As the most southern and least-populated region of Russia, the republic of Dagestan is home to a large ethnic Russian population and a multitude of different Muslim sects.

The republic itself is divided by a sharp fault line between its nominally Muslim north, where most of the republic's 7 million people live, and its more secular south, where members of Dagestan's 13 officially recognized ethnic nationalities are a minority.

The more religious ethnic Russian segment of the population hopes that Russian President Vladimir Putin can help reform the region, a desire that is compounded by fears that they are facing an increased threat from Russia's Islamic militants.

Many Russians in the north want to close down religious institutions, introduce sharia law and stop providing education. In the south, many are acutely afraid of young Dagestani men being recruited into an Islamist extremist group, especially since the Aug. 29, 2015, terrorist attack on an apartment building in the city of Kizlyar that killed more than 60 people.

Here are some questions and answers about life in the republic:

How did things change after the 2015 attack?

In addition to the deaths, 47 people were injured in the apartment building attack. The building’s rubble scattered through most of the predominantly Muslim neighborhoods in Kizlyar, and makeshift mausoleums were erected outside of the walls to commemorate the dead.

As time has passed, many Dagestani residents have become convinced that Russia is complicit in the explosion. They believe that for years the security forces have failed to effectively handle the religious extremism that has blighted the region, giving a unique space to the militants to operate.

Calls for a "return to God" and "stripping away Russia's liberties" dominate official and social media in the south, where Islamic scholars have threatened to disband religious schools in the event of a bloodbath.

What do the authorities do about the growing religious extremism?

The authorities have done a lot to make life difficult for religious militants, ordering all schools in the region to close in December 2016.

However, poor coordination between the local and federal government meant that in most cases the authorities realized that the closure was simply not happening. The authorities gave higher priority to petty crimes, creating a byzantine conflict between law enforcement, politics and the local population.

Authorities have since vowed to restore stability by organizing security checks at bus stations in the south and increasing the training of security officials, in order to replace the weaker state structures.

How has the Muslim population responded to the conflict?

Given the poor faith in the political and judicial systems and the Islamist threat, tensions are running high.

Nearly 100 Muslims gathered outside the local parliament building in Khasavyurt on Feb. 3 to protest what they considered draconian actions by authorities.

However, it is not just the Muslims who have turned against the authorities. Dozens of merchants in the region that are also ethnic Russians have gone on strike.

So far, the strike has been confined to the tourist areas of the far-eastern section of the republic. However, merchants in other parts of the region are being forced to close their shops.

Which ethnic groups are most likely to be radicalized?

The dominant ethnic group is the Muslim Arabs, who make up 32% of the population, followed by ethnic Tatars (15%), Khazar Armenians (15%), Circassians (5%), Buryats (3%), Ingush (2%) and Mashhad (1%).

Militant groups, the majority of which are composed of young ethnic Dagestani men, have no leading members and are largely believed to be made up of local volunteers.

There is no apparent religious ideology among them, according to Alexander Verkhovsky, who runs the Secure, an organization that works to monitor extremism in Russia. He added that the attacks have been focused mostly on places inhabited by ethnic Russian or non-Muslim groups.

"That is why it is so hard to identify them as armed Islamist groups," he said.

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