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An oblast is a type of administrative division of Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Ukraine, and the now-defunct Soviet Union and Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The term is analogous to "state" or "province".

Official terms in successor states of the Soviet Union differ, but some still use a cognate of the Russian term, e.g. voblast (voblasts, voblasts', [ˈvobɫasʲtsʲ]) is used for provinces of Belarus, and oblys (plural: oblystar) for Regions of Kazakhstan.

The word "oblast" is a loanword in English,[1] but it is nevertheless often translated as "area", "zone", "province", or "region". The last translation may lead to confusion, because "raion" may be used for other kinds of administrative subdivision, which may be translated as "region" or "district", depending on the context.


Since 1997, Bulgaria has been divided into 28 oblasts, usually translated as provinces. Before, the country was divided into just nine units, also called oblast.

Russian Empire

In the Russian Empire, oblasts were considered to be administrative units and were included as parts of Governorates General or krais. The majority of then-existing oblasts were on the periphery of the country (e.g. Kars Oblast or Transcaspian Oblast) or covered the areas where Cossacks lived.

Soviet Union

In the now-dissolved Soviet Union, oblasts were one of the types of administrative divisions of the union republics. As any administrative units of this level, oblasts were composed of districts (raions) and cities/towns directly under oblasts' jurisdiction. Some oblasts also included autonomous entities called autonomous okrugs. Because of the Soviet Union electrification program under the GOELRO plan, Ivan Alexandrov, as director of the Regionalisation Committee of Gosplan, divided the Soviet union into thirteen European and eight Asiatic oblasts, using rational economic planning rather than "the vestiges of lost sovereign rights".[2]

The names of oblasts did not usually correspond to the names of the respective historical regions, as they were created as purely administrative units. With a few exceptions, Soviet oblasts were named after their administrative centers.

Post-Soviet countries

The oblasts in other post-Soviet countries are officially called:

Territorial entity Local term English term Details Comment
Armenia marz region[3] see regions of Armenia Oblast in the Russian version of a 1995 law[4]
Belarus voblast (vobłaść) / oblast region[5] regions of Belarus Russian and Belarusian are both state languages
Georgia mkhare region see regions of Georgia (country)
Kazakhstan oblys region see regions of Kazakhstan
Kyrgyzstan oblast region see regions of Kyrgyzstan
Russia oblast region[6] see oblasts of Russia According to the Constitution of Russia, oblasts are considered to be subjects of the Federation, which is a higher status than that of administrative units they had within the Russian SFSR before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The federal subject status gives the oblasts some degree of autonomy and gives them representation in the Federation Council.
Tajikistan viloyat region see regions of Tajikistan
Turkmenistan welaýat region [7] see regions of Turkmenistan
Ukraine oblast region[8][9] see regions of Ukraine
Uzbekistan viloyat region[10] see provinces of Uzbekistan

Viloyat and welaýat are derived from the Arabic language term wilāya (ولاية)

Former Yugoslavia

In 1922, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was divided into 33 administrative divisions called oblasts. In 1929, oblasts were replaced with larger administrative units known as banovinas.

During the Yugoslav Wars, several Serbian Autonomous Oblasts were formed in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. These oblasts were later merged into the Republic of Serbian Krajina and the Republika Srpska.

See also


  1. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2008. Entry on "oblast"
  2. Ekonomicheskoe raionirovanie Rossii, Gosplan, Moscow 1921
  3. Helix Consulting LLC. "Government - Regions - The Government of the Republic of Armenia". gov.am.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Legislation: National Assembly of RA". parliament.am.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Geography, Belarus - Belarus.by". belarus.by.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Chapter 3. The Federal Structure - The Constitution of the Russian Federation". constitution.ru.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. http://www.iso.org/iso/iso_3166-2_newsletter_ii-2_2010-06-30.pdf
  8. "Regions of Ukraine - MFA of Ukraine". mfa.gov.ua.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. http://en.ria.ru/infographics/20141028/194720565/Ukraines-Snap-Parliamentary-Elections.html
  10. http://www.gov.uz/en/regional_authorities/

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