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For other uses, see Župa (disambiguation).

A župa (or zhupa) is a historical type of administrative division in Central Europe and the Balkans, that originated in medieval Slavic culture, often translated into "county" or "district". It was mentioned for the first time in the 8th century. It was initially used by the South- and West Slavs, denoting various territorial units, usually smaller, the leader of which was the župan. This term in turn was adopted by the Hungarians as ispán and spread further.

In modern Croatian and Slovenian, the term župa means an ecclesiastical parish.


The word "župa" (Serbian: Жупа; adopted into Hungarian: ispánispánand rendered in Greek as ζουπανία, zoupania, "land ruled by a župan") is derived from Slavic, according to Slavists. It's medieval Latin equivalent was comitatus. It is mostly translated into "county"[1] or "district".

According to Kmietowicz, it seems that the territorial organization had been created in Polish territories before the Slav Migrations.[2] Some Slavic nations changed its name into "opole", "okolina" and "vierw", but it has survived in župan.[2] In Polish, župan was shortened to pan, meaning "mister".[2]

In 1900, Karl Brugmann derived the Common Slavic *županъ from župa "district, small administrative region",[3] an etymology that was accepted by many linguists.[4] However, others suggested the opposite evolution; župa as a back formation from župan, a title brought from Central Asia to Eastern Europe by Avars and Bulgars.[5][4][6] One hypothesis assumes an Iranian origin, from the etymon *fsu-pāna- that evolved to šubān in Parthian and šupān and šubān in Persian; all these words meaning "shepherd".[4][7] The 11th century scholar Mahmud al-Kashgari recorded the Middle Turkic word čupan denoting a minor official, which was considered evidence for a borrowing from Iranian to Turkic languages.[7][8]

Usage in the Middle Ages[edit]

The first known mention of the title Jopan, dating to 777, described an owner of a feudal estate in the Slavic areas of the Enns river.[9]

The South Slavs that settled in Roman lands to a certain degree adopted Roman state organization, but retained their own tribal organization.[10] Slavic tribes were divided into fraternities, each including a certain number of families.[10] The territory inhabited by a tribe was a župa, and its leader was the župan.[10]

The župa is also mentioned as an administrative unit in the First Bulgarian Empire, a subdivision of a larger unit called comitatus.[citation needed] The župan title was also used in Wallachia and Moldavia (in modern Romania) but only with the meaning "Mister" and bearing no administrative connotations. In these countries, the equivalent of "county" is "judet" (from Latin judicium).[citation needed]

The Slovaks and the Croats used the terms župa or županija for the counties in the Kingdom of Hungary and the Kingdom of Croatia. German language translation of the word for those counties was Komitat (from Latin Comitatus, 'countship') during the Middle Ages, but later it was Gespanschaft (picking up the span root that previously came from župan).


The Serbs in the Early Middle Ages were organized into župe, a confederation of village communities (roughly the equivalent of a county),[11] headed by a local župan (a magistrate or governor).[12] According to Fine, the governorship was hereditary, and the župan reported to the Serbian prince, whom they were obliged to aid in war.[13]

Dušan's Code (1349) named the administrative hierarchy as following: "lands, cities, župas and krajištes", the župas and krajištes were one and the same, with the župas on the borders were called krajištes (frontier).[14] The župa consisted of villages, and their status, rights and obligations were regulated in the constitution. The ruling nobility possessed hereditary allodial estates, which were worked by dependent sebri, the equivalent of Greek paroikoi; peasants owing labour services, formally bound by decree.[15] The earlier župan title was abolished and replaced with the Greek-derived kefalija (kephale, "head, master").[15]


As head of the županija the most important was his judicial function, while it is not entirely clear how the function of a župan was directly related to the rulers in the 9th century. In later times the function of a župan or a veliki župan means only the official head of an administrative-territorial unit.[16]

Kingdom of Hungary[edit]

Main article: Ispán

There were several 'ispán's in the royal court: 'nádorispán' (palatine), 'udvarispán' (court ispán), 'kápolna ispán' (chapel ispán), and 'ispán's of the financial hierarchy ('harmincadispán', 'pénzverőispán', 'sókamaraispán', 'urburaispán'). Similarly the leaders of the ethnic groups were called 'ispán' like 'besenyők ispánja' (Besermian ispán) 'székelyispán' (Sekler ispán)

In c. 1074, the župa is mentioned in Hungary as -spán, also as határispánságok (march, frontier county). In the 11th century, there were 11 župa in the territory of Slovakia.

Derivative titles
  • The ispán was nominated by the king for not defined time. From the 14th century, the 'ispán' controlled all incomes of the vármegye and was the military commander. The rank was gradually replaced by 'főispán' in the 18-19th century.
  • The authority of megyésispán was the leader of the vármegye which was nominated by the king but could be expelled anytime. In Transylvania the nomination was done by the voivode (vajda) of Transylvania, similarly, the ban made the nominations in Slavonia. One person could be 'ispán' of several counties, but one county could have more 'ispáns at the same time (in most cases, they were brothers). His deputy, 'alispán' was selected by the 'megyésispán', but then later this right was moved to the Noble Assembly (megyegyűlés). From the 15th century, this position was more and more hereditary.
  • The alispán (Latin translation: "vicecomes") was the leader of the jurisdiction in the county if the 'megyésispán' was not available. The alispán received the royal orders and issued decrees. After the Battle of Mohács in 1526, he became the representative of the noble's assembly, and so the assembly's approval was needed for his election from this time (1548 law, no. LXX). After the Ausgleich, he is the leader jurisdiction and administration (1870 law no. XLII). He executed the orders of the government. The authority ceased to exist after the 1950 law, no. I.
  • The várispán, or in Latin, "comes castri" was more linked to the "vár" (fortress) in Hungary in the times of Árpád. He was the leader of all peasants around the fortress and the military commander. The authority was not hereditary, however, as one of the highest rank in Kingdom of Hungary, he was member of the "honor regni" (honourables of the kingdom).

Modern use[edit]


The Croatian word župa signifies both a secular unit (county)[citation needed] and a religious unit (parish), ruled over by a "župan (count) and "župnik (parish priest).[17]

The Croats preserved the term župa until the modern times as the name for local clerical units, parishes of the Catholic Church and of the Protestant churches. The parish priest is called župnik.

The slightly modified term županija is the name for the Croatian regional government, the counties of Croatia. Heads of counties hold the title of župan (pl. župani), which is usually translated as "county prefect".

In the 19th century, the counties of the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia were called županija. For example, poet Jovan Subotić was elected vice-Zupan of Syrmia County (Sremska županija) in 1860.


Though the territorial unit is unused, there are a number of traditional župe in Kosovo, around Prizren: Sredačka Župa, Sirinićka Župa, Gora, Opolje and Prizrenski Podgor. The Serbian language maintains the word in toponyms, the best known being that of the Župa Aleksandrovačka.


Slovakia, as a constituent part of Hungary from the 10th Century as well as in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy until 1918, inherited the Hungarian county (Slovak: župa) system, preserved throughout the inter-war period.[18] In Slovakia, it was used as the official name of administrative units of Slovakia within Czechoslovakia in 1918 - 1928 and then again in the Slovak Republic during WWII in 1940-1945.

The Slovaks have also preserved the term semi-officially as an alternative name for the "Autonomous Regions" of Slovakia, whose territory is identical with that of the administrative Regions of Slovakia.


During World War II, when Slovenia was partitioned between Italy, Hungary, and Germany on 17 April 1941, in the Italian portion, named province of Lubiana, the new administration was led by an Italian High Commissioner, but there also were Presidents of the Council of Zhupans of Lubiana:

  • 27 May 1941 - 1941 Marko Natlačen, the last Ban of Drava (September 1935 - 17 April 1941; b. 1886 - d. 1943)
  • 1941 - 7 June 1942 ?
  • 7 June 1942 - 20 September 1943 Leon Rupnik (b. 1880 - d. 1946)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fine 1991, p. 304
  2. ^ a b c Frank A. Kmietowicz (1976). Ancient Slavs. Worzalla Pub. Co. p. 185, footnote. 
  3. ^ Brugmann 1900, p. 111.
  4. ^ a b c Alemany 2009, p. 7.
  5. ^ Brückner 1908, p. 217.
  6. ^ Erdal 1988, p. 226.
  7. ^ a b Erdal 1988, p. 227.
  8. ^ Alemany 2009, pp. 5,7-8.
  9. ^ Brglez Alja (2008). "Reorganization of the marches and a shift of ethnic and language borders". In Luthar Oto. The land between. A history of Slovenia. pp. 117-118
  10. ^ a b c Zagreb. Universitet. Institut za ekonomiku poljoprivrede i sociologiju sela. SOUR za sociologiju sela (1972). The Yugoslav village. Dept. of Rural Sociology. p. 39. 
  11. ^ Fine 1991, p. 304
  12. ^ Evans 2007, p. xxi
  13. ^ Fine 1991, p. 225
  14. ^ Radovanović 2002, p. 5
  15. ^ a b p. 290
  16. ^ Pravni leksikon, Leksikografski zavod Miroslav Krleža, Zagreb, 2006., str. 1869
  17. ^ Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, Università di Parma. Centro di studi medioevali, Fondazione Cassa di risparmio di Parma (2007). Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, ed. Medioevo: la chiesa e il palazzo : atti del convegno internazionale di studi, Parma, 20-24 settembre 2005 (illustrated ed.). Electa. p. 140. 
  18. ^ Univerzita Karlova (2005). Acta Universitatis Carolinae: Geographica, Volume 38, Issue 1. Universita Karlova. p. 146.