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Oblast (Czech: oblast, Slovak: oblasť, Russian and Ukrainian: о́бласть, Belarusian: во́бласьць, Bulgarian: о́бласт ) refers to a subnational entity in some countries. Possible English translations of the word are area, zone, province or region; but is often referred to in English as oblast. In terms of administrative country subdivisions, the latter two translations may be inaccurate or confusing.

The oblast is a country subdivision of Bulgaria, Russian Federation, Belarus, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and the now-defunct Soviet Union. 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' ) is used for provinces of Belarus, and oblys (plural: oblystar) for provinces of Kazakhstan.


[edit] Oblasts in Bulgaria

Since 1997, Bulgaria has been divided into 28 oblasti, usually translated as regions. Before, the country was divided into 9 bigger units, also called oblast. See Regions of Bulgaria.

[edit] Oblasts in the 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 raions (Russian: райо́ны ; Ukrainian: райони). A big city may also be a constituent part of an oblast (Russian official: город областного подчинения ; Ukrainian official: місто обласного підпорядкування) - being at the same level as raion.

In the now-dissolved 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.

[edit] 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 were 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:

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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).

[edit] Oblasts in Yugoslavia

Oblasts were administrative units of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (renamed to Yugoslavia in 1929) between 1922 and 1929. The country was divided into 33 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 Republic of Serbian Krajina and Republika Srpska.

[edit] See also

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