Etymologically, okrug literally means 'circuit', derived from Proto-Slavic *okrǫgъ, in turn from *ob- "around" + *krǫgъ "circle". In meaning, the word is similar to the German term Bezirk or Kreis ('district') and the French word arrondissement; all of which refer to something "encircled" or "surrounded".
In Bulgaria, okrags are the abolished primary unit of the administrative division and implied "districts" or "counties". They existed in the postwar Bulgaria between 1946 and 1987 and corresponded approximately to today's oblasts.
As historical administrative subdivisions of Poland, okręgi existed in the later part of the Congress Poland period, from 1842, when the name was applied to the former powiats (the name powiat being transferred to the former obwody). See: subdivisions of Congress Poland.
Okręgi were also created temporarily from 1945 to 1946, in the areas annexed to Poland from Germany as a result of the Soviet military advance. An okręg was then subdivided into obwody. These okręgi were later replaced by voivodeships, and the obwody by powiats.
Okrugs were one of the several types of administrative division for oblasts and selected governorates in Imperial Russia. Until the 1920s, okrugs were administrative districts in Cossack hosts such as the Don Cossacks.
Inherited from Imperial Russia, in the 1920s, okrugs were administrative divisions of several other primary divisions such as oblasts, krais, and others. For some time in the 1920s they also served as the primary unit upon the abolishment of guberniyas and were divided into raions. On July 30, 1930, most of the okrugs were abolished. The remaining okrugs were phased out in the Russian SFSR during 1930–1946, although they were retained in Zakarpattia Oblast of the Ukrainian SSR in a status equivalent to that of a raion.
National okrugs were first created in the Mountain ASSR of the Russian SFSR in 1921 as units of the Soviet autonomy and additional national okrugs were created in the Russian SFSR for the peoples of the north and Caucasus region. In 1977, all national okrugs were renamed autonomous okrugs.
In the present-day Russian Federation, the term okrug is either translated as district or rendered directly as okrug, and is used to describe the following types of divisions:
- Federal Districts (federalny okrug), such as the Siberian Federal District
- Autonomous okrugs (avtonomny okrug), such as Chukotka Autonomous Okrug
After the series of mergers in 2005–2008, several autonomous okrugs of Russia lost their federal subject status and are now considered to be administrative territories within the federal subjects they had been merged into:
- Agin-Buryat Okrug, a territory with special status within Zabaykalsky Krai
- Komi-Permyak Okrug, a territory with special status within Perm Krai
- Koryak Okrug, a territory with special status within Kamchatka Krai
- Ust-Orda Buryat Okrug, a territory with special status within Irkutsk Oblast
Okrug is also used to describe the administrative divisions of the two "federal cities" in Russia:
- the administrative okrugs of Moscow are an upper-level administrative division
- the municipal okrugs of St. Petersburg are a lower-level administrative division
In the federal city of Sevastopol, municipal okrugs are a type of a municipal formation.
Furthermore, the designation okrug denotes several selsoviet-level administrative divisions:
- okrugs, such as okrugs of Samara Oblast
- rural okrugs (selsky okrug), such as the rural okrugs of Belgorod Oblast
- rural territorial okrugs (selsky territorialny okrug), such as the rural territorial okrugs of Murmansk Oblast
- stanitsa okrugs (stanichny okrug), such as the stanitsa okrugs of Krasnodar Krai
In some cities, the term okrug is used to refer to the administrative divisions of those cities. Administrative okrugs are such divisions in the cities of Murmansk, Omsk, and Tyumen; city okrugs are used in Krasnodar; municipal okrugs are the divisions of Nazran; okrugs exist in Belgorod, Kaluga, Kursk, and Novorossiysk; and territorial okrugs are the divisions of Arkhangelsk and Lipetsk.
- Oxford English Dictionary on CD-ROM, Second Edition. Entry on okrug. Oxford University Press, 2002
- Administrative division of the Congress Poland (in Polish)
- "Article in Polish re 1945-46". Archived from the original on 2007-10-23. Retrieved 2013-09-09.
- Государственная Дума Российской Федерации. Федеральный Закон №131-ФЗ от 6 октября 2003 г. «Об общих принципах организации местного самоуправления в Российской Федерации», в ред. Федерального Закона №290-ФЗ от 4 октября 2014 г. (State Duma of the Russian Federation. Federal Law #131-FZ of October 6, 2003 On the General Principles of Organization of the Local Self-Government in the Russian Federation, as amended by the Federal Law #290-FZ of September 28, 2010. ).