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Regierungsbezirke as from 1st of August 2008. In the map there are also shown the former RB Lower Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt

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A Regierungsbezirk is a type of administrative region in Germany, a subdivision of certain federal states (Bundesländer). It is loosely equivalent to a governorate of province in other countries. It is responsible (above) for the districts (Kreise), either Landkreise or urban districts: cities which constitute a district in their own right (kreisfreie Städte).[1] The Regierungsbezirk is governed by a Bezirksregierung ("regional government") and led by a Regierungspräsident ("regional president").



The first Regierungsbezirke were created by the Kingdom of Prussia, which divided its provinces into 25 Regierungsbezirke in in 1808/16. The Regierungsbezirke of North Rhine-Westphalia are in direct continuation of those created in 1815. Other states of the German Empire created similar entities, named Kreishauptmannschaft (in Saxony) or Kreis (in Bavaria and Württemberg) (not to be confused with the Kreis or Landkreis today). During the Third Reich, the Nazi government unified the naming; since then all these entities are called Regierungsbezirk.

On January 1, 2000 Rhineland-Palatinate disbanded its three Regierungsbezirke Koblenz, Rheinhessen-Pfalz and Trier - the employees and assets of the three Bezirksregierungen were converted into three public authorities responsible for the whole state, each covering a part of the former responsibilities of the Bezirksregierung.

On January 1, 2004, Saxony-Anhalt disbanded its three Regierungsbezirke: Dessau, Halle and Magdeburg. The responsibilities are now covered by a Landesverwaltungsamt with three offices at the former seats of the Bezirksregierungen.

At the foundation of Lower Saxony in 1946 by the merger of the three former Free States of Brunswick, Oldenburg, Schaumburg-Lippe and the former Prussian province of Hanover the former two states became Verwaltungsbezirke (roughly administrative regions of extended competence) within Lower Saxony besides the less autonomous Prussian-style Regierungsbezirke comprising the former Province of Hanover and the tiny Schaumburg-Lippe. These differences were levelled on 1 January 1978, when four territorially redeployed Regierungsbezirke replaced the two Verwaltungsbezirke and the old six Regierungsbezirke: Brunswick and Oldenburg as well as Aurich, Hanover (remaining mostly the same), Hildesheim, Lüneburg (old), Osnabrück and Stade. On January 1, 2005, Lower Saxony disbanded its remaining four Regierungsbezirke: Braunschweig, Hanover, Lüneburg, and Weser-Ems.

In 2005, North Rhine-Westphalia planned to abolish its five Regierungsbezirke and create three self-government entities. The old, "Prussian-style", Regierungsbezirk had no self-government organs.

On August 1, 2008, Saxony restructured its districts (Landkreise) and changed the name of its Regierungsbezirke to Direktionsbezirke. This was necessary , because one of the new districts did not fit with the borders of the old Regierungsbezirke and some responsibilities are now covered by the districts. The Direktionsbezirke are still named Chemnitz, Dresden and Leipzig. The authorities of the Direktionsbezirke are named Landesdirektion and their Presidents are called Präsident der Landesdirektion instead of Regierungspräsidium and Regierungspräsident.

Local existence

Not all Bundesländer have this subdivision; some are directly divided into districts. Currently, five states are divided into 22 Regierungsbezirke, ranging in population from 5,255,000 (Düsseldorf) to 1,065,000 (Gießen):

The regional governments of the Regierungsbezirke are mostly concerned with administrative decisions on a regional level. Most administrative routines are handled by the municipal government (of the city or the Kreis) while legislation is passed by the parliament of the Bundesland or on a national level.


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