Treatment of the Agul minority from Dagestan, within Dagestan and elsewhere in the Russian Federation (1997-1999) [RUS31380.E]

Two sources state that the Agul people are predominantly Sunni Muslims, who live in remote isolated canyons in Southeastern Dagestan (Red Book 1993; NUPI n.d.). A report by the Minority Rights Group International (MRG), The North Caucusus: Minorities at a Crossroads adds that the Agul are closely related to the Lezgi (1994, 23). Specific information on the treatment of Aguls, both within Dagestan and elsewhere in the Russian Federation, could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

For information concerning the treatment of people from the Caucusus within the Russian Federation, current to April 1998, please consult RUS29259.E of 28 April 1998. The August 1998 Human Rights Watch report, Ethnic Discrimination in Southern Russia, states that in Stavropol and Krasnodar:

Police routinely approach people who look distinctly non-Russian and ask them for residence documentation. If they fail to produce it, police sometimes beat or humiliate them, or rob them of whatever money or valuables they carry as an informal "fine" for the violation. Often, police will raid the homes of people they know to be refugees, non-Russians, or others who are likely not to be in possession of a propiska (2).

The report further states that "Ethnic Caucasians have replaced Jews ... as the main target for manipulation of public xenophobia" (6).

Corroborating information is found in the March 1998 report "Compliance With CERD [Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination] in Russia" by the Memorial Human Rights Center:

Display of Racism in the Activities of Law-Enforcement Agencies

Discriminatory behavior of employees of these bodies, especially the police, has become a common practice in most RF subjects and has taken the most extreme forms in large cities (Moscow, St. Petersburg) and in some southern regions (the Krasnodar and Stavropol krais, Rostov Oblast). It manifests itself in selective and disproportionately frequent detentions of persons belonging to the so-called "visual" minorities (that is, persons with a distinctive anthropological type, mainly natives of the Caucasus and Central Asia), as well as in unlawful and unprovoked use of violence toward detainees, extortion of money, arbitrary and disproportionately frequent searches of residential premises occupied by members of these minorities or offices of the companies owned by them, arbitrary seizure of their personal property or goods in which they trade. In the course of check-ups and detentions, such persons are often treated in a manner humiliating to their human and national dignity.

The report also states that discrimination against people from the Caucasus persists among the general population as well:

Acting on the territory of the Russian Federation are hundreds of radical nationalistic groups and organizations preaching ethnic superiority and ethnic xenophobia, especially towards Jews, Transcaucasian and North Caucasian nationalities, and Central Asians. Aggressive propaganda of a racist and extreme-nationalist type is characteristic for such organizations as Russian National Unity (RNE) led by A. Barkashov; the Russian Party headed by V. Miloserdov; the Popular National Party (NNP) led by A. Ivanov-Sukharevsky; the National-Republic Party of Russia (NRPR) led by N. Lysenko and the National-Republican Party of Russia (NRPR) of Yu. Belyaev.
Organized radical nationalistic groups distribute racist, anti-Semite and anti-Caucasian printed matters. Some mass media outlets, especially regional newspapers published in the south of Russia, print materials holding individual population groups, especially natives of the Caucasus, collectively guilty of the growth of crime and deterioration of the economic situation, and demanding that their rights be limited.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Response.


Human Rights Watch (HRW). August 1998. Russian Federation: Ethnic Discrimination in South Russia.

Institute of the Estonian Language. 1993. The Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire. "The Aguls." [Internet] [Accessed 19 Mar. 1999]

Memorial Human Rights Center. March 1998. "Compliance With CERD [Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination] in Russia." [Internet] [Accessed 24 Mar. 1999]

Minority Rights Group International (MRG). 1994. The North Caucasus: Minorities at a Crossroads.

Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), Centre for Russian Studies Database. n.d. "Ethnic Groups - Aguls." [Internet] [Accessed 19 Mar. 1999]

Additional Sources Consulted

International Alert. 1995. Dr. C. McCartney. Dagestan Situation Assessment.

Egbert Wesselink. November 1995. The Russian Federation: Dagestan. (WRITENET)

Electronic sources: IRB Databases, Internet, LEXIS/NEXIS, REFWORLD, WNC.

Unsuccessful attempts to contact two oral sources.