One of the things that most people do not realize when they think about Russia is its enormous array of culture. There is of course the stereotypical “Russian” culture that includes vodka and borsch, but there are influences within the Russian Federation from all across its old vast empire. The particular picture featured above is of a man, in what looks to be the dress of a landlord, from the small province state of Dagestan. Dagestan is a small region in the caucuses that has a very unique culture. Its nationalities include “Avars, Lezgi, Noghay, Kumuck, and Tabasarans” to name some, and its inhabitants are for the most part Sunni Muslim. These people of the Empire though were segregated in a way though, most would never visit the Kremlin or travel down the Canals of St. Petersburg. Therefore their influence on the empire as a whole was minimal, but today that is starting to change.
Russia’s population before the revolution was for the most part devoutly Eastern Orthodox, with the exception of its small population of Jews and Muslims. Still today Christianity is arguably the largest religion, but Muslims migrating from the southern parts of the Russia and other old soviet nations are starting to make a large impact. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian economy was in shambles. For those living in parts of the Soviet Union like Kazakhstan and Georgia who depended on resources from mainland Russia, times became real tough. Many started to move, both legally and illegally, to the larger cities in hopes of finding work. Therefore, city populations have been skyrocketing with people from all over the former USSR. Minorities are treated harshly and are typically paid low wages for demeaning or extremely laboring work. Ethnic Russians hold them accountable for many problems, and place them into harsh stereotypes as well.
Crime among these minorities is high, but often blown out of proportion. In an article about Xenophobia in Russia the author, Ilyana Ovshieva, points out that although crime is common in the slums that many of these immagrants are forced into living at, it does go both ways. Just a couple of months ago an “ethnic” Russian lady tortured, beat and stabbed two Dagestani immigrants while on board a train (one died). She was only charged with five years in prison. The FBI recently killed a Chechan in Florida, and instead of mourning his death, Russia Newspapers were elated and congratulated the FBI on their “success”. It is actions like these that cause the people of small ethnically Muslim states in Russia to try to fight back. Islamic militants in these areas have been trying to resist control for years now and often pay a heavy price. Ten days ago nine of these militants were killed in Dagestan, including a warlord who was believed to be one of those sponsoring operations. This all leads me back to my original picture. How would this wealthy Dagestani turned out today. Would he have moved to Moscow? Or stayed home to try and defend his native land? Or maybe he would have been the Warlord killed a couple of days ago, trying to do what he thought was best for his people.