Wednesday, August 25, 1999 Published at 14:24 GMT 15:24 UK
Islamic roots in Dagestan
Many Dagestanis reject the Islamic fundamentalist movement
By BBC Russia Online's Leonid Osokin
The mountainous republic of Dagestan is home to more than 32 ethnic groups- each one with its own language.
A declaration of independence was signed by Dagestan's Islamic Council only days after a group of Chechen fighters reportedly crossed into Dagestan.
The fighters appear to belong to the Islamic fundamentalist Wahhabi movement.
The movement originates in Arabia where it was founded in the middle of XVIII century by Sheikh Muhammad ibn Abdula Wahhab, who called on Muslims to return to the "pure" form of Islam as preached by the Prophet Mohammed.
Although the movement is still centred in Saudi Arabia, Wahhab's teachings have spread as far as India and, in recent years, throughout the newly independent states of Central Asia and the North Caucasus.
It is reported, however, that the majority of Dagestan's Muslims do not support the radical cause pursued by Chechnya's fundamentalists.
Some analysts point out that the local population is extremely wary of the Chechens and suspect that Chechnya wants Dagestan to be just a second-rate part of single Islamic state in the North Caucasus.
They also stress that the majority of Muslims in Dagestan do not support the "export of the Islamic revolution" idea, believing that it contradicts the basic teachings of Islam.