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Dagestan Republic

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A constituent republic (1999 pop. 2,074,000), c.19, 400 mi2 (50,250 km2), south-eastern European Russia, bounded on the East by the Caspian Sea. Makhachkala is the capital.

In its southern part Dagestan consists mainly of sections of the Caucasus Mountains. Difficulty of access has left most of Dagestan's mineral resources untapped; however, important quantities of oil and natural gas have been extracted along the coast. The irrigated lowlands support winter wheat, corn, sunflowers, fruits, and wine grapes. The republic's major industries produce canned fruit, wine, oil, machines, chemicals, textiles, and wood products.

Dagestan's terrain has encouraged the development of a multiplicity of ethnic groups, more than 30 in number, most of whom are Muslim. About half the population consists of indigenous Caucasian mountain peoples; the rest is made up of Turkic and Iranian groups and Russians and Ukrainians in the cities.

An ancient area of human settlement, Dagestan belonged to Caucasian Albania in the 1st millennium BC. Later it was invaded by Huns, Persian Sassanids, and, in the VIIth century AD, by Arabs, who introduced Islam. Taken by the Turks in the 11th century and the Mongols in the XIIIth century, the region became the centre of a struggle between Turkey and Persia in the XVth century It was a Persian province when Russia annexed it by the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813.
Muslim mountaineers resisted Russian domination until 1859, and a new revolt erupted in 1877, during the Russo-Turkish war of that year. Dagestan came under Soviet rule in 1920 and in 1921 was made an autonomous republic.

In 1991, the parliament of Dagestan declared the republic to be of full republic status. Dagestan was a signatory to the Mar. 31, 1992, treaty of federation that created the Russian Federation (see Russia). In 1999 several thousand armed members of a Chechen Muslim fundamentalist group, whose aim was to merge Dagestan with neighbouring Chechnya in a single Islamic state, invaded South Dagestan. Russia responded with ground and air attacks by federal troops, and the militants retreated; the incident contributed to Russia's decision to invade Chechnya later in 1999.

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