An oblast is a type of administrative division in Slavic countries, including some countries of the former Soviet Union. The word "oblast" is a loanword in English, but it is nevertheless often translated as "area", "zone", "province", or "region". The last translation may lead to confusion, because the subdivision of "oblast" is called "raion" which is translated as "region" or "district", depending on the context.
Oblasts are a type of administrative division of Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Ukraine, and the now-defunct Soviet Union and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. 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' , [ˈvobɫasʲtsʲ]) is used for provinces of Belarus, and oblys (plural: oblystar) for provinces of Kazakhstan.
Since 1997, Bulgaria has been divided into 28 oblasti, usually translated as provinces. Before, the country was divided into nine bigger units, also called oblast.
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 located on the periphery of the country (e.g. Kars Oblast or Transcaspian Oblast) or covered the areas where Cossacks lived.
In the now-dissolved 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:
- Armenia: marz (see provinces of Armenia)
- Belarus: voblast (vobłaść)(see provinces of Belarus)
- Georgia: mkhare (see administrative divisions of Georgia (country))
- Kazakhstan: oblys (see provinces of Kazakhstan)
- Kyrgyz Republic: oblast (see Oblasts of the Kyrgyz Republic)
- Tajikistan: viloyat (see provinces of Tajikistan)
- Turkmenistan: welaýat (see provinces of Turkmenistan)
- Uzbekistan: viloyat (see provinces of Uzbekistan)
Viloyat and welaýat are derived from the Arabic language term wilāya (ولاية)
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.
In 1922, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was divided into 33 administrative divisions called 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 the Republic of Serbian Krajina and the Republika Srpska.
- Autonomous oblast
- Guberniya, an administrative unit of the Russian Empire, early Russian SFSR, and the Soviet Union, comparable to an oblast.
- Krai, an administrative unit of the Russian Empire, comparable to an oblast.
- GOELRO plan, the electrification plan (forerunner of the Five Year Plans) for the Soviet Union, from which formed oblasts and raions