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A raion (also spelt rayon) is a type of administrative unit of several post-Soviet states. The term is used for both a type of subnational entity and a division of a city. The word is from the French rayon (meaning 'honeycomb, department'),[1] and is commonly translated as "district" in English.[2]

A raion is a standardized administrative entity across most of the former Soviet Union and is usually a subdivision two steps below the national level, such as a subdivision of an oblast. However, in smaller USSR republics, it could be the primary level of administrative division. After the fall of the Soviet Union, some of the republics kept the raion (e.g. Azerbaijan, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Lithuania, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan) while others dropped it (e.g. Georgia, Uzbekistan, Estonia, Latvia, Armenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan).

In Bulgaria, it refers to an internal administrative subdivision of a city not related to the administrative division of the country as a whole, or, in the case of Sofia municipality a subdivision of that municipality.[3]


The word "raion" (or "rayon") is often used in translated form: Azerbaijani: rayon; Belarusian: раён, romanizedrajon; Bulgarian: район; Georgian: რაიონი, romanized: raioni; Latvian: rajons; Lithuanian: rajonas; Polish: rejon; Romanian: raion; Russian: райо́н and Ukrainian: райо́н, romanizedrayon.

List of countries with raion subdivisions[edit]

Fourteen countries have or had entities that were named "raion" or the local version of it.

Country From Until Local name Comment Details
Abkhazia (partially recognised state) (existing) araion (араион) inherited from the Abkhaz ASSR Districts of Abkhazia
Armenia 1995 inherited from the Armenian SSR Districts of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic
Austria ~ 1918 Rayon, Rajon Used only by the k.k. Gendarmerie to designate police districts ("Behördenrayon", lit. authorities' raion).
Azerbaijan (existing) rayon, pl. rayonlar; inherited from the Azerbaijan SSR Districts of Azerbaijan
Belarus (existing) Belarusian: раён, rajon inherited from the Byelorussian SSR Districts of Belarus
Bulgaria (existing) район, pl. райони (rayoni) raions are subdivisions of three biggest cities: Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna. Sofia is subdivided to 24 raions (Sofia districts), Plovdiv - 6, Varna - 5 raions
China (existing) 行政分区 restricted to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region as influenced by the USSR. The districts of Ürümqi City and Karamay City are called رايون (SASM/GNC/SRC and ULY: rayon) in Uyghur.
Crimea (Republic of Crimea - short lived Republic recognized by only a few UN member states) 2014-03-16 2014-03-16 inherited from Ukraine. The Republic is now split into the federal subjects of Russia named Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol
Estonia 1990 Estonian: rajoon, pl. rajoonid inherited from the Estonian SSR. In 1990 transformed into counties (Estonian: maakond) Counties of Estonia
Georgia 2006 Georgian: რაიონი raioni inherited from the Georgian SSR; 2006 as first-level entities reorganized into municipalities. A raioni remains a territorial subdivision of Georgia's capital, Tbilisi. List of municipalities in Georgia (country)
Kazakhstan (existing) Russian: райо́н inherited from the Kazakh SSR Districts of Kazakhstan
Latvia 2009-07-01 rajons; pl. rajoni inherited from the Latvian SSR Districts of Latvia
Lithuania 1994 Lithuanian: rajonas inherited from the Lithuanian SSR. In 1994 transformed into district municipalities (Lithuanian: rajono savivaldybė) Municipalities of Lithuania
Moldova (existing) Romanian: raion introduced in administrative reform in 2003 Districts of Moldova
Romania 1968-02-16 Romanian: raion one of the Administrative divisions of the People's Republic of Romania Districts of the People's Republic of Romania
Russian Federation (existing) Russian: райо́н inherited from the Russian SFSR Districts of Russia
South Ossetia-Alania (partially recognised state) (existing) inherited from the South Ossetian AO Districts of South Ossetia
Soviet Union 1991-12-26 (end of entity) At various levels below the constituent republics.
Transnistria (breakaway territory; de jure part of Moldova) (existing) inherited from the Moldavian SSR Raions of Transnistria
Ukraine (existing) Ukrainian: райо́н 490 raions were inherited from the Ukrainian SSR, which were replaced by 136 new raions in 2020.[4] Major Ukrainian cities are also subdivided into raions, constituting a total of 118 nationwide. Raions of Ukraine


Raions in the Soviet Union[edit]

In the Soviet Union, raions were administrative divisions created in the 1920s to reduce the number of territorial divisions inherited from the Russian Empire and to simplify their bureaucracies.[5] The process of conversion to the system of raions was called raionirovanie ("regionalization"). It was started in 1923 in the Urals, North Caucasus, and Siberia as a part of the Soviet administrative reform and continued through 1929, by which time the majority of the country's territory was divided into raions instead of the old volosts and uyezds.[5]

The concept of raionirovanie was met with resistance in some republics, especially in Ukraine, where local leaders objected to the concept of raions as being too centralized in nature and ignoring the local customs. This point of view was backed by the Soviet Russian People's Commissariat of Nationalities.[5] Nevertheless, eventually all of the territory of the Soviet Union was regionalized.

Soviet raions had self-governance in the form of an elected district council (raysovet) and were headed by the local head of administration, who was either elected or appointed.

Raions outside the Soviet Union[edit]

Following the model of the Soviet Union raions have been introduced in Bulgaria, Romania. In China the term is used in Uyghur in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

In Romania they have been later replaced.

Raions after the dissolution of the Soviet Union[edit]

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, raions as administrative units continue to be used in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Latvia, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine.

They are also used in breakaway regions: Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria.

Set Quantity Comment
Districts of Abkhazia 7 first-level
Districts of Azerbaijan 59 first-level, 18 other entities at that level exist
Districts of Belarus 118 second-level below oblasts and Minsk City
Districts of Moldova 32 first-level, 5 other entities at that level exist
Districts of South Ossetia 4 first-level, 1 other entity at that level exists
Districts of Russia 1731[nb 1] second-level below federal subjects
Districts of Transnistria 5 first-level
Districts of Ukraine 136 and 118 city raions second-level, numbers as of 2020, including Sevastopol and Crimea

In Georgia they exist as districts in Tbilisi.

Modern raions[edit]


Abkhazia is divided into seven districts.



In Belarus, raions (Belarusian: раён, rajon[6]) are administrative units subordinated to oblasts. See also: Category:Districts of Belarus.


In Bulgaria, raions are subdivisions of three biggest cities: Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna. Sofia is subdivided to 24 raions (Sofia districts), Plovdiv - 6, Varna - 5 raions.


South Ossetia[edit]




In Ukraine, there are a total of 136 raions which are the administrative divisions of oblasts (provinces) and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Major cities of regional significance as well as the two national cities with special status (Kyiv and Sevastopol) are also subdivided into raions (constituting a total of 118 nationwide).


  1. ^ Including Crimea and Sevastopol.


  1. ^ Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1961, repr. 1981), s.v. raion.
  2. ^ Saunders, R.A., Strukov, V. Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. "Scarecrow Press", 2010, ISBN 978-0-8108-5475-8, S. 477.
  3. ^ "Lex.bg - Закони, правилници, конституция, кодекси, държавен вестник, правилници по прилагане" [Laws, regulations, constitution, codes, state gazette, implementing regulations]. lex.bg. Archived from the original on 16 August 2017. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  4. ^ "Україна з новим адмінтерустроєм: парламент створив 136 нових районів та ліквідував 490 старих" [Ukraine with a new administrative system: the parliament created 136 new districts and eliminated 490 old ones]. Decentralization Reform (in Ukrainian). 17 July 2020.
    "The council reduced the number of districts in Ukraine: 136 instead of 490". Ukrainska Pravda (in Ukrainian). 17 July 2020.
  5. ^ a b c James R. Millar. Encyclopedia of Russian History. Macmillan Reference USA. New York, 2004. ISBN 0-02-865693-8
  6. ^ According to the Instruction on Latin Transliteration of Geographical Names of the Republic of Belarus, Decree of the State Committee on Land Resources, Surveying and Cartography of the Republic of Belarus dated 23.11.2000 No. 15 Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine recommended for use by the Working Group on Romanization Systems of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN) — "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-08-24. Retrieved 2009-07-26.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link). See also: Instruction on transliteration of Belarusian geographical names with letters of Latin script; Romanization of Belarusian.
  • 6 мая 2001 г. «Конституция Республики Тыва», в ред. Конституционного закона №1419 ВХ-2 от 10 июля 2009 г «О внесении изменений в статью 113 Конституции Республики Тыва». Вступил в силу со дня официального опубликования. Опубликован: "Тувинская правда", 15 мая 2001 г. (May 6, 2001 Constitution of the Tyva Republic, as amended by the Constitutional Law #1419 VKh-2 of July 10, 2009 On Amending Article 113 of the Constitution of the Tyva Republic. Effective as of the official publication date.).