An oblast (/ˈɒblæst/; also UK: /ˈɒblɑːst/; Cyrillic (in most languages, including Kazakh: облыс, Russian and Ukrainian: область, Bulgarian: област)) is a type of administrative division within some Slavic areas, the Russian Empire, and the Soviet Union; it continues to be used in Russia and some post-Imperial/Soviet states. The term oblast has no universal definition or exact comparison in English, although it has been presented as analogous to the term "county" in the U.S.
Official terms in successor states of the Soviet Union differ, but some still use a cognate of the Russian term, e.g., vobłasć (voblasts, voblasts', official orthography: вобласць, Taraškievica: вобласьць, [ˈvobɫasʲtsʲ]) is used for regions of Belarus, oblys (plural: oblystar) for regions of Kazakhstan, and oblusu (облусу) for regions of Kyrgyzstan.
The term is 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 division, which may be translated as "region", "district" or "county" depending on the context. Unlike "province", translations as "area", "zone", and "region" may lead to confusion because they have very common meanings other than a political division.
Since 1999, Bulgaria has been divided into 28 oblasts, usually translated as "provinces". Before, the country was divided into just nine units, also called oblasts.
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.
In the 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".
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.
The oblasts in other post-Soviet countries are officially called:
|Territorial entity||Local term||English term||Details||Comment|
|Armenia||marz||province or region||see Marz (country subdivision)||Oblast in the Russian version of a 1995 law.|
|Belarus||voblast (vobłaść) / oblast||region||see Regions of Belarus||Belarusian and Russian are both state languages.|
|Kazakhstan||oblys||region||see Regions of Kazakhstan|
|Kyrgyzstan||oblus / oblast||region||see Regions of Kyrgyzstan||Kyrgyz and Russian are both official languages|
|Russia||oblast||oblast or region||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 ||see Regions of Turkmenistan|
|Ukraine||oblast||oblast or region||see Oblasts of Ukraine||In Ukraine, an oblast (Ukrainian: область [ˈɔbɫɐsʲtʲ]; in English called a province or region) refers to one of the country's 24 primary administrative units. Since Ukraine is a unitary state, the provinces (or regions) do not have much legal scope of competence other than that which is established in the Ukrainian Constitution and by law. Articles 140–146 of Chapter XI of the constitution deal directly with local authorities and their competency.
Oblasts are further subdivided into raions (districts), ranging in number from 3 to 10 per entity.
|Uzbekistan||viloyat||region||see Regions of Uzbekistan|
Viloyat and welaýat are derived from the Turkish language term vilayet, itself derived from the Arabic language term wilāya (ولاية)
In 1922, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was divided into 33 administrative divisions also called oblasts. In 1929, oblasts were replaced with larger administrative units known as banovinas.
During the Yugoslav Wars, several Serb Autonomous Oblasts were formed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia. These oblasts were later merged into the Republic of Serbian Krajina and the Republika Srpska.
Media related to Oblasts at Wikimedia Commons