The Republic of Dagestan is the southernmost region of the Russian Federation, occupies an advantageous geostrategic position and has a direct access to international sea routes. The Republic borders on land and sea with five states – Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran. The total length of the territory from south to north is about 400 km, from west to east – 200 km. On the territory (50.3 thousand square kilometers) and the population (2.6 million people), Dagestan is the largest republic in the North Caucasus.
The administrative center is the city of Makhachkala (as of January 1, 2006, 551,500 people, including the population of subordinate administrations of settlements).
The Republic is divided into 52 municipalities: 42 districts and 10 cities. The largest cities are Makhachkala, Derbent, Khasavyurt, Buinaksk.
60 percent of the republic’s population are rural residents. On the territory of the republic there are representatives of over 30 indigenous nationalities, more than 120 nations and nationalities, with independent languages and dialects, culture and rich traditions. The peoples of Dagestan speak languages belonging to three major language families: North Caucasian, Altaic and Indo-European. The state language is Russian. The most numerous nationalities according to the All-Russian Census of 2002 are Avars (29.4%), Dargins (16.5%), Kumyks (14.2%), Lezgins (13.1%), Laks (5.4%) , Russians (4.7%), Tabasarans (4.3%), Azerbaijanis (4.3%), Chechens (3.4%), Nogais (1.5%), Rutulians (0.9%), (0.9%), tsakhurs (0.3%). They account for 98.8% of the population, the rest of the nation and nationality range from several hundred to one. Most of the population of Dagestan (more than 90%) traditionally professes Islam.
The average population density is 51.7 people per square kilometer (6th in the Southern Federal District and 20th in the RF). However, the territory is inhabited very unevenly. The largest part of the population is concentrated in the foothill and flat parts of Dagestan, the north and the highlands are extremely negligible.
Dagestan is a small-land republic, but with a very diverse soil and vegetation cover. On the diversity of vegetation and climatic zones, Dagestan has no equal in Russia: from the subtropical forest at the mouth of the Samur River, deserts and semi-deserts in the north of the republic to high-mountain tundra and glaciers. The fauna of 89 species of mammals, 300 species of birds and 92 species of fish, including sturgeon, is rich and diverse.
In Dagestan about 1800 rivers, the largest are the Terek, Sulak and Samur with tributaries. Rivers are widely used in the national economy of the republic for hydropower construction, melioration and water supply. The hydropower potential of the republic is 55.2 billion kW / h, or almost 40% of the potential of the rivers of the North Caucasus. Economically highly efficient part of them is concentrated in the largest watercourses and reaches 16 billion kW / h.
The republic is rich in mineral resources: oil, gas, peat, brown coal and combustible oil shale, hard mineral raw materials (ferrous and non-ferrous metal ores, non-metallic mineral raw materials, etc.). Potential reserves of oil and gas are: oil with gas condensate – 509.3 million tons, of which on land – 169.3 million tons; natural gas – 877.2 billion cubic meters, of which 337.2 billion cubic meters on land. An important reserve for increasing reserves and production of hydrocarbons is the shelf of the Caspian Sea. The republic also has significant reserves of building materials: limestone, marl, gravel, sand and clay. In Southern Dagestan, one of the largest copper deposits is located. The deposit’s operational reserves are estimated at 60,953,600 tons of copper-pyrite ores and 3,428,300 tons of zinc-pyrite ores.
In Dagestan, 255 sources and 15 deposits of mineral medicinal waters were identified: carbon dioxide, sulfide, bromine, iodine-bromine, siliceous, ferruginous, arsenic and slaboradon.
The Caspian Sea is the most important fishery basin in the country, the bioresources of which include the world’s reserves of rare and valuable sturgeon fishes. 70% of the world stock of sturgeon are concentrated here, more than 60% of the large part. The length of the coastline of the Caspian Sea across Dagestan is 540 km.