September 5, 2010 / 7:07 AM / 9 years ago

Factbox - Facts about Russia's republic of Dagestan

MAKHACHKALA, Russia (Reuters) - Here are some facts about Russia’s mainly Muslim republic of Dagestan, where violence has escalated over the past year.

At least five people were killed and 35 wounded Sunday when a suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a military camp in Russia’s southern region of Dagestan, security officials said.

* A mountainous territory in the Caucasus mountain range, Dagestan is Russia’s most ethnically and linguistically varied region and home to at least 40 different ethnicities. A republic within the Russian Federation, Dagestan’s population is 2.5 million. The majority of Dagestanis are Sunni Muslims.

* It is sometimes known as the Mountain of Languages, or Mountain of Nationalities - with some national groups occupying no more than one or two villages.

* The capital, Makhachkala, on Russia’s Caspian Sea coast, was conquered by the Russian Imperial army in the 19th century and served as a major pre-revolutionary trading port. Today, Dagestan is a conduit for major oil and gas pipelines, which go from the Caspian Sea to the Russian heartland.

* An Islamist insurgency is raging in Dagestan, neighbouring Chechnya and Ingushetia. Government and religious leaders blame the violence on a potent mix of poverty, corruption and the ideology of global jihadism. Twin suicide bomb attacks on the Moscow metro in late March, which killed 40, were blamed on two women from Dagestan. There are near-daily attacks by way of shoot-outs, suicide bombs and explosions across the region.

Chechen Doku Umarov, the self-styled Emir of the Caucasus who says he leads the insurgency, wants to carve out a pan-Caucasus sharia state separate from Russia, which would include Dagestan.

* Islam came to present-day Russia by way of Dagestan’s ancient southern city of Derbent, when Arabs brought the faith at least 1,000 years ago. Today, Islam in Dagestan is flourishing after religion was discouraged under communism. The republic hosts 3,000 mosques, Islamic institutes are swelling and madrassas are being founded.

* Dagestan is the birthplace of legendary Islamic fighter Imam Shamil, who resisted Russian rule for 25 years in the 19th century. Many streets and places are named after him.

* In February the Kremlin installed local lawmaker Magomedsalam Magomedov to head the region. His father, Magomedali Magomedov, ruled there from 1987 to 2006, and was credited with maintaining relative calm.

* Since his appointment, Magomedov has vowed radical change in the face of increasing violence and open dialogue with those tempted by militancy, opposition and rights workers. Political analysts say they have seen little change and regard his goals are too idealistic.

Writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton

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