RUSSIA: Shootings in several cities of Dagestan, a synagogue and churches attacked

By Willy Fautré


The European Times NewsThe European Times (24.06.2024) – At least 19 people were victims of an attack on police officers, Orthodox churches and synagogues in Dagestan Derbent and Makhachkala on Sunday evening. Five attackers were killed, the authorities said: two in Derbent and three in Makhachkala.

The head of Dagestan Sergey Melikov said at night that “more than 15 policemen” and several civilians “were victims of today’s terrorist attack.” On Monday morning, the Investigative Committee of Russia (ICR) confirmed the death of 15 security forces and four civilians, including an Orthodox priest.

In the morning, the counter-terrorist operation regime was lifted in Makhachkala and Derbent. A criminal case under the articles on terrorist attack, illegal possession and theft of firearms. A three-day mourning has been declared in Dagestan. According to Interfax, “In the days of mourning, state flags will be lowered throughout the territory of the republic. Cultural institutions and television and radio companies located in Dagestan will cancel all entertainment, entertainment events and programs.”

The Russian Union of Travel Industry (PCT) recommended temporarily refraining from traveling to the region. Those in the republic were urged to take precautions. According to the Association of Tour Operators of Russia (ATOR), there can be up to 20,000 tourists in the republic.

Synagogues and churches attacked

In Derbent, the terrorists attacked the Church of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos on Lenin Street. As a result of the attack, Archpriest Nikolai Kotelnikov, who served in the church for more than 40 years, was killed. “Father Nikolai was killed in a church in Derbent, his throat was cut,” Shamil Khadulayev, Deputy Chairman of the Public Supervisory Commission of Dagestan, wrote in a telegram on Sunday.

They also attacked the Kele-Numaz synagogue on Tagi-Zade Street with machine guns shortly before the evening prayer, the Ministry of Internal Affairs reported. A strong fire broke out in the synagogue as a result of the attack. It was extinguished only at night.

A similar attack was committed in Makhachkala. There, a traffic police post on Yermoshkin Street, next to which there is a synagogue, was shelled. Several police officers were killed. RIA Novosti, citing the rabbi, reported that no one was injured in the synagogue.

Another shootout was near the Holy Dormition Cathedral on Ordzhonikidze Street. The church guard died, one of the parishioners told TASS. “As soon as the shooting began, we closed from the inside,” he said. 18 people were barricaded in the church – clergymen and parishioners. At night, they were taken out by employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. “No one was hurt,” said an Interfax source.

Some religious data

According to a survey in 2012, 83% of the population of Dagestan adheres to Islam and 2.4% to the Russian Orthodox Church.

Dagestanis adherents of Islam are largely Sunni Muslims of the Shafii school. On the Caspian coast, particularly in and around the port city of Derbent, the population (primarily made up of Azerbaijanis) iw Shia. A Salafi minority is also present.

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there has been an Islamic revival in the region. By 1996, Dagestan had 1,670 registered mosques, nine Islamic universities, 25 madrassas, 670 maktab. It is estimated that “nearly one in five Dagestanis was involved in Islamic education.”

The number of Protestants among the non-Slavic indigenous population is very low, with estimates between 2,000 and 2,500. Most of these are Pentecostal  Christians from the Lak ethnicity. The largest congregation is Osanna Evangelical Christian Church (Pentecostal) in Makhachkala, with more than 1,000 members.

A number of native Tati-speaking Jews – the so-called “Mountain Jews” – are also present in Dagestan. However, since 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union, many have migrated to Israel and the United States. These were an extension of much larger Azerbaijani Jewish community across the border with Azerbaijan.

Further reading about FORB in Russia on HRWF website