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Subdivisions of Russia

Last modified: 2014-10-04 by zoltán horváth
Keywords: respublika | oblasth | kraĭ | okrug | raĭon | avtonomniĭ okrug | avtonomnaâ oblasth | namestniĉestvo | guberniâ | uezd |
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First order divisions

Russia is divided in 89 entities, called collectively subjects of the federation (субъекты федерации | subwekty federacii, sing.субъект федерации | subwekt federacii). As an heritage from the soviet era, each of these fall into one of the following categories (followed by the number of units for each):

  • republic (республика | respublika) 21
  • territory (край | kraĭ) 6
  • region (область | oblasth) 49
  • autonomous district (автономный округ | avtonomnyĭ okrug) 10
  • autonomous region (автономная область | avtonomnaâ oblasth) 1
  • federal city (город федерального подчинения | gorod federalhnogo podĉineniâ) 2
Though these are all first order divisions, the autonomous districts depend administratively from a neighbouring region or territory (but never from a republic!) — with the notable exception of Chukotka.
Although Russia is still a very centralized country, it is nominally a federation and these first order divisions have each a constitution and locally elected government and parlament — as they are also entitled to have each a flag, an anthem and a coat of arms.
António Martins, 04 Apr 2000

Different status among first order divisions

Immediately after 1991, the republics inherited (or upgraded themselves to) the status soviet ASSRs enjoyed, nominally autonomous inside RSFSR — as opposed to the other divisions at the same level. In 1994, though, this state of affairs changed and the privilegies enjoyed by the republics were extended to all Russian first order divisions.
António Martins, 04 Apr 2000

Republics and the other federation subjects have equal rights, but we see only the 21 flags of republics near the building of Federation Council in Moscow.
Victor Lomantsov, 06 May 2002

There are still differences between republics and other first order divisions. For instance, while the former have almost always a president (президент | prezident), the latter have a governor (губернатор | gubernator); while the former have a capital (столица | stolica), the latter have a center (центр | centr); the word "republic" is always capitalized, while the other names are always in lower case; etc. But these are skin deep differences and in practice the way each region deals with the central government has little or nothing to do with its category (again, except autonomous districts though including Chukotka). And this, as said, includes flags.
António Martins, 04 Apr 2000

Of course the motive for Soviet differentiation of ASSRs was the fact that these are regions inhabited by ethnic non-russians — though a severe critique about fairness and accuracy in the implementation of this principle would fill a thick book (it did fill some, actually). The same rationale applied to the autonomous districts and autonomous regions.
António Martins, 04 Apr 2000

Crimea and Sevastopol

Although it is highly controversial, the world has seen a new country today, Monday 17 March 2014. The parliament of the Crimea declared the Autonomous Republic of Crimea an independent state: The Republic of Crimea. Its independence was immediately recognized by the Russian Federation. Time will show if Crimea becomes part of the Russian Federation, as wished by the people of Crimea who voted Sunday in a referendum to break off from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.
Crimea is now in the list of independent states which are de facto independent, but not de jure. Among these countries are already: Kosovo, Transdnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The flag of Crimea is the one which was adopted 24 September 1992. It contains the Russian colours white, red and blue, which was already a sign.
Jos Poels, 18 March 2014

After one day of "independence", Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol became part of the Russian Federation on 18 March 2014, while Russian and Crimean leaders have signed treaty of accession of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol in the Russian Federation.
"Since the adoption of the Russian Federation Republic of Crimea in structure of the Russian Federation two new entities - of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Federal importance Sevastopol - have been created," the text of the treaty reads. It is also stated that "starting from the day of accession, the people of Crimea and Sevastopol are considered as Russian citizens".
By the agreement, the transition period will be acting till January 1, 2015. During this time, both sides will resolve the issues of integration of the new subjects "in the economic, financial, credit and legal system of the Russian Federation".
The original Russian text of agreement and other related documents can be read at this page:
Zoltan Horvath, 19 March 2014

Crimea.CR and Krym.KR are given as "совершенно неофициальный сайт" (Completely Unofficial Site) being used by somebody to archive the actions of the short lived "Independent" Crimea. "Proceeding from belief, what each independent state has to leave in the Noosphere a historical trace in the form of a site with the two-letter domain." (Google translated). They're not purporting to actually use .cr for Crimea.
Dean McGee, 19 March 2014

Crimea flag added to line-up at Russian parliament. BBC story about Crimean flag:, 24 March 2014


Second order divisions

As for second order divisions (subdivisions of first order divisions) in Russia, they fall on either of these categories:

  • county (район | raĭon)
  • county-status city, with several denominations, according to the status of its containing first order division:
    • city subjected to a republic (город республиканского подчинения | gorod respublikanskogo podĉineniâ)
    • city subjected to a region (город областного подчинения | gorod oblastnogo podĉineniâ)
    • city subjected to a territory (город краевого подчинения | gorod kraevogo podĉineniâ)
    • city subjected to a[n autonomous] district (город окружного подчинения | gorod okruẑnogo podĉineniâ)
The first is usually a rural area, while the others are urban nucleous with separate administration, being usually a “whole” on the map of the first. (Centers/capitals of first order divisions are always county-status cities.) These too have local governments and are intitled to have flags: All 1805+1004 of them, as of 1980 (according to SSSR — Administrativno-territorialhnoe Delenie Soûznyq Respublik of 1980). As for flag labeling, the first could be "county flag" and the others "city flag".
António Martins, 04 Apr 2000

Third order divisions

Federal cities, though, do not have second order divisions, rather (for their size) being subdivided in third order divisions, just like second order divisions themselves. These are also of several types:

  • city district (городской район | gorodskoĭ raĭon)
  • county subject city, or rather city subjected to a county (город районного подчинения | gorod raĭonnogo podĉineniâ), or, simply, city
  • city-status town (посёлок городского типа | posëlok gorodskogo tipa)
  • village council (сельсовет | selhsovet)
The first two are urban, covering respectively a part of one of the city types above (first or second level divisions) or the whole of a (smaller) city. The two second types are rural and cover wider areas, though centered on a given settlement. Flag labels can be respectively "district flag", "city flag" (like the above), "town flag" and "local council flag".

Seats of Village Councils may be:

  • village-status town (посёлок сельско типа | posëlok selhskogo tipa)
  • village (село | selo)
  • [wooden] village (деревня | derevnâ)
  • [masoned] village (слобода | sloboda)
  • [turkic] village (кишлак | kiŝlak)
  • ranch (хутор | qutor)
I’m not sure about flags for these third order divisions — but I’d bet that, even if legally intitled to it, most of the 22681 village councils, or of the 2065 city-status towns, or of the 366 city districts, or of the 449 cities of Russia (according to SSSR — Administrativno-territorialhnoe Delenie Soûznyq Respublik of 1980) couldn’t afford to have a flag approved or manufactured.
António Martins, 04 Apr 2000

Federal Districts
(a.k.a. regions of presidential decentralization)

In the portuguese newspaper Público of May 19 there’s a report on a division of Russia in 7 large regions, each with an appointed representative of the central power, designed to control the subjects of the federation. [See list and map.] I suppose these regions have no flags, at least yet.
Jorge Candeias, 26 May 2000

At first glance, these seem to coincide with the economic regions, but there are a lot of differences:

  • Northwest: Includes the current Northwestern and Northern economic regions.
  • Center: Includes the current Central - Black Soil and Central economic regions.
  • Northern Caucasus: Includes the current Northern Caucasus economic region and part of the current Volga economic region.
  • Volga: Includes the current Volga - Vyatka economic region and parts of the current Volga and Ural economic regions.
  • Ural: Includes parts of the current Ural and Western Siberia economic regions.
  • Siberia: Includes the current Eastern Siberia economic region and part of the current Western Siberia economic region.
  • Far-East: Coincides with the current Far-East economic region.
I’m almost sure that these divisions will not have any distinctive flag — these appointed representatives of the president may have an office flag, but identical to all seven of them, I guess.
António Martins, 27 May 2000

Crimea Federal District (Russian: Крымский федеральный округ) was established on March 21, 2014 after the accession of Crimea to the Russian Federation. It became one of the nine federal districts of Russia. The district has two federal subjects, it includes the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol, which are both internationally recognized as a part of Ukraine. The administrative center of the federal district is Simferopol.
Source:  (in Russan)
Zoltan Horvath, 24 March 2014


Economic regions

There are also the economic regions (экономический район | êkonomiĉeskiĭ raĭon) [See list], which are not administrative divisions and do not have flags. There are 11 of them, and their borderlines follow the limits of the first order divisions. These regions are almost identical to those of the soviet era, the only differences being the new Northern economic region (including Karelia, Komia, Nenetsia, Vologda Region, Arkhangelsk Region and Murmansk Region) carved out from the Northwestern economic region, and the joining to the Northwestern economic region of Kaliningrad Region. I am not sure wheather these regions will be superceded by the recently approved federal districts.
António Martins, 04 Apr 2000 and 01 Jun 2001


Historical subdivisions

See also: Historical coats of arms of Russian subdivisions

In Russian Empire the main and basic administrative and territorial unit the Уезд was. In 18 century Uezds have been incorporated into Guberniyas. In 1920th years of Guberniyas have been transformed into Krays and regions (Oblast) and Uezds have been divided into Rayons (analog for county). Some Rayons were made Okrug (analog for district). In 1930th years Okrugs have been abolished, except for national Okrugs and special Okrugs. The Okrugs is an administrative-territorial unit, which is more important, than Rayon. One Okrug includes some Rayons.
Mikhail Revnivtsev, 07 Oct 2005

Possible translations to English:

  • губерния = governorate
  • провинция = province
  • уезд = shire
  • область = region
  • край = territory
  • район = county
But those designations are part of the name, and names are not translated.
Valentin Poposki, 14 Nov 2005

"Наместничество" and "губерния" were two names of one thing. Before 1799 many of gubernias were known as namestnichestvo; the head of administration was namestnik. It was official name of the administrative parts of Russia. The citizens of XVIII century thought that "namestnichestvo" is a “more russian” word. In 1799 czar Pavel I renamed all namestnichestvos to guberniya and namestniks to gubernator (governor). Not all guberniyas were namestnichestvo in the past. For example, Moscow guberniya was "guberniya" always (from 1708).
Victor Lomantsov, 15 Oct 2001


Status and border changes, cp. the Soviet era

Some former autonomous units upgraded themselves to full “sovereignship” inside the Fussian Rederation since 1991:

António Martins, 09 Apr 2000

This means that only Adygeya, Altay Republic, Karachay-Cherkessia, Khakassia, Jewish Autonomous Region and Chukotka changed their dependent status (the two latter not having changed their denominations, which is most confusing). All other areas (Aghin Buriatia, Evenkia, Yugra, Koryakia, Nenetsia, Perm’s Komia, Taymyr, Ust-Ord Buriatia and Yamal) were and remain dependent from another federation subject, though all 89 of them are considered to be federation subjects of their own (which is also most confusing).
António Martins, 29 May 2000


Stamps of these and other places

See also: Flags on Russian stamps

I think that stamps issued by subnational entitied within Russia are mostly official, though issued exclusively as philatelic items, and thus quite seldom used to post letters and parcels. And if so they’re mint in Moscow and are almost surely not avaliable on the locations they supposedly refer to, like Australian Antartica stamps and so on.
António Martins, 07 Nov 2000