The Republic of Dagestan is a federal subject (a republic) of Russia, located in the North Caucasus region. Its capital and largest city is Makhachkala, located at the center of Dagestan on the Caspian Sea.
With a population of 2,910,249, Dagestan is ethnically very diverse (it is Russia's most heterogeneous republic, where no ethnicity forms a majority) with several dozen ethnicities and subgroups inhabiting the republic, most of which speak Caucasian and Turkic languages. Largest among these ethnicities are the Avar, Dargin, Kumyk, Lezgian, Laks, Azerbaijani, Tabasaran and Chechen. Ethnic Russians comprise about 3.6% of Dagestan's total population. Russian is the primary official language and the lingua franca among the ethnicities.
Dagestan has been a scene of low-level Islamic insurgency, occasional outbreaks of separatism, ethnic tensions and terrorism since the 1990s. According to International Crisis Group, the militant Islamist organization Shariat Jamaat is responsible for much of the violence. Much of the tension is rooted in an internal Islamic conflict between traditional Sufi groups advocating secular government and more recently introduced Salafist teachers preaching the implementation of Sharia in Dagestan.