The Republic of Dagestan is a federal subject (a republic) of Russia, located in the North Caucasus region. Its capital and the 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, with several dozen ethnic groups and subgroups inhabiting the republic, most of which speak Caucasian, Turkic, or Iranian languages. Largest among these ethnic groups are the Avar, Dargin, Kumyk, Azeri, Lezgin, and Laks. Ethnic Russians comprise about 4.5% of Dagestan's total population. While prior to Soviet era Arabic and Azerbaijani (Turkic) were used as the languages of communication, and by 1923, Soviet authorities chose Azerbaijani as the lingua franca and the school language of Soviet Dagestan, currently, Russian is the primary official language and the lingua franca among the ethnic groups.
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 law in Dagestan.