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History of
The Map of Dagestan
The oldest records about
the region refer to the state
of Caucasian Albania in the
south, with its capital at
Derbent and other
important centres at
Chola, Toprakh Qala, and
Urtseki. The northern
parts were held by a
confederation of pagan
tribes. In the first few
centuries AD, Caucasian
Albania continued to rule
over what is present day
Azerbaijan and the area
occupied by the present
day Lezghians. It was
fought over in classical
times by Rome and the
Persian Sassanids and was
early converted to
In the fifth century AD, the
Sassanids gained the upper
hand and constructed a
strong citadel at Derbent,
known henceforward as
the Caspian Gates, while
the northern part of
Dagestan was overrun by
the Huns, followed by the
Caucasian Avars. It is not
clear whether the latter
were instrumental in the
rise of the Christian
kingdom in Central
Dagestan highlands.
Known as Sarir, this Avardominated state
maintained a precarious
existence in the shadow of
Khazaria and the Caliphate
until the ninth century,
when it managed to assert
its supremacy in the
Due to Muslim
pressure and
internal disunity,
Sarir disintegrated
in the early twelfth
century, giving way
to the Khanate of
Avaristan, a longlived Muslim state
which relied on the
alliance with the
Golden Horde and
braved the
devastating Mongol
invasions of 1222
and 1239, followed
by Tamerlane's raid
in 1389.
As the Mongol authority gradually eroded, new
centres of power emerged in Kaitagi and Tarki. In
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, legal
traditions were codified, mountainous communities
(djamaats) obtained a considerable degree of
autonomy, while the Kumyk potentates (shamhals)
asked for the Tsar's protection.
Russians intensified
their hold in the
region in the
eighteenth century,
when Peter the Great
annexed maritime
Dagestan in the
course of the First
Russo-Persian War.
Although the
territories were
returned to Persia in
1735, the next bout of
hostilities resulted in
the Russian capture
of Derbent in 1796.
The eighteenth
century also saw the
resurgence of the
Khanate of Avaristan,
which managed to
repulse the attacks of
Nadir Shah of Persia
and impose tribute on
Shirvan and Georgia.
In 1803 the khanate
voluntarily submitted
to Russian authority,
but it took Persia a
decade to recognize all
of Dagestan as the
Russian possession
(Treaty of Gulistan).
Nadir Shah. Engraving by Thamas Koulikan
Memorial “Vatan” at the place of defeat of the troops of
the conqueror of the world Persian ruler Nadir Shah by
the united troops of Dagestans. The defeat of Nadir
Shah and the glorious victory of the peoples of Dagestan
over the most redoubtable armies at that time caused a
great international response and became a vivid witness
of the might and force of the peoples of Dagestan.
Imam Ghazi
The Russian administration,
however, disappointed and
embittered the highlanders.
The institution of heavy
taxation, coupled with the
expropriation of estates and
the construction of
fortresses (including
Makhachkala), electrified
highlanders into rising
under the aegis of the
Muslim Imamate of
Dagestan, led by Ghazi
Mohammed (1828-32),
Gamzat-bek (1832-34) and
Shamil (1834-59). This
Caucasian War raged until
1864, when Shamil was
captured and the Khanate of
Avaristan was abolished.
Imam Shamil
Khadzhy Murat
The Battle of Ghimri
Dagestan and Chechnya
profited from the RussoTurkish War, 1877-1878, to
rise against Imperial Russia
for the last time. During the
Russian Civil War, the region
became part of the shortlived Republic of the
Mountaineers of the North
Caucasus. After more than
three years of fighting White
movement reactionaries and
local nationalists, the
Dagestan Autonomous Soviet
Socialist Republic was
proclaimed on 20 January
After the Civil War,
Dagestan managed to
liqudate economic
devastation, hunger and
epidemics. This opened the
broader possiblities for the
consolidation of all
Dagestanian people and
ethnic groups into a nation
for a rapid developmentof
the economy and culture of
the young republic. Indeed
during the first five year
plans Dagestan was
converted from a backward
agrarian country into a a
developing industrialagrarian republic.
But this was achieved by its population at a high price.
During the period of Stalin’s personality cult. From the
1930’s to the early 1950’s in Dagestan like everywhere
else in the country, there were a great number of
violations of legality, attacks on the honor and dignity of
the individuals, and the political repressions of many
innocent people.
During the World War II the peoples of Dagestan
together with the peoples of the former Soviet Union
stood up for the defense of their Motherland. They
displayed courage and heroism at the front. More than 50
Dagestanis were awarded the highest title of the Hero of
the Soviet Union.
After the victorious Great
Patriotic war the working
people of Dagestan began
with new strength to bring
into life the plans of
restoring their economy
and to solve new problems
that arose before them. In
1970 our republic was
struck by a natural disaster,
an earthquake which
inflicted great material
damage to its economy and
population. A number of
other republics and regions
of the former Soviet union
rendered considerable
assistance to Dagestan to
eliminate the effects of the
90.7% percent of Dagestan's population is
Muslim, with Christians accounting for much
of the remaining 9.3%.
As with much of the Caucasus region,
Dagestan's native Islam consists of Sunni
Sufi orders that have been in place for
centuries. Resul Magomedov, who is a
contemporary writer of Daghestan, writes
about the unifying role of Islam: “Before
Islam, all Daghestan tribes were divided in
respect of language, religion, ethnic structure
and geography like all other Caucasian
peoples. This situation caused severe hostility
and conflicts.
Central Mosque in Makhachkala
After all native tribes became Muslims, a unity in
belief could be sustained among Daghestan tribes
which also stopped ethnic conflicts among them. If
these conflicts continued, our homeland would face
great disasters. This unity could only be established
by medressehs spread out all the country. The
scientists, scholars, imams graduated from these
medressehs had an important role in stopping these
conflicts in this multinational region and they
helped tribes to establish friendly relations. Islam
should also serve such a goal today.” There is a
millennia-old presence of a Jewish community, the
"Mountain Jews," in Dagestan. Their influx from
Babylonia and Persia occurred from the seventh
century B.C. to the sixth century A.D.
Znamensky Cathedral in Khasavyurt
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