTAN, about 22% of the population, is Avars from Mongol descent. DAGESTAN was declared as autonomy within the Soviet Union in 1921.

DAGESTAN, as its neighbor Azerbaijan in the South, is rich in oil, natural gas, coal and many other minerals.  During the 19th century DAGESTAN witnessed several uprisings against the Russians, which was typical to Muslim nations of the Caucasus.  

In late 1997, Bagauddin Magomedov, an ethnic Avar leader of the radical wing of the DAGESTANi Wahhabism, fled with his entourage to the de-facto independent Chechnya. There he had established close ties with Arab-born Amir Khattab and leaders of Chechnya’s Wahhabi community during the war. In early 1998, Bagauddin Magomedov initiated the relocation of several hundred DAGESTANi Wahhabis and their families, who were the targets of repression in their native land, to Gudermes, about 50 km East of Grozny, Chechnya’s capital. In 03/1998, these DAGESTANis, together with their Chechen co-religionists, started preparations to invade DAGESTAN.

In 08/1999, a group of radical Muslims from Chechnya under the command of Shamil Basayev and Amir Khattab, together with local exiles from the 1998 uprising attempt, staged an abortive insurrection into DAGESTAN in which hundreds of combatants and civilians were killed.. Russian forces subsequently reinvaded Chechnya later in 1999 in what became known – The Second Chechen War. DAGESTAN suffered from the war in Chechnya, which spilled over to DAGESTAN, that became a secondary arena of the war in neighbor Chechnya (see – DAGESTAN WAR ).


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