Dagestan Republic or Daghestan Republic (dägəstän´), constituent republic (1999 pop. 2,074,000), c.19,400 sq mi (50,250 sq km), SE European Russia, bounded on the E by the Caspian Sea. Makhachkala (the capital) and Derbent are the chief cities. Dagestan in the south consists mainly of sections of the Caucasus Mts. Except for the Caspian plain and the Nogai steppe and the irrigated lowlands in the north, the terrain is one of steep slopes and narrow valleys. 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. However, by the end of the 20th cent. over 85% of its budget was provided by the Russian government. The Samur, Sulak, and other rivers provide hydroelectric power. 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 (Avars, Lezghians, Darghins, Lakhs); the rest is made up of Turkic (notably Kumyks) and Iranian groups (especially Tats) and, in the cities, Russians and Ukrainians.
An ancient area of human settlement, Dagestan belonged to Caucasian Albania in the 1st millennium BC It was later invaded by Huns, Persian Sassanids, and, in the 7th cent. AD, by Arabs, who introduced Islam. Taken by the Turks in the 11th cent. and the Mongols in the 13th cent., the region became the center of a struggle between Turkey and Persia in the 15th cent. It was a Persian province when Russia annexed it by the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813. Muslim mountain dwellers 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 neighboring Chechnya in a single Islamic state, invaded S Dagestan from Chechnya. 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. The subsequent fighting in Chechnya at times spilled over into Dagestan; Dagestan also has experienced violence involving local Islamic militants.