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Subdivions of the Russian Empire in 1914

A guberniya (Russian: губерния, IPA [ɡuˈbʲernʲɪjə]) (also gubernia, guberniia, gubernya) was a major administrative subdivision of the Russian Empire usually translated as government, governorate, or province. Such administrative division was preserved for sometime upon the collapse of the empire in 1917. A guberniya was ruled by a governor (губернатор, gubernator), a word borrowed from Latin gubernator, in turn from Greek kybernates. Sometimes the term guberniya was informally used to refer to the office of a governor.

This subdivision type was created by the edict (ukase) of Peter the Great on December 18, 1708, which divided Russia into eight guberniyas. In 1719, guberniyas were further subdivided into provinces (провинции, provintsii). Later the number of guberniyas was increased to 23.

By the reform of 1775, subdivision into guberniyas and further into uyezds (уезды), was based on population size, and the term guberniya was replaced by the synonym of Russian origin: namestnichestvo (наместничество), sometimes translated as "viceroyalty". The term guberniya, however, still remained in use. These viceroyalties were governed by namestniki (наместник) (literal translation: "deputy") or "Governors General" (генерал-губернатор, general-gubernator). Correspondingly, the term "Governorate General" (генерал-губернаторство, general-gubernatorstvo) was in use to refer to the actual territory being governed. The office of Governor General had more administrative power and was in a higher position than the previous office of Governor. Sometimes a Governor General ruled several guberniyas.

By the ukase of the Russian Senate of December 31, 1796, the office of Governorate General was demoted to the previous level of Governorate, and Russia was again divided into guberniyas, which were subdivided into uyezds, further subdivided into volosts (волость); nevertheless several Governorates General made from several guberniyas existed until 1917.

The latter subdivision existed until after the Russian Revolution of 1917.

For the guberniya (Russian: губе́рния, Polish: gubernia, Swedish: län, Finnish: lääni) as subdivisions of the Kingdom of Poland ("Russian Poland") and the Grand Duchy of Finland ("Russian Finland"); see Administrative division of Congress Poland and Governorates of the Grand Duchy of Finland.

After the February Revolution, the Russian Provisional Government renamed governors into guberniya commissars. The October Revolution left the subdivision in place, but the governing apparatus was replaced by guberniya soviets (губернский совет).

Actual subdivisions of the Soviet Union into particular territorial units was subject to numerous changes, especially during the 1918–1929 period. Eventually, in 1929, the subdivision was replaced by the notions of oblast, okrug, and raion.

In post-Soviet republics such as Russian and Ukraine, the term Guberniya is obsolete, yet the word gubernator was reinstated and is used when referring to a governor of an oblast or a krai.

There is another archaic meaning of the word as the word denoted a type of estate in former Lithuania of the Russian Empire till 1917.

Governorates of the Russian Empire (1708-1726)
1708-1709 Kazan Ingermanland Azov   Smolensk    
1710-1712 Saint Petersburg
1713 Moscow Riga
1714-1716   N. Novgorod
1717-1718 Astrakhan    
1719-1724   Nizhny Novgorod Reval
1725 Voronezh
1726   Smolensk  
The Governorates of Archangelgorod, Kiev and Siberia remained constant between 1708 and 1726.

See also

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