The title of starost or starosta (Cyrillic: старост/а, Latin: capitaneus, German: Starost, Hauptmann) is a Slavic term that originally referred to the administrator of the assets of a "clan, kindred, extended family". Since the Middle Ages, it has been used for both official and unofficial leadership positions, used in various contexts through most of Slavic history. In this respect, it resembles the word "elder" or "senior". In terms of a city or a municipality, a "starosta" was historically not a mayor as a supreme representative of an elected self-government, but a senior royal administrative official, most likely translated with the outdated title Seneschal, and analogous to a gubernator. In Poland, a starosta would administer a crown land territory or district called a starostwo.
In the early Middle Ages, the starosta could be the head of a Slavic community or of other communities, so one finds designations such as church starosta, artel starosta, etc. The starosta also functioned as the master of ceremonies in traditional Carpatho-Rusyn, Ukrainian, and Polish weddings, similar to stari svat (стари сват) in Serbian weddings.
Kingdom of Poland
In the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Starosta was a title for the middle nobility, comparable to a baron, as well as an office, corresponding to a district administrator. Until 1795, there were two types of Starost: the Castle-Starost (Polish: Starosta grodowy), and the Land-Starost (Polish: Starosta niegrodowy); an overseer of crown land tenants or land tenure (see also tenant-in-chief). The first was a representative of the king, chief administrator and also head of the judiciary in the territory or district—starostwo.
In modern-day Poland, starosta designates a district administrator, who heads the district administration (starostwo) and manages a powiat (district). In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, however, the "Starosta" corresponds to the Austrian or German mayor.
Holy Roman Empire
The title "Starost" was also used in parts of the Holy Roman Empire and brought no claim to ownership of land with it. The German word Starostei referred to the office or [crown land] district of a Starost. In German, the title starost/starosta is also translated as Hauptmann and analogous to a gubernator.
In various countries
- In the history of Poland, see "Starostwo".
- 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, 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. From 2015 is an official of a village that is a part of the united commune.
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