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Dagestan, Republic of
High-Ranked Militants Killed in Dagestan
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Mar. 10, 2004
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Dagestan Republic
The Republic of Dagestan is located in the eastern part of the North Caucasus on the northeastern slopes of the Caucasus Range and the southwestern Caspian Lowlands. It is the southernmost part of the Russian Federation. In size (50 300 km2) and population (2 120 100 as of 1999), the Republic of Dagestan is the largest Caucasian republic in the Russian Federation. The capital is Makhachkala. The Republic of Dagestan is multinational; Avars, Dargins, Lezgins, Kumyks, Laks, Russians, Nogais, Tabasarans, Aguls, Rutuls, and Tsakhurs are the main nationalities.

The republic extends nearly 400 km from north to south and an average of 200 km from west to east. It borders on Kalmykia in the north, Stavropol Territory in the northwest, the Chechen Republic in the west, Georgia along the Divide Range of the Greater Caucasus, and the Republic of Azerbaijan in the south. Eastern Dagestan has nearly 530 km of coastline on the Caspian Sea.

Dagestan's territory is divided into four parts: lowland, foothills, mountain, and high mountain. The lowland part consists of the Terek-Kuma, Terek-Sulak, and Primorye lowlands; the foothills consist of separate ranges stretching northwest and southeast divided by wide valleys and basins; the mountainous part of Dagestan is characterized by a combination of broad plateaus and narrow monoclinal ridges up to 2500 m high; and the high mountain region includes two mountain chains of the Greater Caucasus: the northern slopes of the Main (or Divide) Range and the Lateral Range. The highest point in Dagestan is Mt. Bazarduzu (4466 m) on the border with Azerbaijan.

The plains of Dagestan have a warm dry continental climate with little snow in winter and hot dry summers. The average January temperature ranges from -5°С in the north to +1 in the Caspian Lowlands near the Samur River delta, and the average July temperature is +25°С; annual precipitation is 200-400 mm. The vegetation period is 160-180 days.

Engineering and metalworking and the flavoring, light, and chemical industries are important economic sectors in the republic. Dagestan also has five hydroelectric power plants on the Sulak River.

The main industrial centers are the cities of Makhachkala, Derbent, Kaspiysk, Izberbash, Khasavyurt, Kizlyar, Kizilyurt, and Buinaksk. Wood carving and carpet weaving are the national crafts. Agriculture comprises grain and vegetable cultivation, fruit- and winegrowing, sheep farming, and beef and dairy cattle farming.

The republic has all the conditions for developing tourism. There are resorts at Talgi, Kayakent, and Manas.


According to historical information, humans were living in the territory of present-day Dagestan as far back as the Paleolithic Age. The most ancient archeological sites date to the Acheulian Period. Tribes of Legs, Gels, and Udis that lived in what is now Dagestan in the first millennium B.C. are among the earliest ancestors of the Dagestani people. At the end of the first millennium, this territory and all the tribes inhabiting it were part of Caucasian Albania. However, as the old era ended, Albania was dragged into long punishing wars between the Romans and Parthians, who were vying with one another for possession of lands in Asia Minor and the Caucasus. The Sassanid Persians seized Dagestan in the 3rd century A.D., and the Huns invaded the northern plains in the 4th century.

The states of Derbent, Lakz, Tabasaran, Serir, Zrikhgeran, Kaitag, and Gumik, began forming in the early 5th century. Later, in the 6th century, a Hunnish kingdom arose on the plains north of the Sulak River and on a narrow strip along the river to the south. The kingdom included the cities of Varachan, Chungars, and Semender, whose populations consisted of both local inhabitants and Huns.

The Khazar kingdom, which included the northern plains region of Dagestan, arose in the mid-7th century while Arab invasions that continued for centuries were going on in the south. Dagestan was transformed into a political battlefield between Khazars and Arabs, but at the same time it was influenced by their cultures. It was not until the early 9th century that the Arab invasions ended and the Khazars withdrew.

A number of feudal states arose in the period between the 13th and 15th centuries. Tatar-Mongol forces invaded Dagestan in the 13th century, and forces under the leadership of Uzbek, Tokhtamysh and Tamerlane [also known as Timur] invaded in the 14th century. During this time, the process of Islamization intensified among the population. Then, starting in the mid-15th century, the people of Dagestan faced a new political force, the Safavid Persians, whose military support came from Turkic-speaking tribes known by the collective name of "kyzylbashi" [they were an alliance of Turkic tribes in Iran; the name means "redheads", referring to their characteristic turbans with red bands].

For a prolonged period in the 16th century, Dagestan was caught up in a conflict among three powerful political forces: Persia, Turkey, and Russia. In the Treaty of Golestan signed between Russia and Persia on November 5 (October 24 old style), 1813, in the village of Golestan in Karabakh after the end of the Russo-Persian war, Persia formally ceded Dagestan, Georgia, Megrelia, Imeretia, Guria, Abkhazia, and the Baku, Karabakh, Ganja, Shirvan, Sheki, Derbent, Kuban, and Talysh khanates to Russia. Russian fortress towns subsequently began to appear in Dagestan. Tsarist Russia's colonial policy in Dagestan gave rise to a political movement for independence and unification that was suppressed. Unrest broke out repeatedly from then on, but it was always put down with the full force of colonial brutality. Participants in the uprisings were arrested along with their families and exiled to hard labor and permanent residence in the interior provinces of Russia.

Starting in the mid-19th century, and especially in the 1890s after the construction of the Vladikavkaz Railway connecting Dagestan with central Russia, Baku, and Grozny, Dagestan entered the stream of capitalist development. By the early 20th century, there were nearly 70 companies in Dagestan and local bourgeois and working classes were forming.

Dagestan gained political status after the Revolution of 1917 and the Civil War. On November 13, 1920, an Extraordinary Congress of the people of Dagestan declared Dagestan's autonomy; and a Decree forming the Dagestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) was passed on January 20, 1921.

Since 1991, Dagestan has been a republic within the Russian Federation. A new Constitution of the Republic of Dagestan was passed on July 26, 1994.


Oil and gas, hard coal, quartz glassmaking sand, building materials (sand, limestone, marl, dolomite, gypsum, marble, and gravel), oil shale, and iron and polymetallic ores are among the commercially important mineral resources. There are also mineral springs.

There are about 1800 rivers in Dagestan; for the most part, they are rain- and snow-fed. The largest rivers are the Terek, the Sulak and its tributaries, and the Samur. The rivers are used for generating hydroelectric power, irrigation, water supply, and floating timber. There are also more than 100 small lakes with a total area of about 150 km2, mainly located in the lower reaches of the Terek and Sulak rivers.

Lowland soils are typically chestnut, meadow and saline types. Soils in the foothills and mountains of Dagestan are distributed in distinct zones: chestnut and mountain forest soils in the foothills; mountain black earths (chernozems) on the gentle northeastern slopes of the foothills and the interior mountain plateau; and mountain steppe, mountain brown forest, and mountain meadow soils in the mountains.

The vegetation of the lowlands and lower mountain slopes consists of shrubby salt-tolerant desert plants and semidesert grasses. Between 500-600 m and 1500-1600 m, the vegetation changes to stands of forest, mainly of oak, hornbeam, and beech, except in the interior and high mountain parts of the republic, where birch and pine predominate. Mountain and meadow steppes changing to subalpine and alpine meadows used as summer pastures are characteristic of the interior plateau and the northern slopes of the mountain ranges.

Animal life is most varied in the high mountain part of Dagestan. This is the habitat of the Caucasian goat, bezoar goat, roe deer, chamois, brown bear, red deer, and the occasional leopard. Native birds include snowcock, keklik partridge, alpine choughs, and eagles. Fish such as herring, gray mullet, sprats, stellate sturgeon, beluga, white salmon, and salmon inhabit the Caspian Sea.


Dagestan is part of the Northern Caucasus economic district and is among the Russian regions with a low concentration of industries that in addition are mainly oriented toward supplying raw materials and components for industries in other regions. Conditions are favorable for economic development, but the republic's low starting level for a successful transition to market relations is clearly evident in a number of key economic indicators. The resort business alone is of great significance in the region.

The fuel and energy complex is especially important to Dagestan's economy. This industry is based on oil and gas production from fields within the republic. The oil is of high quality and is delivered to other regions. Natural gas goes mainly toward satisfying the republic's domestic needs and is used as a high-calorific fuel for industry, agriculture, and gas supply systems of cities and villages.

The hydroelectric power industry is developing rapidly. A cascade of five power plants has been built on the Sulak River: the Gergebil (Girgebilskaya), Chiryurt (Chiryurtovskaya), Chirkey (Chirkeiskaya), Miatly (Miatlinskaya), and Irgat (Irgataiskaya) hydroelectric power plants (GES). Specialists estimate Dagestan's total potential hydroelectric power resources at 4.4 billion kW.

Engineering and metalworking are Dagestan's leading industries. They own 20% of the republic's industrial production assets and employ 25% of all industrial workers. Dagestan produces electric welding and electrothermal equipment, computer-aided devices and facilities, electronic goods, separators, centrifugal pumps, and other consumer goods.

The chemical and building material industries account for about 9% of industrial output. Chemical companies manufacture fertilizers, synthetic fibers, plastic goods, and carbon black for the rubber industry. Companies in the building material industry produce sawn building stone, bricks, and expanded clay concrete goods. Dagestan also produces about 90% of the glass in the Northern Caucasus industrial region. The glass is manufactured at the Dagestanskie Ogni glass factory, which operates almost entirely on local raw materials and fuel.

Light industry comprises companies in the textile, leather shoe, knitwear, clothing, and carpeting sectors.

Dagestan has its own domestic industries that process local raw materials and wastes from certain industries. Carpet weaving is an independent industrial sector in Dagestan represented by more than 20 carpet factories. Other national crafts like jewelry (Kubachi and Gotsatli), pottery (Balkhar), and wood carving (Untsukul) are widely renowned.

The food industry in Dagestan specializes in canning, winemaking, fishing, and processing and accounts for 25% of all industrial output. The Caspian Sea, the Terek, Sulak, and Samur rivers, and numerous inland water bodies provide plenty of stock for various fish products. More than half of the companies in this sector are located in Makhachkala.

The most important agricultural sectors in Dagestan are winegrowing, vegetable and melon growing, and sheep farming. There are sizable areas of irrigated land, and pastures in foothill and steppe districts are also irrigated. Agriculture is insufficiently developed to supply the population with the necessary food products, a situation that is connected with difficult natural conditions such as the extensive use of infertile saline, sandy, and boggy soils on the plains. Gardening is well developed and is the primary occupation of people living in the foothills and mountain valleys, as well as being their main source of income. Garden products include apples, pears, peaches, apricots, cherries, figs, plums, quinces, and nuts.

Makhachkala is a port on the Caspian Sea and a large center of the engineering, metalworking, light, and food industries.

Dagestan has a well-developed transportation system. The Rostov-Baku railway line and the Caucasus federal highway pass through the republic, and republican roads within it reach even the most remote areas. Makhachkala has ice-free commercial and fishing ports, as well as an airport 15 km from the city. The Grozny-Baku oil pipeline also passes through the republic.


According to its Constitution, the Republic of Dagestan is a sovereign, unitary, democratic subject (state) of the Russian Federation that expresses the will and interests of the entire multinational population. Citizens are guaranteed rights and freedoms regardless of race, ethnic origin, sex, or faith; and freedom of speech, adherence to the principles of democracy, and division of powers are recognized. Authority is exercised by the people through the legislative, executive, and judicial bodies. The legislative and executive bodies are independent.

Legislative Authority

The National Assembly, or parliament, of the Republic of Dagestan is the republic's representative and legislative body. The National Assembly consists of 121 deputies elected by direct, universal, and secret vote by citizens having the right to vote. All of Dagestan's nationalities are guaranteed representation in the National Assembly. The procedure for electing deputies and the mechanism for ensuring such representation are prescribed by law. The National Assembly is elected for a four-year term.

The National Assembly elects from among its members a Chairman and Vice-Chairman who preside over sessions and are in charge of internal order in parliament in accordance with the regulations adopted by the National Assembly. The National Assembly also elects committees and their chairmen from among the deputies for drafting legislation, carrying out preliminary consideration and preparation of questions relating to the authority of the National Assembly, and exercising supervisory powers. A proportion of the deputies elected to each of the committees work in the National Assembly on a full-time professional basis. The organization, order of activities, and authority of the committees are prescribed by law. If necessary, the National Assembly sets up investigating, auditing, and other commissions on questions of parliamentary conduct.

The Presidium of the Legislative Assembly consisting of the Chairman of the National Assembly, his Vice-Chairman, and committee chairmen coordinates the bill drafting and supervisory activities of the committees and preparations for plenary sessions of the National Assembly.

In order to control implementation of the republican budget, the National Assembly forms an Audit Chamber, whose activities are stipulated by republican law.

Executive Authority

The State Council of the Republic of Dagestan heads the executive branch of government and ensures cooperation between the government bodies of the Republic of Dagestan. The State Council has 14 members and is formed by the Constitutional Assembly of the Republic of Dagestan. Its members include the Chairman of the State Council, the Chairman of the Government of the Republic of Dagestan in the capacity of Vice-Chairman of the State Council, and other persons elected by the Constitutional Assembly with consideration of the multinational makeup of the population. No more than one representative of the same nationality may be a member of the State Council. Furthermore, persons who are members of the State Council may not be deputies of the National Assembly, members of the Government of the Republic of Dagestan, or judges of the courts of the Republic of Dagestan; and while exercising their authority, they suspend their membership in political parties and public organizations.

The State Council acts as a guarantor of observance of the Constitution, maintenance of the republic's unity and territorial integrity, maintenance of law and order, observance of the equal rights of nationalities, observance of the rights and freedoms of the person and citizen, and observance of agreements and contracts concluded on behalf of the Republic of Dagestan. The State Council is headed by the Chairman, who is also head of state of the Republic of Dagestan.

On the basis and in pursuance of the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Dagestan, the State Council issues decrees, passes resolutions, and verifies their fulfillment. Decrees and resolutions of the State Council and orders of its Chairman may not contradict either the Constitution or the laws of the Republic of Dagestan. Such decrees, resolutions, and orders are binding throughout the territory of the Republic of Dagestan.

The Government of the Republic of Dagestan is the republic's executive and administrative body. The Government is formed by the State Council and consists of the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Government and ministers of the Republic of Dagestan. On the proposal of the Chairman of the Government, the State Council has the right to bring the heads of other republican administrative bodies into the Government. The Government tenders its resignation to a newly elected State Council, and on the Council's instructions continues to fulfill its duties until a new Government is formed.

Judicial Authority

Justice in the Republic of Dagestan is administered only by the courts, which exercise judicial authority by means of constitutional, civil, administrative, and criminal proceedings. The judicial system of the Republic of Dagestan consists of the Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, and Superior Court of Arbitration of the Republic of Dagestan and district and city courts. The organization, order of activities, and authority of the courts of the Republic of Dagestan are stipulated by law. The establishment of emergency courts is prohibited.

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Dagestan consisting of five judges is the highest court of defense of the constitutional system. At the request of the State Council or its Chairman, the National Assembly, or the Government of the Republic of Dagestan, the Constitutional Court:
  • gives an interpretation of the Constitution;
  • in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Dagestan, gives an opinion on laws and normative acts of the Russian Federation on questions relating to joint jurisdiction of the Republic of Dagestan and the Russian Federation;
  • in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Dagestan, gives an opinion on agreements between government bodies of the Republic of Dagestan and government bodies of the Russian Federation and between government bodies of the Republic of Dagestan and government bodies of subjects of the Russian Federation.

The Supreme Court of the Republic of Dagestan is the highest court for civil, criminal, administrative, and other cases within the jurisdiction of courts of general jurisdiction; it also exercises judicial supervision over the activities of these courts.

The Superior Court of Arbitration of the Republic of Dagestan is the highest court for settling economic disputes and other cases considered by courts of arbitration; it also exercises judicial supervision over the activities of these courts in the manner prescribed by law.

Judges of the Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, Superior Court of Arbitration, and district and city courts of the Republic of Dagestan are appointed by the National Assembly on the proposal of the State Council. Judges of all courts are appointed for a ten-year term. The procedure for appointing judges and terminating their authority is prescribed by law. Judges are independent and are subordinate only to the law. Judges are also immune. The immunity of judges and other guarantees of their independence are prescribed by law.

Official Website of the Government of the Republic of Dagestan:

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