What is an Autonomous Region?

The Åland Islands are an example of an autonomous region.
The Åland Islands are an example of an autonomous region.

An autonomous region has control over its affairs and has the freedom to make decisions independent of external oversight. The name has its roots in the Greek language from the word "autonomos" which refer to having one's laws. Autonomous regions are sections of a nation that have a degree of independence in several issues and may result because of several reasons. An area may be granted autonomy if it is situated in a sizable distance from the rest of the nation or if the population of the area consists primarily of minority communities. Autonomous regions exist in many areas of the world with some countries that have autonomous areas being China and the US. Some countries also have capital cities that are considered autonomous such as Argentina and Uzbekistan.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a territory that spans approximately 426 square miles and was home to approximately 7,448,900 people. Hong Kong is one of the most important areas in the global economy due to the large volumes of trade as well as the high number of times the local currency, the Hong Kong dollar, is traded. Hong Kong was previously under British dominion until 1997 when the British government handed back the control of the region to the Chinese. The system of government established within Hong Kong after the end of British dominion was separate from the government that rules over the mainland territory of China. Britain and China signed a treaty that ensured the status of Hong Kong was respected. The Hong Kong government has three branches with the Chief Executive serving as the leader of the government's executive branch.


Another autonomous region within China is Macau which covers an area of about 11.8 square miles. Macau was home to about 650,900 individuals according to a census carried out in 2016. Due to the nation's high population and the relatively small area it covers, Macau has a higher population density than any other region on earth.Before Macau was transferred to the Chinese government, it had been under Portuguese control until 1999. The Macau economic and political systems are distinct from those used in mainland China due to an agreement entered into by the Chinese and Portuguese governments. The autonomy enjoyed by Macau allows it to enjoy some privileges such as having a unique legal system that closely mirrors the Portuguese laws.

Åland Islands

Another autonomous region is Åland which is owned by Finland. Åland occupies a relatively small area at approximately 610 square miles which is slightly under 0.5% of Finland's total land territory. Åland was granted autonomy in 1921 in one of the first cases brought before the League of Nations. Åland's status was later confirmed after Finland joined the EU. Åland is one of the world's unique regions as it is a demilitarized zone. The autonomy enjoyed by Åland allows the citizens to have a unique identity that draws heavily from Swedish culture.

The Importance of Autonomous Regions 

Autonomous regions are significant for some regions. For one, they allow communities to have their own unique identity. Another role played by autonomous regions is that they grant residents the ability to have a distinct political identity separate from the main country.


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