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About Russia

Nations of Russia

The Laks

They live in Lak, Kuli and New Lak regions of Dagestan and Stavropolsky Krai. Neighboring ethnic groups are the Avars and the Dargins.
Language: Lak (5 main dialects), closely related to Dargin, belongs to Nakhsko-dagestanian group
Religion: Sunni-muslims

The Laks are one of the indigenous groups of the Caucasus, probably descendants of the Gumik tribe.
They were first introduced to Islam through Arab traders in the 8th c., but the majority kept their traditional beliefs. More Muslim influence came with Persian traders in the 15th c., and with Mongol invasions in the 16th and 17th c. The Laks were slower than most other Dagestani peoples in adopting Islam, however, and not until the mid-1800s they had been thoroughly converted, religiously and culturally. Coming late, they still developed a very strong and devout faith.
The Laks had their own semi-independent principality, known as the Shamkhalat, on the Southern border of the Golden Horde from the 14th c. They expanded to the northeast in the 15th c., and came to control a large amount of Kumuk land.
In the beginning of the 19th c., the Laks fought to resist the increasing Russian influence, but to no avail. In 1865, Russia abolished the Shamkhalat and brought Lak territory under direct Russian administrative control. Russian settlers started pouring into Dagestan already from around 1800-1810, and this influx triggered the Shamil rebellion in 1834. The rebellion, which was crushed in 1858, strengthened the ethnic identities of the various peoples, radicalized and strengthened Islam in the area, and produced a complete hatred for everything Russian.
Just after the Bolshevik revolution, the government in Moscow established the Mountain Autonomous Republic, with Arabic as official language. Laks and other peoples rebelled, and in 1921, the Dagestan autonomous soviet republic was established as an ethnic subdivision of the larger republic, including the Lak areas. Soviet policy towards this region was cruel and extremely unstable in the 1920s, with incidences of purges against Muslim leaders, changes in official language and a general "divide-and-rule"-approach. Things became more stable after 1928, however, when Arabic ceased to be the official language. However, gradually, Russian language was imposed in schools and administrations.
Efforts at russification of the Lak population, and sovietizing the Lak economy, increased poverty and strengthened anti-Russian sentiments.

The Laks enjoy high prestige among other Dagestani peoples because of their historical experiences, and are less plagued by internal divisions, because tribal and clan divisions are nearly non-existent. The Lak territory has also been widely recognised as the religious centre of Islam for Dagestani Muslims.


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