What Is An Oblast?

Mountains in the Irkutsk oblast, an oblast of Russia.
Mountains in the Irkutsk oblast, an oblast of Russia.

What Is An Oblast?

An oblast is the political and administrative division of a country. In many places, these divisions are referred to as states or provinces. Oblast, or its cognates voblast and oblys, are terms used by many former Soviet countries. This article takes a closer look at which countries use the term oblast (or its cognates) to describe its administrative divisions.

History Of Oblasts

The term oblast dates as far back as the Russian Empire, which lasted from 1849 to 1917. In this empire, oblasts were administrative areas that made up part of the Governorate Generals, also known as Krais. At this time, the oblasts were positioned around the borders of the country or in areas inhabited by Cossacks, East Slavic-speaking people.

After the establishment of the Soviet Union, from 1922 to 1991, oblasts were once again utilized to organize the union. During this era, oblasts were the administrative centers of each union republic. They were further divided into districts and municipalities that worked under the direction of the oblast. As a form of economic planning, these new oblasts were established in order to facilitate the electrification goals. Under the Soviet Union, there were 13 European oblasts and 8 Asian oblasts.

Countries With Oblasts

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the following countries continued to use oblasts (or another term with the same meaning) to organize their newly formed nations: Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Bulgaria, Belarus, and Armenia. The other terms used in place of oblast are: viloyat (Uzbekistan and Tajikistan), welayat (Turkmenistan), mkhare (Georgia), voblast (Belarus), and mar (Armenia).

How Many Oblasts In Each Country?

Uzbekistan has 12 oblasts, 1 autonomous republic, and 1 autonomous city. The largest of these by population size is Samarqand with over 3.51 million residents.

Ukraine has 24 oblasts (called viloyat) and 1 autonomous region. The largest of these oblasts by population size is Donetsk with over 4.38 million residents.

Turkmenistan is divided into 5 oblasts (called welayat) and 1 capital city region. According to population size, the Mary oblast is the largest with over 1.28 million residents.

Tajikistan is home to 2 oblasts, 2 Districts of Republican Subordination, 1 autonomous region, and 1 capital city region. The largest oblast is Khatlon with a population size of 2.15 million.

Russia has a total of 85 subjects. Of these, 46 are considered oblasts. The Moscow oblast is one of the most densely populated in the country, with a population size of over 7.09 million in an area of 17,100 square miles.

Kyrgyzstan is divided into 7 oblasts and 1 independent municipality. The Osh oblast has a population of 1 million, making it the largest.

Kazakhstan is politically divided into 14 oblasts. These are further divided into districts. The most populated oblast here is South Kazakhstan with over 2.68 million.

Georgia has a total of 9 oblasts, known as mkhare. This division is considered temporary until the secession movements in Abkhazia and South Ossetia are ended. These mkhare are further divided into districts.

Bulgaria is divided into 28 oblasts or provinces. These are further divided into municipalities. The largest population (not considering the largest city) is found in Plovdiv, with 683,027 residents.

Belarus has a total of 6 oblasts and 1 independent city. The most heavily populated of these is Gomel with a population size of over 1.44 million.

Armenia is divided into 10 oblasts (known as marz) and 1 special administrative city, the country’s capital. Armavir oblast has the largest population size, with 265,770 residents.


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