A raion (also rayon) is a type of administrative unit of several post-Soviet states (such as part of an oblast). The term is from the French "rayon" (meaning "honeycomb, department"), which is both a type of a subnational entity and a division of a city, and is commonly translated in English as "district".
The term "raion" also can be used simply as a kind of administrative division without anything to do with ethnicity or nationality. 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. However, in smaller USSR republics, it could be the primary level of administrative division (Administrative divisions of Armenia, Administrative divisions of Azerbaijan). After the fall of the Soviet Union, some of the republics dropped raion from their use (Armenia).
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.
The word "raion" (or "rayon") is often used in translated form: Azerbaijani: rayon; Belarusian: раён, rajon; Bulgarian: район; Georgian: რაიონი, raioni; Latvian: rajons; Lithuanian: rajonas; Polish: rejon; Romanian: raion; Russian: райо́н and Ukrainian: райо́н.
List of countries with raion subdivisions
Fourteen countries have or had entities that were named "raion" or the local version of it.
|Azerbaijan||Existing||rayon, pl. rayonlar;||inherited from the Azerbaijan SSR||Districts of Azerbaijan|
|Belarus||Existing||Belarusian: раён, rajon||inherited from the Belorussian SSR||Districts of Belarus|
|Bulgaria||Existing||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||rayoni||restricted to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region as influenced by the USSR. The districts of Ürümqi City and Karamay City are called "rayoni" in Uyghur.|
|Estonia||until 1990||Estonian: rajoon||inherited from the Estonian ESSR. In 1990 transformed into district municipalities (Estonian: maakond)||Districts of Estonia|
|Kazakhstan||Existing||Russian: райо́н||inherited from the Kazakh SSR||Districts of Kazakhstan|
|Lithuania||until 1994||Lithuanian: rajonas||inherited from the Lithuanian SSR. In 1994 transformed into district municipalities (Lithuanian: rajono savivaldybė)||Districts of Lithuania|
|Moldova||Existing||Moldovan: raion||introduced in administrative reform in 2003||Districts of Moldova|
|Russian Federation||Existing||Russian: райо́н||inherited from the Russian SFSR||Districts of Russia|
|Transnistria (breakaway territory; de jure part of Moldova)||Existing||inherited from the Moldavian SSR||Districts of Transnistria|
|Ukraine||Existing||inherited from the Ukrainian SSR, there are a total of 450 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 (Kiev and Sevastopol) are also subdivided into raions (constituting a total of 111 nationwide).||Districts of Ukraine|
|Armenia||until 1995||inherited from the Armenian SSR|
|Georgia||until 2006||Georgian: რაიონი raioni||inherited from the Georgian SSR||Districts of Georgia|
|Latvia||until 2009-07-01||rajons; pl. rajoni||inherited from the Latvian SSR||Districts of Latvia|
|Romania||former||Romanian: raion||one of the Administrative divisions of the People's Republic of Romania|
|Republic of Crimea (short lived Republic recognized by only a few UN member states)||until end of entity||inherited from Ukraine. The Republic is now split into the federal subjects of Russia named Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol|
|Soviet Union||until end of entity|
Raions in the Soviet Union
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. 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.
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 Commissariat of Nationalities. 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 in the People's Republic of Romania
- Districts of Latvia until July 1, 2009.
- Districts of Georgia, before 2006, Georgian: რაიონი raioni. They have since been reorganized into municipalities. A raioni remains a territorial subdivision of Georgia's capital, Tbilisi.
In modern Russia, division into administrative districts largely remained unchanged after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The term "district" ("raion") is used to refer to an administrative division of a federal subject or to a district of a big city. In two federal subjects, however, the terminology was changed to reflect national specifics:
A municipal district (муниципа́льный райо́н) is a type of municipal formation which comprises a group of urban and/or rural settlements, as well as inter-settlement territories, sharing a common territory. The concept of the municipal districts was introduced in the early 2000s and codified on the federal level during the 2004 municipal reform.
Municipal districts are commonly formed within the boundaries of existing administrative districts, although in practice there are some exceptions to this rule—Sortavalsky Municipal District in the Republic of Karelia, for example, is formed around the town of Sortavala, which neither has a status of nor is a part of any administrative district.
Many major cities in Russia (except for federal cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg) are divided into city districts. Such city districts are usually considered to be administrative divisions of the city and prior to 2014 could not be a separate municipal formation. Examples of such city districts are Sovetsky City District in Nizhny Novgorod and Adlersky City District in Sochi.
In Ukraine, there are a total of 450 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 (Kiev and Sevastopol) are also subdivided into raions (constituting a total of 111 nationwide).
- Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1961, repr. 1981), s.v. raion.
- Saunders, R.A., Strukov, V. Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. "Scarecrow Press", 2010, ISBN 978-0-8108-5475-8, S. 477.
- James R. Millar. Encyclopedia of Russian History. Macmillan Reference USA. New York, 2004. ISBN 0-02-865693-8
- 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 recommended for use by the Working Group on Romanization Systems of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN) — http://unstats.un.org/unsd/geoinfo/9th-uncsgn-docs/e-conf-98-crp-21.pdf. See also: Instruction on transliteration of Belarusian geographical names with letters of Latin script; Romanization of Belarusian.
- Constitution of the Tyva Republic, Article 138.2a
- 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.).