Starost(a) (Cyrillic: старост/а, Latin: capitaneus, German: Starost) is a title for an official or unofficial position of leadership that has been used in various contexts through most of Slavic history. It can be translated as "senior" or "elder", from the Slavic root star-, "old". The territory administered by a starosta was called starostwo.
In the early Middle Ages, the starosta was the head of a Slavic community or several other communities like: church starosta, artel starosta, etc. He also was the master of ceremonies in the traditional Carpatho-Rusyn, Ukrainian, and Polish weddings, similar to stari svat (стари сват) in Serbian weddings.
From the 14th century in the Polish Crown, and later through the era of the joint state of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth till the partitions of Poland in 1795, the starosta was a royal official. His deputy was known as podstarości. There were several types of starosta:
- Starosta Generalny was the administrative official of a specific territorial unit: either the representative of the King or Grand Duke or a person directly in charge.
- Starosta Grodowy was a county-(powiat-)level official responsible for fiscal duties, police and courts, and also the one responsible for the execution of judicial verdicts.
- Starosta Niegrodowy was the overseer of the Crown lands.
Between 1918 and 1939 and 1944–1950, the starosta was the head of county (powiat) administration, subordinate to the voivode. Since the local government reforms, which came into effect on 1 January 1999, the starosta is the head of the county (powiat) executive (zarząd powiatu), and the head of the county administration (starostwo powiatowe), being elected by the county council (rada powiatu).
In other countries
- In Ruthenia (Kievan Rus) it was a lower government official.
- In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, starosta is the title of a mayor of a town or village (mayors of major cities use the title primátor).
- In Lithuania since 1991, starosta (Lithuanian: seniūnas) is the title of the head of a province.
- In Galicia and Bukovina under Austrian rule a starosta supervised the county administration.
- In Russia the word was used until the early 20th century to denote the elected leader of obshchina.
- In Ukraine during 1918 it was a post of an appointed official who represented the central government in regions.
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