Chechnya at a Glance
The southern Russian republic of Chechnya has long been a boiling point for conflict with Moscow in the restive North Caucasus.
Oil-rich Chechnya has enjoyed a period of relative stability under Mr Kadyrov.
Key facts about Chechnya
Status: Republic within Russian Federation
Population: Approximately 1 million
Major languages: Chechen, Russian
Major religions: Islam, Christianity
Natural resources: Oil
Leader of Chechnya
President: Ramzan Kadyrov
Ramzan Kadyrov, son of assassinated President Akhmad Kadyrov and a former rebel fighter, was nominated for the Chechen presidency by Russian President Vladimir Putin in spring 2007.
His tenure has marked a period of relative stability in Chechnya.
The United States has imposed financial sanctions on Kadyrov, accusing him of a systematic campaign of repression.
Mr Kadyrov has defended himself against critics, insisting that iron rule is required to bring stability.
Some key dates in Chechnya's history:
1858 - After decades of violent resistance, Chechnya is conquered by Russia.
1994 - Three years after republic declares independence, Russian troops are sent in to quash independence movement, the start of nearly a decade of conflict.
2003 - A referendum approves a new constitution stipulating that Chechnya is part of the Russian Federation.
2009 - Russia officially ends military operation; concerns over human rights and lawlessness persist.
2015 - Jihadists, including those aligned with Islamic State and al-Qaeda, remain active in the region.
Dagestan at a Glance
The Russian Republic of Dagestan, which translates as "land of the mountains", is situated in Russia's turbulent North Caucasus with Chechnya and Georgia to the west, Azerbaijan to the south and the Caspian Sea to the east.
So high are its peaks in some places that certain areas are accessible only by helicopter. The republic is also famed for its ethnic and linguistic diversity, being home to more than 30 languages.
Several dozen Muslim peoples have settled among the high valleys over the centuries.
The Avars form the largest ethnic group and account for about a fifth of the population.
A further substantial proportion is made up of Dargins, Kumyks and Lezgins. About 10 per cent are ethnic Russians. There are also Laks, Tabasarans and Nogai, to name but a few of the other significant groups.
Facts About Dagestan
Politics: Dagestan's politics is dominated by the need to balance its many ethnic groups. A long-running militant Islamist insurgency is a thorn in the authorities' side
Economics: Dagestan has oil reserves and a strong manufacturing sector, but rampant corruption and organised crime hold back growth
The republic's constitution declares the protection of the interests of all of Dagestan's peoples to be a fundamental principle. It is a delicate balance to maintain, in what is Russia's most ethnically diverse province.
The republic has oil and gas reserves and also the fisheries potential offered by a share in the resources of the Caspian sea. However, it is prey to organized crime and regional instability.
The crime barons may prosper but the people are amongst the poorest in Russia.
History of Dagestan
Dagestan was the birth place of Imam Shamil, the legendary fighter who in the 19th century spearheaded fierce resistance by tribesmen of Chechnya and Dagestan to the spread of the Russian empire. His name is still revered by many in both republics.
When the Bolsheviks sought to enforce control in the Caucasus in the early 1920s, Dagestan became an autonomous Soviet republic within the Russian Federation. During the Stalinist period, its peoples escaped the mass deportation inflicted on their Chechen neighbours and many others.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the republic's authorities stayed loyal to Russia, but the region became infamous for its lawlessness and corruption. Organised crime is reported to flourish and kidnappings and violence are commonplace. Firearms are ubiquitous and assassinations are a regular event.
Moscow blames much of this on Chechen-based separatism, but others say lust for profit, combined with a gun culture, is the root cause.
In the 1990s, separatist warlords from neighbouring Chechen openly led armed operations in Dagestan on several occasions. In 1995 and 1996, they seized hundreds of hostages in hospitals in the Dagestani towns of Budennovsk and Kizlyar. Scores died in the attacks.
Dagestan's Muslims, who tend to follow sufism combined with local tradition, generally steered clear of Chechen-style separatism, but after the late 1990s, radical and militant elements said to be linked with the more fundamentalist wahhabist tendency began to gain in influence.
In August 1999, an Islamic body declared an independent state in parts of Dagestan and Chechnya, and called on Muslims to take up arms against Russia in a holy war.
Chechen fighters crossed into Dagestan in support, but within a few weeks, Russian forces had suppressed the insurrection.
The Republic of Ingushetia in the Russian North Caucasus borders on Georgia to the south.
Its neighbours within Russia are Chechnya and North Ossetia. The overwhelming majority of the population is Muslim and clan links are an integral part of society.
The Ingush and Chechen peoples have close historical, cultural and linguistic ties, although the Ingush have not shared in the fierceness of the resistance to Moscow put up by the Chechens over the past 200 years.
Part of the Russian empire since the early 19th century, Ingushetia was formally joined to Chechnya under Soviet rule in 1936 when it formed around one-fifth of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic within Russia.
Like the Chechens, the Ingush, despite their history of relative loyalty to Moscow, were deported to Central Asia towards the end of the Second World War by Stalin who accused them of collaborating with the Nazis. They were allowed to return only in 1957 when Khrushchev was Soviet leader.
When Dzhokhar Dudayev came to power as Chechen leader in 1991 and declared Chechen sovereignty, the Ingush resisted. A brief conflict ensured, and the Ingush subsequently voted in a referendum to form a separate republic within the Russia Federation.
The Ingush and North Ossetians have a history of rivalry.
Ingushetia lays claim to the neighbouring Prigorodny district which was included in the Russian Republic of North Ossetia when Stalin deported the Ingush in 1944. For many years after their return, the district had a substantial Ingush population.
In late 1992 violence erupted. The North Ossetians say it was sparked by Ingush radicals seeking to include Prigorodny in the newly formed Republic of Ingushetia. The Ingush assert that the North Ossetians attacked first and that they acted in self defence.
After hundreds were killed in the clashes, Moscow sent troops to establish order. The Ingush population was expelled from the district, causing a refugee crisis in Ingushetia.
Another refugee crisis presented itself when thousands of Chechens fled into Ingushetia when Russian troops returned to Chechnya in 1999.
Our 6-Day North Caucasus Tour takes you to the little Russian republics of Chechnya and Ingushetia.
Main attractions include; the Caucasus mountains, Grozny (considered one of the most beautiful cities in all of Russia), and Ingush defensive towers.
Our 9-Day North Caucasus Tour takes you deep into the Russian republics of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia.
In addition to the authentic places you would see on other tours, you will explore the historical region of Dagestan, Russia's most unique region home to more than 36 languages and various ethnic groups.
Contact us with any questions you have about the North Caucasus!