An oblast (Russian, Ukrainian: о́бласть, Bulgarian: о́бласт) is a subnational entity of Bulgaria, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and the now-defunct Soviet Union, approximately equivalent to a province. Official terms in other succesor states of the Soviet Union differ, but some still use a cognate of the Russian term, e.g. voblast (voblasts, voblasts' ) is used for provinces of Belarus, and oblys (plural: oblystar) for provinces of Kazakhstan.

The word is often (and sometimes inaccurately) translated as "province" or "region".


Oblasts in Bulgaria

In Bulgaria, the top-level subdivision is into regions, with further division into oblasts.

Oblasts in Soviet Union and its successor countries

In the mentioned post-Soviet republics, oblasts are one step below the national level and further subdivided into districts called raiony (Russian: райо́ны; Ukrainian: райони). A big city may also be a constituent part of oblast (Russian official: город областного подчинения; Ukrainian official: місто обласного підпорядкування) - being at the same level as raion.

In the now-extinct Soviet Union, oblasts were two steps below the national level (the higher step being the Soviet Republics). Some oblasts of the Russian SFSR have had a complicated structure including not only raions and cities, but also autonomous entities.

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

Viloyat and welayat are derived from the Arabic language term wilayah.

Names of particular oblasts

One should note that a name of an oblast does not usually correspond with the name of the respective historical region. Oblasts are purely administrative units without any significant history: all of them have been formed in the middle of the 20th century. Typically, the Soviet/post-Soviet oblasts are named after their capital cities, officially called "oblast centers". The name of each oblast' is usually a relative adjective, formed by adding a feminine suffix to the name of respective center city. E.g. Poltava is the center of the Poltavs'ka oblast'.

Exceptions to this rule include:

Political aspects of oblast subdivision

Generally, oblast is the typical subnational entity of a highly-centralized unitary state.

Experts believe that Soviet government was applying not only the objective (socio-economic and geographic), but also particular political criteria in forming the oblasts. The administrative borders of several oblasts have sometimes been changed in order to reshuffle the local Communist Party organization, secure "the right" local administration for an industrial company, limit an ethnic activism etc. Such decisions were a Soviet version of the gerrymandering method of affecting a vote.

Recent trends in oblast policy

President Putin of Russia has dramatically reformed the actual status of the country's oblasts. Formally remaining the second level of subdivision, they de facto became included into the large federal districts (Russian: федеральные округа).

In attempts to meet new regional socio-economic and political issues, numerous projects are suggested to reform the oblast system in both Russia and Ukraine (mostly aimed to merge particular oblasts or change their borders).

See also

de:Oblast es:Óblast fr:Oblast nl:Oblast no:Oblast


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