History of the administrative division of Russia

The modern administrative-territorial structure of Russia is a system of territorial organization which is a product of a centuries-long evolution and reforms.

The first eight guberniyas established in 1708

Early historyEdit

The Kievan Rus' as it formed in the 10th century remained a more or less unified realm under the rule of Yaroslav the Wise (d. 1054), but in the later part of the 11th century, it disintegrated into a number of de facto independent and rivaling principalities, the most important of which were Grand Duchy of Galicia and Volhynia, Novgorod Republic, and Grand Duchy of Vladimir and Suzdal.

With the advance of Mongols and establishing of Golden Horde in 1240, many parts of Kievan Rus came under a direct administration of Sarai, while others became its dependencies. The three previously mentioned main centers were established as successors of the Kievan Rus. Most of Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia however became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later gradually and completely coming under the direct administration of the Crown of Poland. Novgorod Republic was overran by the time well-established Grand Duchy of Moscow. The grand duchies of Lithuania and Moscow practically divided the former territories of Kievan Rus between each other, both struggling to gain the seat of Metropolitan of Kiev.

From the 13th century, the Russian principalities used an administrative subdivision into uyezds, with each such uyezd being subdivided into several volosts, some areas used division of pyatina. Voivodes were the officials appointed to administer and defend the uyezds.

By the 15th century, the Grand Duchy of Moscow was recognized as a direct successor of the Grand Duchy of Vladimir. It gradually incorporated all left out adjacent smaller duchies such as the Principality of Yaroslavl, Principality of Rostov and successfully conquered the Principality of Nizhny Novgorod-Suzdal, the Principality of Tver as well as the Novgorod Republic. Near the end of the 15th century the Golden Horde fell apart into several smaller khanates and Muscovy for the first time became a sovereign state.

At the start of the 16th century, the Grand Duchy of Moscow managed to annex the Pskov Republic and conquer the Grand Duchy of Ryazan as well as secure number of territories that belonged to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania such as the Upper Oka Principalities and Sloboda Ukraine, thus extending its territory far south. In 1708, the Oka principalities and Sloboda Ukraine were incorporated into the first Kiev Governorate. During the second half of the 16th century, the Grand Duchy of Moscow managed to conquer number of West-Siberian and Volga duchies and khanates such as Kazan Khanate, Siberia Khanate, Astrakhan Khanate, Great Nogai Horde and many others. Some of the territorial acquisitions, however, were lost during the Time of Troubles.

Soon after the Time of Troubles (Treaty of Polyanovka), the Grand Duchy of Moscow was able to recover the Duchy of Smolensk (Smolensk Voivodeship) and later annex territory of Left-bank Ukraine (Truce of Andrusovo).

Prior to the 18th century, the Tsardom of Russia was divided into a system of territorial units called razryads (literally order of units) as part of military reform of 1680.[1]

During the 1680s, the Tsardom of Russia acquired a substantial expansion in Transbaikal after signing the Treaty of Nerchinsk with China (Qing dynasty). By this time (at the end of the 17th century), an extensive territory from Yenisei to the Sea of Okhotsk was secured through colonization. The discovery of the Bering Strait in 1728 confirmed the eastern borders of modern Russia. The eastward advance through Siberia extended the Tobol Razryad transforming it into overstretched territory that was initially in 1708 included into Siberia Governorate.

Imperial RussiaEdit

History of the
division of Russia

Administrative reforms by Peter the GreatEdit

Technically, the territorial-administrative reform started out in the Tsardom of Russia before the Imperial period. On December 29 [O.S. December 18], 1708, in order to improve the manageability of the vast territory of the state, Tsar Peter the Great issued an ukase (edict) dividing Russia into eight administrative divisions, called governorates (guberniyas), which replaced the 166 uyezds and razryads which existed before the reform:[2]

Governorates of the Russian Empire (1708-1726)
1708-1710 Kazan Ingermanland Azov   Smolensk    
1710-1713 Saint Petersburg
1713-1714 Moscow Riga
1714-1717   Nizhny Novgorod
1717-1719 Astrakhan    
1719-1725   Nizhny Novgorod Reval
1725-1726 Voronezh
1726   Smolensk  
The Governorates of Archangelgorod, Kiev and Siberia remained constant between 1708 and 1726.

The reform of 1708 established neither the borders of the governorates nor their internal divisions.[2] The governorates were defined as the sets of cities and the lands adjacent to those cities.[2] Some older subdivision types also continued to be used.[2] Between 1710 and 1713, all governorates were subdivided into lots (Russian: доли), each governed by a landrat (ландрат).[2] Every governorate was administered by an appointed governor, who also headed a board of landrats. The lots' primary purpose was fiscal, and each one was supposed to cover 5,536 homesteads.[3]

In 1719, Peter enacted another administrative reform to fix the deficiencies of the original system, as the governorates were too big and unmanageable. This reform abolished the system of lots, dividing most of the governorates into provinces (провинции), which were further divided into districts (Russian: дистрикты).

During this time, territories were frequently reshuffled between the governorates, and new governorates were added to accommodate population growth and territorial expansion.

in 1721 the Russian Empire possessed a multinational population of about 17.5 million population in all administrative districts. Out of the 13.5 million Russians, 5.5 million men were liable to the poll tax; 3 percent of them were townsmen and 97 percent peasants. Of the peasants, 25 percent cultivated church lands, 19 percent state lands, and the remainder worked the estates of some 100,000 families of secular landowners. Russia’s territory of about 4,633,200 square miles (12,000,000 square km) included some recent and valuable acquisitions.[4]

Russia in 1682–1762

Subsequent reformsEdit

In 1727, soon after Peter the Great's death, Catherine I enacted another reform, which rolled back many of the previous reform's developments. The system of districts was abolished, and the old system of uyezds was restored. A total of 166 uyezds was re-established; together with the newly created uyezds, the Russian Empire had approximately 250.

The reform also reshuffled some territories. Narva Province was transferred from Saint Petersburg Governorate to Revel Governorate; Solikamsk and Vyatka Provinces were transferred from Siberia Governorate to Kazan Governorate; and Uglich and Yaroslavl Provinces were transferred from Saint Petersburg Governorate to Moscow Governorate. In addition, Belgorod, Oryol, and Sevsk Provinces of Kiev Governorate were reconstituted as Belgorod Governorate; and Belozersk, Novgorod, Pskov, Tver, and Velikiye Luki Provinces of Saint Petersburg Governorate were reconstituted as Novgorod Governorate.

The following years saw few changes. In 1728, Ufa Province was transferred from Kazan Governorate to Siberia Governorate, and in 1737, Simbirsk Province was created within Kazan Governorate.

Administrative reforms by Catherine the GreatEdit

By 1775, the existing system of administrative divisions proved inefficient, which was further underlined by Pugachev's Rebellion, and Catherine the Great issued a document known as Decree on the Governorates (Russian: Учреждение о губерниях).[5] The second part of the same decree was issued in 1780, which, however, contained very few significant changes with respect to the first part.[6]

A major administrative territorial restructuring of the Russian Empire after vast land acquisition from the Ottoman Empire and Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in the late 18th century. The reform saw introduction of the office of viceroy (gosudarev namestnik) which later were transformed into a general governor. Gosudarev namestnik literally means an imperial representative to the land. During the reform several already existing governments (guberniya) were combined under the office of the Russian viceroy and were called namestnichestvo. Those namestnichestvo were introduced onto the expanded territory as well, the only exclusion were the governments of Moscow and Saint Petersburg. In 1796 all namestnichetvo were officially renamed into general governments. General governments exercised a small degree of autonomy as certain laws varied from general government to another.[7]

Reforms in the 19th centuryEdit

Western part of the Governorates of the Russian Empire on the eve of the Russian Revolution
Governorates of the Russian Empire on the eve of the Russian Revolution

After the abolition of Russian serfdom in 1861, volosts became a unit of peasant's local self-rule. A number of mirs were united into a typical volost, which had an assembly consisting of elected delegates from the mirs. The self-government of the mirs and volosts was tempered by the authority of the police commissaries (stanovoy) and by the power of general oversight given to the nominated "district committees for the affairs of the peasants".

Reforms in the 20th centuryEdit

By the 1910s, 104 administrative governorate units existed.

  Subdivisions of the Russian Empire, c. 1914
Russian Anglicisation Alternative Name(s)
Russian Cyrillic Romanisation
European Russia or Ruthenia
Great Russia
Central or Muscovite Russia
Московская губерния Moskovskaya guberniya Moscow Governorate
Калужская губерния Kaluzhskaya guberniya Kaluga Governorate
Смоленская губерния Smolenskaya guberniya Smolensk Governorate
Тверская губерния Tverskaya guberniya Tver Governorate
Ярославская губерния Yaroslavskaya guberniya Yaroslavl Governorate
Костромская губерния Kostromskaya guberniya Kostroma Governorate
Нижегородская губерния Nizhegorodskaya guberniya Nizhny Novgorod Governorate
Владимирская губерния Vladimirskaya guberniya Vladimir Governorate
Рязанская губерния Ryazanskaya guberniya Ryazan Governorate
Тульская губерния Tul'skaya guberniya Tula Governorate
Орловская губерния Orlovskaya guberniya Oryol Governorate
Курская губерния Kurskaya guberniya Kursk Governorate
Воронежская губерния Voronezhskaya guberniya Voronezh Governorate
Тамбовская губерния Tambovskaya guberniya Tambov Governorate
Far North or Novgorodian Russia
Архангельская губерния Arkhangel'skaya guberniya Arkhangelsk Governorate
Олонецкая губерния Olonetskaya guberniya Olonets Governorate
Санкт-Петербургская губерния Santk-Peterburgskaya guberniya Saint Petersburg Governorate Petrograd; formerly Swedish Ingria
Псковская губерния Pskovskaya guberniya Pskov Governorate
Новгородская губерния Novgorodskaya guberniya Novgorod Governorate Veliky Novgorod
Вологодская губерния Vologodskaya guberniya Vologda Governorate
Little Russia or the Zaporizhian Host
Черниговская губерния Chernigovskaya guberniya Chernigov Governorate
Полтавская губерния Poltavskaya guberniya Poltava Governorate
Харьковская губерния Khar'kovskaya guberniya Kharkov Governorate
Northwestern Krai
Ковенская губерния Kovenskaya guberniya Kovno Governorate Kaunas, Kowno
Виленская губерния Vilenskaya guberniya Vilna Governorate Vilnius, Wilno
White Russia
Витебская губерния Vitebskaya guberniya Vitebsk Governorate Vitebskas, Witebsk
Могилевская губерния Mogilevskaya guberniya Mogilev Governorate Mogiliauas, Mohylaw
Black Russia
Минская губерния Minskaya guberniya Minsk Governorate Minskas, Mińsk
Гродненская губерния Grodnenskaya guberniya Grodno Governorate Gardinas
Southwestern Krai (Right-Bank Ukraine)
Холмская губерния Kholmskaya guberniya Kholm Governorate Chelmas, Chełm
Red Russia
Волынская губерния Volynskaya guberniya Volhynian Governorate Volyn, Voluinė, Wołyń
Киевская губерния Kiyevskaya guberniya Kiev Governorate Kyiev, Kijevas, Kijów
Подольская губерния Podol'skaya guberniya Podolian Governorate Podolya, Podolien, Padole
Golden Horde
Khanate of Kazan
Пермская губерния Permskaya guberniya Perm Governorate
Вятская губерния Vyatkskaya guberniya Vyatka Governorate
Казанская губерния Kazanskaya guberniya Kazan Governorate
Уфимская губерния Ufimskaya guberniya Ufa Governorate
Оренбургская губерния Orenburgskaya guberniya Orenburg Governorate
Самарская губерния Samarskaya guberniya Samara Governorate
Симбирская губерния Simbirskaya guberniya Simbirsk Governorate
Пензенская губерния Penzenskaya guberniya Penza Governorate
Саратовская губерния Saratovskaya guberniya Saratov Governorate
Астраханская губерния Astrakhanskaya guberniya Astrakhan Governorate
New Russia or Little Tartary
Область Войска Донского Oblast' Voiska Donskogo Don Cossack Host
Екатеринославская губерния Yekaterinoslavskaya guberniya Ekaterinoslav Governorate
Херсонская губерния Khersonskaya guberniya Kherson Governorate Yedisan
Таврическая губерния Tavricheskaya guberniya Taurida Governorate
Бессарабская губерния Bessarabskaya guberniya Bessarabian Governorate Moldavia
Grand Principality of Finland (Swedish Österland)
Улеаборгская губерния Uleaborgskaya guberniya Uleaborg Governorate Uleåborg, Oulu
Ва́заская губерния Vázaskaya guberniya Vaasa Governorate Vaasa
Або-Бьернеборгская губерния Abo-Byerneborgskaya guberniya Abo-Byerneborg Governorate Åbo och Björneborg, Turku ja Pori
Нюландская губерния Nyulyandskaya guberniya Nyland Governorate Uusimaa
Тавастгусская губерния Tavastgusskaya guberniya Tavastehus Governorate Häme
Санкт-Михельская губерния Sankt-Mikhelskaya guberniya Saint Michel Governorate Mikkeli
Выборгская губерния Vyborgskaya guberniya Vyborg Governorate Viipuri
Куопиоская губерния Kuopioskaya guberniya Kuopio Governorate
Baltic Governorates
Эстляндская губерния Estlyandskaya guberniya Estonia Governorate Eestimaa, Estland; formerly Swedish Estonia
Лифляндская губерния Liflyandskaya guberniya Livonia Governorate Liivimaa, Livland; formerly Swedish Livonia
Курля́ндская губерния Kurlyandskaya guberniya Courland Governorate Kuršo, Kurzemes; formerly the Duchy of Courland
Vistula Krai or Congress Poland
Калишская губерния Kalishskaya guberniya Kalisz Governorate Kalisz
Келецкая губерния Keletskaya guberniya Kelets Governorate Kielce
Ломжинская губерния Lomzhskaya guberniya Lomzh Governorate Łomża
Люблинская губерния Lublinskaya guberniya Lublin Governorate
Петроковская губерния Petrokovskaya guberniya Petrokov Governorate Piotrków
Плоцкая губерния Plotskaya guberniya Plotsk Governorate Płock
Радомская губерния Radomskaya guberniya Radom Governorate
Сувалкская губерния Suvalkskaya guberniya Suvalki Governorate Suwałki
Варшавская губерния Varshavskaya guberniya Warsaw Governorate Warszaw
Asian Russia or Great Tartary
Caucasus Viceroyalty
North Caucasus
Кубанская о́бласть Kubanskaya oblast Kuban Oblast
Черноморская губерния Chernomorskaya guberniya Black Sea Governorate Circassia
Терская о́бласть Terskaya oblast Terek Oblast
Ставропольская губерния Stavropol'skaya guberniya Stavropol Governorate
Дагестанская о́бласть Dagestanskaya oblast Dagestan Oblast
South Caucasus
Сухумская округ Sukhumskaya okrug Sukhum Okrug Abkhazia
Кутаисская губерния Kutaisskaya guberniya Kutais Governorate formerly the Kingdom of Imereti
Батумская о́бласть Batumskaya oblast Batum Oblast
Тифлисская губерния Tiflisskaya guberniya Tiflis Governorate Tbilisi; formerly the Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti
Закатальская округ Zakatal'skaya okrug Zakatal Okrug Zaqatala
Бакинская губерния Bakinskaya guberniya Baku Governorate Shirvan
Елизаветпольская губерния Yelizavetpol'skaya guberniya Elisavetpol Governorate Ganja
Карсская о́бласть Karsskaya oblast Kars Oblast Erzurum
Эриванская губерния Erivanskaya guberniya Erivan Governorate Yerevan
Steppes Krai (Kazakh Khanate)
Уральская о́бласть Ural'skaya oblast Ural Oblast formerly the Nogai Horde
Тургайская о́бласть Turgayskaya oblast Turgay Oblast
Акмолинская о́бласть Akmolinskaya oblast Akmolinsk Oblast Akmola
Семипалатинская о́бласть Semipalatinskaya oblast Semipalatinsk Oblast
Russian Turkestan
Закаспийская о́бласть Zakaspiyskaya oblast Transcaspian Oblast Transoxiana
Хивинское ханство Khivinskoye khanstvo Khanate of Khiva
Бухарский Эмират Bukharskiy Emirat Emirate of Bukhara
Самаркандская о́бласть Samarkandskaya oblast Samarkand Oblast
Ферганская о́бласть Ferganskaya oblast Fergana Oblast
Семиреченская о́бласть Semirechenskaya oblast Semirechye Oblast "Seven Rivers"
Сырдарьинская о́бласть Syrdar'inskaya oblast Syr-Darya Oblast
Тобольская губерния Tobol'skaya guberniya Tobolsk Governorate
Томская губерния Tomskaya guberniya Tomsk Governorate
Енисейская губерния Yeniseyskaya guberniya Yeniseysk Governorate
Иркутская губерния Irkutskaya guberniya Irkutsk Governorate
Забайкальская о́бласть Zabaykal'skaya oblast Transbaikal Oblast Transbaikalia, Dauria
Якутская о́бласть Yakutskaya oblast Yakutsk Oblast Yakutia, Sakha
Урянхайская край Uryankhayskaya krai Uryankhay Krai Tuva
Russian Far East
Амурская о́бласть Amurskaya oblast Amur Oblast Priamurye, Outer Manchuria
Приморская о́бласть Primorskaya oblast Primorskaya Oblast "Maritime"
Камчатская о́бласть Kamchatskaya oblast Kamchatka Oblast
Сахалинская о́бласть Sakhalinskaya oblast Sakhalin Oblast

Soviet RussiaEdit

The Russian SFSR comprised 16 autonomous republics, 5 autonomous oblasts, 10 autonomous okrugs, 6 krais, and 40 oblasts.[when?]

Uyezds and volosts were abolished by the Soviet administrative reform of 1923–1929. Raions may be roughly called a modern equivalent of the uyezds, and selsoviets may be considered a modern equivalent of the volosts.

Russian FederationEdit

The subdivision type of Federal District was created in May 2000 by Vladimir Putin as a part of a wider program designed to reassert federal authority. The original division was into seven federal districts, but in 2010 the North Caucasian Federal District was split off from the Southern Federal District, bringing the number to eight. In 2014, the annexation of Crimea resulted in the creation of a new Crimean Federal District, bringing the number to nine, but it was later merged into the Southern Federal District. Amidst the invasion of Ukraine, four southern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia would later be annexed into Russia in 2022 but were not integrated into the Southern Federal District. All of the six regions that are under Russian occupation are internationally recognized as part of Ukraine.



  1. ^ Reforms of armed forces of 1680s
  2. ^ a b c d e Tarkhov, p. 65
  3. ^ Pushkarev, p. 13
  4. ^ "Russian Empire - The reign of Peter the Great | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 2022-09-09.
  5. ^ Учреждение о губерниях 1775. Great Soviet Encyclopedia.
  6. ^ Градовский, А. Д (1875). Начала русского государственного права (in Russian). Saint Petersburg.
  7. ^ Tarkhov, S.A. Changes to the administrative-territorial division of Russia in the past 300 years. "Pervoye sentyabrya". 2001.


External linksEdit