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.