Dagestan is a region located in Russia’s North Caucuses, with the Caspian Sea to the east. In the Turkic languages, the name fittingly translates to “land of the mountains”. The rugged, mountainous terrain in Dagestan is impressive, with some of the peaks reaching elevations as high as 14,000 feet or more. Dagestan is quite diverse both ethnically and linguistically, home to dozens of different peoples and languages. Some of the major ethnic groups include the Avars, Lezgi, Noghay, Kumuck, and Tabasarans. Islam is the dominant religion in Dagestan, essentially having erased all others around the 15th century.
Pictured in the photograph from the early 20th century is a Sunni Muslim Dagestani man of unknown nationality. He is wearing the traditional garb and head gear typical of Dagestani men of the time period. His sheathed dagger provides a symbol of Dagestan’s warrior culture and traditions. Throughout much of the 19th century, Dagestan and nearby Chechnya fiercely resisted the expansion of the Russian Empire, presenting the Russians with a significant challenge in exerting control over the area. Eventually in the early 20th century, Dagestan successfully declared its independence from the Russian Empire, though this was short lived. In the early 1920s, Bolshevik invasion and occupation resulted in Dagestan becoming an autonomous Soviet republic.
As the 20th century continued, Dagestan was largely left behind during Stalin’s efforts to industrialize the Soviet Union. The economy was stagnant and near collapse, a trend that would endure throughout the century as Dagestan became rampant with poverty and corruption. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Dagestan remained loyal to Russia, though its economic problems and lawlessness continued to climb to infamous levels. Today, Dagestan is still riddled with poverty, organized crime, and radical Islamic militant groups, a sad transition from the proud culture of centuries past.
Dagestan: New World Encyclopedia – http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Dagestan
Dagestan Profile Overview: BBC News – http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-20593383