ISSN 2330-717X

Two Important Stories Comparing And Contrasting Daghestanis And Vaynakh Nations – OpEd


Today’s news featured two important stories about the Daghestanis and the Vaynakh nations, one highlighting the ways in which the birthrate in both Muslim areas has fallen far more radically over the last year than anywhere else in Russia and the second showing that Daghestanis are modernizing far more rapidly than the Vaynakhs.

According to Rosstat, the number of children born in Daghestan in October fell by 24.6 percent from the same period a year earlier. The equivalent figures for Chechnya and Ingushetia, the two Vaynakh republics, were 26.2 percent and 10.8 percent respectively (

All three republics thus had far greater declines than that in Russia as a whole, where the number of newborns was 2.7 percent lower this October than in October 2017.  These enormous declines in the North Caucasus almost certainly reflect the coming together of three different developments.

First, Rosstat is now using new statistical measures, and these may have failed to count all the newborns in the North Caucasus, thus overstating the decline in births there. Second, there has been a secular decline in the birthrate among Muslim nationalities, one that is bringing their birthrates closer to the historically much lower rates among non-Muslims like the Russians.

And third, the declines clearly reflect the deteriorating economic situation in the region, one that is driving many younger men to move away to work as migrant laborers in major Russian cities and thus be less likely to father children at home.  That is a problem that the also economically hard-pressed Russians mostly do not have.

A new study, entitled The Values of Vaynakh Muslim: Results of a Poll was posted on the Kavkaz-Uzel portal today. (The full study in Russian is available online at; it is summarized at

The new study focuses on the Vaynakhs but draws on earlier research on Daghestanis to compare and contrast the Chechens and Ingush, on the one hand, and the various nationalities of Daghestan, on the other.  The compilers stress that their study is suggestive rather than definitive; but their findings are nonetheless intriguing.

Their overarching conclusion is that “traditional relations in Daghestan have been undermined to a much greater extent than in Ingushetia and Chechnya and that individualization of attitudes and openness to social contradictions has become the norm” in Daghestan but not in Chechnya or Ingushetia. 

“Among Daghestanis,” they suggest their data show, “the destruction of  generational hierarchies is much more significantly expressed than among the Vaynakhs, with generational hierarchies more important for Sufis and traditional Muslims than for traditional and [so-called] ethnic Muslims.”

The Vaynakhs overall are more suspicious of outsiders than are the Daghestanis, the study suggests, and more deferential to elders than are Muslims in Daghestan. What is especially interesting is that non-traditional Muslims among the Vaynakhs are “more inclined to trust people than Daghestanis, but traditional Muslims among the Vaynakhs are less so.”

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Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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