1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Daghestan

DAGHESTAN, a province of Russia, Transcaucasia, occupying the triangular space between the Andi ridge, the south-east division of the main Caucasus range, and the Caspian Sea. It has the province of Terek on the N.W., the government of Tiflis on the S.W., and that of Baku on the S.E. With the exception of a narrow strip along the sea-coast and a small district in the N., it is entirely mountainous. Area, 11,332 sq. m. The snow-clad Andi ridge, belonging to the system of transverse upheavals which cross the Caucasus, branches off the latter at Borbalo Peak (10,175 ft.), and reaches its highest altitudes in Tebulos-mta (14,775 ft.) and Diklos-mta (13,740 ft.). It is encircled on the N. by a lower outer ridge, the Karadagh, through which the rivers cut their way. This ridge is thickly clothed with forests, chiefly beech. The Boz-dagh and another ridge run between the four Koisu rivers, the head-streams of the Sulak, which flows into the Caspian. The next most important stream, out of the great number which course down the flanks of the Caucasus and terminate in the Caspian, is the Samur. The most notable feature of the province is, however, according to O. W. H. Abich (Sur la structure et la géologie du Daghestan, 1862), the successive folds of Jurassic limestones and slates, all nearly parallel to the Caucasus, which form lofty, narrow plateaus. Many of the peaks upon them rise higher than 12,000 ft., and the passes lie at altitudes of 11,000 ft. in the interior and 9000 ft. towards the Caspian. Towards the Caspian, especially between Petrovsk and the river Sulak, the Cretaceous system is well represented, and upon its rocks rest marls, shales, and sandstones of the Eocene period. The country is altogether difficult of access, and only one military route leads up from the river Terek, while every one of the eleven passes known across the Caucasus is a mere bridle-path. The climate is severe on the plateaus, hot towards the Caspian, and dry everywhere. The average temperatures are—year 51°, January 26°, July 73° at Temir-khan-shura (42° 49′ N.; alt. 1510 ft.). The annual rainfall varies from 17 to 21 in. The population, estimated at 605,100 in 1906, numbered 587,326 in 1897, of whom only 5000 were Russians. They consist chiefly of mountaineers known as Lesghians (i.e. 158,550 Avars, 121,375 Darghis, 94,506 Kurins), a race closely akin to the Circassians, intermingled towards the Caspian Sea with Tatars and Georgians. There are also sprinklings of Jews and Persians. The highlands of Daghestan were for many years the stronghold of the Circassians in their struggle against Russia, especially under the leadership of Shamyl, whose last stand was made on the steep mountain fastness of Gunib, 74 m. S. of Temir-khan-shura, in 1859. The difficulty of communication between the valleys has resulted in the growth of a great number of dialects. Avarian is a sort of inter-tribal tongue, while Lakh or Kazi-kumukh, Kurin, Darghi-kaitakh, Andi, and Tabasaran are some of the more important dialects, each subdivided into sub-dialects. The mountaineers breed some cattle and sheep, and cultivate small fields on the mountain-sides. In the littoral districts excellent crops of cereals, cotton, fruit, wine and tobacco are obtained with the aid of irrigation. Silkworms are bred. The mountaineers excel also in a variety of petty trades. Sulphur, salt and copper are the most important of the minerals. A railway line to connect the North Caucasian line (Rostov to Petrovsk) with the Transcaucasian line (Batum to Baku) has been built along the Caspian shore from Petrovsk, through the “gate” or pass of Derbent, to Baku. The province is divided into nine districts—Temir-khan-shura, Avar, Andi, Gunib, Dargo, Kazi-kumukh, Kaitago-Tabasaran, Kurin, and Samur. The only towns are Temir-khan-shura (pop. 9208 in 1897), the capital of the government, Derbent (14,821) and Petrovsk (9806), the last two both on the Caspian.

See G. Radde, “Aus den Daghestanischen Hochalpen,” in Petermanns Mitteilungen, Ergänzungsheft, No. 85, 1887, and, with E. König, “Der Nordfuss des Daghestan,” in Petermanns Mitteil., Ergänzungsheft, No. 117, 1895. (P. A. K.; J. T. Be.)