A rayon (also raion) is a type of administrative unit of several post-Soviet states (such as part of an oblast). The term is from the French "rayon" (meaning "honeycomb, department"),[1] which is both a type of a subnational entity and a division of a city, and is commonly translated in English as "district".[2]

The term "rayon" also can be used simply as a kind of administrative division without anything to do with ethnicity or nationality. A rayon is a standardized administrative entity across most of the former Soviet Union and is usually a subdivision two steps below the national level. However, in smaller USSR republics, it could be the primary level of administrative division (Administrative divisions of Armenia, Administrative divisions of Azerbaijan). After the fall of the Soviet Union, some of the republics dropped rayon from their use (Armenia).

In Bulgaria, it refers to an internal administrative subdivision of a city not related to the administrative division of the country as a whole, or, in the case of Sofia municipality a subdivision of that municipality.[3]


The word "rayon" (or "raion") is often used in translated form: Azerbaijani: rayon; Belarusian: раён, rajon; Bulgarian: район; Georgian: რაიონი, raioni; Latvian: rajons; Lithuanian: rajonas; Polish: rejon; Romanian: raion; Russian: райо́н and Ukrainian: райо́н|.

List of countries with rayon subdivisions[]

Fourteen countries have or had entities that were named "raion" or the local version of it.

Country From Until Local name Comment Details
Abkhazia (partially recognised state) (existing) araion (араион) inherited from the Abkhaz ASSR Districts of Abkhazia
Armenia 1995 inherited from the Armenian SSR Districts of Armenia
Austria ~ 1918 Rayon, Rajon Used only by the k.k. Gendarmerie to designate police districts ("Behördenrayon", lit. authorities' raion).
Azerbaijan (existing) rayon, pl. rayonlar; inherited from the Azerbaijan SSR Districts of Azerbaijan
Belarus (existing) Belarusian: раён, rajon inherited from the Belorussian SSR Districts of Belarus
Bulgaria (existing) raions are subdivisions of three biggest cities: Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna. Sofia is subdivided to 24 raions (Sofia districts), Plovdiv - 6, Varna - 5 raions
China (existing) rayoni restricted to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region as influenced by the USSR. The districts of Ürümqi City and Karamay City are called "rayoni" in Uyghur.
Crimea (Republic of Crimea - short lived Republic recognized by only a few UN member states) 2014-03-16 2014-03-16 inherited from Ukraine. The Republic is now split into the federal subjects of Russia named Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol
Estonia 1990 Estonian: rajoon inherited from the Estonian SSR. In 1990 transformed into district municipalities (Estonian: maakond) Districts of Estonia
Georgia (existing) Georgian: რაიონი raioni inherited from the Georgian SSR ; 2006 as first-level entities reorganized into municipalities. A raioni remains a territorial subdivision of Georgia's capital, Tbilisi. Districts of Georgia
Kazakhstan (existing) Russian: райо́н inherited from the Kazakh SSR Districts of Kazakhstan
Latvia 2009-07-01 rajons; pl. rajoni inherited from the Latvian SSR Districts of Latvia
Lithuania 1994 Lithuanian: rajonas inherited from the Lithuanian SSR. In 1994 transformed into district municipalities (Lithuanian: rajono savivaldybė) Districts of Lithuania
Moldova (existing) Moldovan: raion introduced in administrative reform in 2003 Districts of Moldova
Romania 1968-02-16 Romanian: raion one of the Administrative divisions of the People's Republic of Romania Districts of the People's Republic of Romania
Russian Federation (existing) Russian: райо́н inherited from the Russian SFSR Districts of Russia
South Ossetia-Alania (partially recognised state) (existing) inherited from the South Ossetian AO Districts of South Ossetia
Soviet Union 1991-12-26 (end of entity) At various levels below the constituent republics.
Transnistria (breakaway territory; de jure part of Moldova) (existing) inherited from the Moldavian SSR Districts of Transnistria
Ukraine (existing) inherited from the Ukrainian SSR, there are a total of 450 rayons which are the administrative divisions of oblasts (provinces) and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Major cities of regional significance as well as the two national cities with special status (Kiev and Sevastopol) are also subdivided into raions (constituting a total of 111 nationwide). Districts of Ukraine


Rayons in the Soviet Union[]

In the Soviet Union, rayons were administrative divisions created in the 1920s to reduce the number of territorial divisions inherited from the Russian Empire and to simplify their bureaucracies.[4] The process of conversion to the system of rayons was called rayonirovanie ("regionalization"). It was started in 1923 in the Urals, North Caucasus, and Siberia as a part of the Soviet administrative reform and continued through 1929, by which time the majority of the country's territory was divided into rayons instead of the old volosts and uyezds.[4]

The concept of rayonirovanie was met with resistance in some republics, especially in Ukraine, where local leaders objected to the concept of rayons as being too centralized in nature and ignoring the local customs. This point of view was backed by the Soviet Commissariat of Nationalities.[4] Nevertheless, eventually all of the territory of the Soviet Union was regionalized.

Soviet raions had self-governance in the form of an elected district council (raysovet) and were headed by the local head of administration, who was either elected or appointed.

Rayons outside the Soviet Union[]

Following the model of the Soviet Union raions have been introduced in Bulgaria, Romania. In China the term is used in Uyghur in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

In Romania they have been later replaced.

Rayons after the dissolution of the Soviet Union[]

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, rayons as administrative units continue to be used in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Latvia, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine.

They are also used in breakaway regions: Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria.

Set Quantity Comment
Districts of Abkhazia 7 first-level
Districts of Azerbaijan 59 first-level, 18 other entities at that level exist
Districts of Belarus 118 second-level below oblasts and Minsk City
Districts of Moldova 32 first-level, 5 other entities at that level exist
Districts of South Ossetia 4 first-level, 1 other entity at that level exists
Districts of Russia second-level below federal subjects
Districts of Transnistria 5 first-level
Districts of Ukraine 490 and 118 city raions second-level, numbers as of 2004, including Sevastopol and Crimea

In Georgia they exist as districts in Tbilisi.

Modern raions[]


Abkhazia is divided into seven districts.



In Belarus, rayons (Belarusian: раён, rajon[5]) are administrative units subordinated to oblasts. See also: Category:Districts of Belarus.


In Bulgaria, rayons are subdivisions of three biggest cities: Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna. Sofia is subdivided to 24 rayons (Sofia districts), Plovdiv - 6, Varna - 5 raions.


  • Administrative divisions of Moldova

South Ossetia[]



Administrative districts[]

In modern Russia, division into administrative districts largely remained unchanged after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The term "district" ("raion") is used to refer to an administrative division of a federal subject or to a district of a big city. In two federal subjects, however, the terminology was changed to reflect national specifics:

  • Sakha (Yakutia) Republic: ulus (улус)
  • Tyva Republic: kozhuun (кожуун)[6]

Municipal district[]

A municipal district (муниципа́льный райо́н) is a type of municipal formation which comprises a group of urban and/or rural settlements, as well as inter-settlement territories, sharing a common territory. The concept of the municipal districts was introduced in the early 2000s and codified on the federal level during the 2004 municipal reform.

Municipal districts are commonly formed within the boundaries of existing administrative districts, although in practice there are some exceptions to this rule—Sortavalsky Municipal District in the Republic of Karelia, for example, is formed around the town of Sortavala, which neither has a status of nor is a part of any administrative district.

City districts[]

Many major cities in Russia (except for federal cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg) are divided into city districts. Such city districts are usually considered to be administrative divisions of the city and prior to 2014 could not be a separate municipal formation. Examples of such city districts are Sovetsky City District in Nizhny Novgorod and Adlersky City District in Sochi.


In Ukraine, there are a total of 450 rayons which are the administrative divisions of oblasts (provinces) and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Major cities of regional significance as well as the two national cities with special status (Kiev and Sevastopol) are also subdivided into raions (constituting a total of 111 nationwide).


  1. ^ Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1961, repr. 1981), s.v. raion.
  2. ^ Saunders, R.A., Strukov, V. Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. "Scarecrow Press", 2010, ISBN 978-0-8108-5475-8, S. 477.
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c James R. Millar. Encyclopedia of Russian History. Macmillan Reference USA. New York, 2004. ISBN 0-02-865693-8
  5. ^ According to the Instruction on Latin Transliteration of Geographical Names of the Republic of Belarus, Decree of the State Committee on Land Resources, Surveying and Cartography of the Republic of Belarus dated 23.11.2000 No. 15 recommended for use by the Working Group on Romanization Systems of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN) — See also: Instruction on transliteration of Belarusian geographical names with letters of Latin script; Romanization of Belarusian.
  6. ^ Constitution of the Tyva Republic, Article 138.2a


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