I first came across Daghestan, a mountainous semi-autonomous republic of Russia at the eastern end of the Caucasus, in a Soviet-era encyclopaedia of national minorities. The Daghestanis, the entry said, had over fifty different languages, which in one valley were specific to the sexes, so that men and women could not communicate. Their chief industry was ‘the knitting of patterned socks’. I promised myself I’d go there one day, but never have. This lively and informative book tells me what I’ve been missing.
Written by two Poles, an anthropologist and a political scientist, it is not an academic study but a collection of travel pieces drawn from research trips to Daghestan and its war-torn neighbour Chechnya between 2004 and 2009. When the region hits the international news, it is usually thanks to an