Voivodeships of Poland

Voivodeships of Poland
Województwa Polski (Polish)
Category Unitary state
Location Republic of Poland
Number 16 Voivodeships
Populations 1,044,346 (Opole) – 5,164,612 (Masovian)
Areas 9,413 km2 (3,634.2 sq mi) (Opole) - 35,580 km2 (13,737 sq mi) (Masovian)
Government Voivodeship government, National government
Subdivisions Powiat

A województwo ([vɔjɛˈvut͡stfɔ]; plural: województwa) is the highest-level administrative subdivision of Poland, corresponding to a "province" in many other countries. The term "województwo" has been in use since the 14th century, and is commonly translated in English as "province".[1] The word "województwo" is also rendered as "voivodeship" (/ˈvɔɪˌvdˌʃɪp/) or a variant spelling.[2]

The Polish local government reforms adopted in 1998, which went into effect on 1 January 1999, created sixteen new voivodeships. These replaced the 49 former voivodeships that had existed from 1 July 1975.

Today's voivodeships are mostly named after historical and geographical regions, while those prior to 1998 generally took their names from the cities on which they were centered. The new units range in area from under 10,000 km2 (3,900 sq mi) (Opole Voivodeship) to over 35,000 km2 (14,000 sq mi) (Masovian Voivodeship), and in population from one million (Lubusz Voivodeship) to over five million (Masovian Voivodeship).

Administrative authority at the voivodeship level is shared between a government-appointed governor called a voivode (wojewoda), an elected assembly called a sejmik, and an executive board chosen by that assembly, headed by a voivodeship marshal (marszałek województwa). Voivodeships are further divided into powiats (counties) and gminas (communes or municipalities): see Administrative divisions of Poland.

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

Voivodeships since 1999

Map of Polish voivodeships since 1999 (abbreviations)

Administrative powers

Competences and powers at voivodeship level are shared between the voivode (governor), the sejmik (regional assembly) and the marshal. In most cases these institutions are all based in one city, but in Kuyavian-Pomeranian and Lubusz Voivodeship the voivode's offices are in a different city from those of the executive and the sejmik. Voivodeship capitals are listed in the table below.

The voivode is appointed by the Prime Minister and is the regional representative of the central government. The voivode acts as the head of central government institutions at regional level (such as the police and fire services, passport offices, and various inspectorates), manages central government property in the region, oversees the functioning of local government, coordinates actions in the field of public safety and environment protection, and exercises special powers in emergencies. The voivode's offices collectively are known as the urząd wojewódzki.

The sejmik is elected every four years, at the same time as the local authorities at powiat and gmina level. It passes bylaws, including the voivodeship's development strategies and budget. It also elects the marszałek and other members of the executive, and holds them to account.

The executive (zarząd województwa), headed by the marszałek drafts the budget and development strategies, implements the resolutions of the sejmik, manages the voivodeship's property, and deals with many aspects of regional policy, including management of European Union funding. The marshal's offices are collectively known as the urząd marszałkowski.

List of voivodeships

Polish voivodeships since 1999
Abbr. Coat of
Voivodeship Polish name Capital cities Area
(December 31, 2012)
per km2
DS 02 D Lower Silesia dolnośląskie Wrocław 19,947 2,914,362 146
KP 04 C Kuyavia-Pomerania kujawsko-pomorskie Bydgoszcz1,
17,972 2,096,404 117
LU 06 L Lublin lubelskie Lublin 25,122 2,165,651 86
LB 08 F Lubus lubuskie Gorzów Wielkopolski1,
Zielona Góra2
13,988 1,023,317 73
LD 10 E Łódź łódzkie Łódź 18,219 2,524,651 139
MA 12 K Lesser Poland małopolskie Kraków 15,183 3,354,077 221
MZ 14 W Masovia mazowieckie Warsaw 35,558 5,301,760 149
OP 16 O Opole opolskie Opole 9,412 1,010,203 107
PK 18 R Subcarpathia podkarpackie Rzeszów 17,846 2,129,951 119
PD 20 B Podlasie podlaskie Białystok 20,187 1,198,690 59
PM 22 G Pomerania pomorskie Gdańsk 18,310 2,290,070 125
SL 24 S Silesia śląskie Katowice 12,333 4,615,870 374
SK 26 T Holy Cross świętokrzyskie Kielce 11,711 1,273,995 109
WN 28 N Warmia-Masuria warmińsko-mazurskie Olsztyn 24,173 1,450,697 60
WP 30 P Greater Poland wielkopolskie Poznań 29,826 3,462,196 116
ZP 32 Z West Pomerania zachodniopomorskie Szczecin 22,892 1,721,405 75
1 Seat of voivode. 2 Seat of sejmik and marszałek.
Map of Polish voivodeships (1975–1988).

Former voivodeships

Poland's voivodeships 1975–1998

Administrative division of Poland between 1979 and 1998 included 49 voivodeships upheld after the establishment of the Third Polish Republic in 1989 for another decade. This reorganization of administrative division of Poland was mainly a result of local government reform acts of 1973–1975. In place of the three-level administrative division (voivodeship, county, commune), a new two-level administrative division was introduced (49 small voivodeships, and communes). The three smallest voivodeships – Warsaw, Kraków and Łódź – had the special status of municipal voivodeship; the city president (mayor) was also provincial governor.

Polish voivodeships and separate cities 1975-1998
Abbr. Voivodeship Polish name Capital Area
km2 (1998)
No. of
No. of
bp Biała Podlaska Voivodeship bialskopodlaskie Biała Podlaska 5,348 286,400 6 35
bk Białystok Voivodeship białostockie Białystok 10,055 641,100 17 49
bb Bielsko-Biała Voivodeship bielskie Bielsko-Biała 3,704 829,900 18 47
by Bydgoszcz Voivodeship bydgoskie Bydgoszcz 10,349 1,036,000 27 55
ch Chełm Voivodeship chełmskie Chełm 3,865 230,900 4 25
ci Ciechanów Voivodeship ciechanowskie Ciechanów 6,362 405,400 9 45
cz Częstochowa Voivodeship częstochowskie Częstochowa 6,182 747,900 17 49
el Elbląg Voivodeship elbląskie Elbląg 6,103 441,500 15 37
gd Gdańsk Voivodeship gdańskie Gdańsk 7,394 1,333,800 19 43
go Gorzów Voivodeship gorzowskie Gorzów Wielkopolski 8,484 455,400 21 38
jg Jelenia Góra Voivodeship jeleniogórskie Jelenia Góra 4,378 492,600 24 28
kl Kalisz Voivodeship kaliskie Kalisz 6,512 668,000 20 53
ka Katowice Voivodeship katowickie Katowice 6,650 3,733,900 43 46
ki Kielce Voivodeship kieleckie Kielce 9,211 1,068,700 17 69
kn Konin Voivodeship konińskie Konin 5,139 441,200 18 43
ko Koszalin Voivodeship koszalińskie Koszalin 8,470 462,200 17 35
kr Kraków Voivodeship krakowskie Kraków 3,254 1,167,500 10 38
ks Krosno Voivodeship krośnieńskie Krosno 5,702 448,200 12 37
lg Legnica Voivodeship legnickie Legnica 4,037 458,900 11 31
le Leszno Voivodeship leszczyńskie Leszno 4,254 357,600 19 28
lu Lublin Voivodeship lubelskie Lublin 6,793 935,200 16 62
lo Łomża Voivodeship łomżyńskie Łomża 6,684 325,800 12 39
ld Łódź Voivodeship łódzkie Łódź 1523 1,127,800 8 11
ns Nowy Sącz Voivodeship nowosądeckie Nowy Sącz 5,576 628,800 14 41
ol Olsztyn Voivodeship olsztyńskie Olsztyn 12,327 681,400 21 48
op Opole Voivodeship opolskie Opole 8,535 975,000 29 61
os Ostrołęka Voivodeship ostrołęckie Ostrołęka 6,498 371,400 9 38
pi Piła Voivodeship pilskie Piła 8,205 437,100 24 35
pt Piotrków Voivodeship piotrkowskie Piotrków Trybunalski 6,266 604,200 10 51
pl Płock Voivodeship płockie Płock 5,117 496,100 9 44
po Poznań Voivodeship poznańskie Poznań 8,151 1,237,800 33 57
pr Przemyśl Voivodeship przemyskie Przemyśl 4,437 380,000 9 35
ra Radom Voivodeship radomskie Radom 7,295 702,300 15 61
rz Rzeszów Voivodeship rzeszowskie Rzeszów 4,397 648,900 13 41
se Siedlce Voivodeship siedleckie Siedlce 8,499 616,300 12 66
si Sieradz Voivodeship sieradzkie Sieradz 4,869 392,300 9 40
sk Skierniewice Voivodeship skierniewickie Skierniewice 3,959 396,900 8 36
sl Słupsk Voivodeship słupskie Słupsk 7,453 369,800 11 31
su Suwałki Voivodeship suwalskie Suwałki 10,490 422,600 14 42
sz Szczecin Voivodeship szczecińskie Szczecin 9,981 897,900 29 50
tg Tarnobrzeg Voivodeship tarnobrzeskie Tarnobrzeg 6,283 556,300 14 46
ta Tarnów Voivodeship tarnowskie Tarnów 4,151 607,000 9 41
to Toruń Voivodeship toruńskie Toruń 5,348 610,800 13 41
wb Wałbrzych Voivodeship wałbrzyskie Wałbrzych 4,168 716,100 31 30
wa Warsaw Voivodeship warszawskie Warsaw
3,788 2,319,100 27 32
wl Włocławek Voivodeship włocławskie Włocławek 4,402 413,400 14 30
wr Wrocław Voivodeship wrocławskie Wrocław 6,287 1,076,200 16 33
za Zamość Voivodeship zamojskie Zamość 6,980 472,100 5 47
zg Zielona Góra Voivodeship zielonogórskie Zielona Góra 8,868 609,200 26 50
Map of Polish voivodeships (1957–1975).

Poland's voivodeships 1945–1975

After World War II, the new administrative division of the country within the new national borders was based on the prewar one and included 14 (+2) voivodeships, then 17 (+5). The voivodeships in the east that had not been annexed by the Soviet Union had their borders left almost unchanged. The newly acquired territories in the west and north were organized into the new voivodeships of Szczecin, Wrocław and Olsztyn, and partly joined to Gdańsk, Katowice and Poznań voivodeships. Two cities were granted voivodeship status: Warsaw and Łódź.

In 1950, new voivodeships were created: Koszalin (previously part of Szczecin), Opole (previously part of Katowice), and Zielona Góra (previously part of Poznań, Wrocław and Szczecin voivodeships).

In 1957, three more cities were granted voivodeship status: Wrocław, Kraków and Poznań.

Polish administrative division 1945-1975
Car plates
(since 1956)
(Polish name)
Capital Area
in km2 (1965)
A białostockie Białystok 23,136 1,160,400
B bydgoskie Bydgoszcz 20,794 1,837,100
G gdańskie Gdańsk 10,984 1,352,800
S katowickie Katowice 9,518 3,524,300
C kieleckie Kielce 19,498 1,899,100
E koszalińskie1 Koszalin 17,974 755,100
K krakowskie Kraków 15,350 2,127,600
? Kraków (city)2 Kraków 230 520,100
F łódzkie Łódź 17,064 1,665,200
I Łódź (city) Łódź 214 744,100
L lubelskie Lublin 24,829 1,900,500
O olsztyńskie Olsztyn 20,994 956,600
H opolskie ¹ Opole 9,506 1,009,200
P poznańskie Poznań 26,723 2,126,300
? Poznań (city)2 Poznań 220 438,200
R rzeszowskie Rzeszów 18,658 1,692,800
M szczecińskie Szczecin 12,677 847,600
T warszawskie Warsaw 29,369 2,453,000
W Warszawa (city) Warsaw 446 1,252,600
X wrocławskie Wrocław 18,827 1,967,000
? Wrocław (city)2 Wrocław 225 474,200
Z zielonogórskie1 Zielona Góra 14,514 847,200
1 New voivodeships created in 1950. 2 Cities separated in 1957.
Map of Polish voivodeships (1921–1939)
Poland's prewar and postwar borders, 1939–1945

Poland's voivodeships 1921–1939

The administrative division of Poland in the interwar period included 16 voivodeships and Warsaw (with voivodeship rights).

The voivodeships that remained in Poland after World War II as a result of Polish–Soviet border agreement of August 1945 were very similar to the current voivodeships.

Polish voivodeships in the interbellum (data as per April 1, 1937)
Car plates
(since 1937)
Voivodeship Polish name Capital city
modern name in parentheses
in km2 (1930)
20–24 Białystok białostockie Białystok 26,000 1,263,300
25–29 Kielce kieleckie Kielce 22,200 2,671,000
30–34 Kraków krakowskie Kraków 17,600 2,300,100
35–39 Lublin lubelskie Lublin 26,600 2,116,200
40–44 Lwów lwowskie Lwów (Lviv) 28,400 3,126,300
45–49 Łódź łódzkie Łódź 20,400 2,650,100
50–54 Nowogródek nowogródzkie Nowogródek (Navahrudak) 23,000 1,057,200
55–59 Polesie poleskie Brześć nad Bugiem (Brest) 36,700 1,132,200
60–64 Pomeranian pomorskie Toruń 25,700 1,884,400
65–69 Poznań poznańskie Poznań 28,100 2,339,600
70–74 Stanisławów stanisławowskie Stanisławów (Ivano-Frankivsk) 16,900 1,480,300
75–79? Silesian śląskie Katowice 5,100 1,533,500
80–84 Tarnopol tarnopolskie Tarnopol (Ternopil) 16,500 1,600,400
85–89 Warsaw (voivodeship) warszawskie Warsaw 31,700 2,460,900
00–19 Warsaw (city) Warszawa Warsaw 140 1,179,500
90–94 Wilno wileńskie Wilno (Vilnius) 29,000 1,276,000
95–99 Wołyń wołyńskie Łuck (Lutsk) 35,700 2,085,600

Congress Poland 1816–1837

Voivodeships 1816-1820

From 1816 to 1837 there were 8 voivodeships in Congress Poland.

Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth 1569–1795

Voivodeships of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1635

Greater Poland (Wielkopolska)

Lesser Poland (Małopolska)

Grand Duchy of Lithuania

Duchy of Livonia

Etymology and use of "voivodeship"

Some English-language sources, in historic contexts, speak of "palatinates" rather than "voivodeships". The term "palatinate" traces back to the Latin palatinus ("palatine").

More commonly used now is "province" or "voivodeship". The latter is a loanword-calque hybrid formed on the Polish "województwo".

Some writers argue against rendering "województwo" in English as "province" on historic grounds. Before the Third and last Partition of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, which occurred in 1795, each of the main constituent Regions of the Polish–Lithuanian CommonwealthGreater Poland, Lesser Poland, Lithuania, and Royal Prussia—was sometimes idiosyncratically referred to as a "Province" ("prowincyja"). According to the argument, a "Province" (such as Greater Poland) cannot consist of a number of subdivisions ("województwa", the plural of "województwo") that are likewise called "provinces". However, this is an antiquarian consideration, since "province" has not been used in this sense in Poland for over two centuries, and in any case the former larger political units—all now obsolete—can be referred to in English as "Regions" (which, in English parlance, is what they were).

The Polish "województwo", designating a second-tier Polish or Polish–Lithuanian administrative unit, derives from "wojewoda" (etymologically, a "warlord", "war leader" or "leader of warriors", but now simply the governor of a województwo) and the suffix "-ztwo" (a "state or condition").

The English "voivodeship", which is a hybrid of the loanword "voivode" and "-ship" (the latter a suffix that calques the Polish suffix "-ztwo"), has never been much used and is absent from many dictionaries. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it first appeared in 1792, spelled "woiwodship", in the sense of "the district or province governed by a voivode." The word subsequently appeared in 1886 also in the sense of "the office or dignity of a voivode."[3]

Poland's Commission on Standardization of Geographic Names outside the Republic of Poland, recommends the spelling "voivodship", without the e.


  1. The word "voivodeship", as an equivalent for "województwo", appears in some large English dictionaries such as the OED and Webster's Third New International Dictionary but is not in common English usage. Hence the word "province" is a recommended translation: "Jednostki podziału administracyjnego Polski tłumaczymy tak: województwo—province..." ("Polish administrative units are translated as follows: województwoprovince..."). Arkadiusz Belczyk, "Tłumaczenie polskich nazw geograficznych na język angielski" ("Translation of Polish Geographical Names into English"), 2002-2006. Examples: New Provinces of Poland (1998), Map of Poland, English names of Polish provinces. More examples:
    • "Following the reform of the administrative structure in 1973-1975, the number of provinces (województwa) was increased from 22 to 49... [I]ncreasing the number of provinces meant the reduction of each in size. In this way Warsaw was able to dilute the political importance of the provincial party chiefs." "Poland", The Encyclopedia Americana, 1986, volume 22, p. 312.
    • "Poland is divided into 49 provinces." "Poland", The Columbia Encyclopedia, sixth edition, edited by Paul Lagassé, Columbia University Press, 2000, p. 2256.
    • "Local government in Poland is organized on three levels. The largest units, at the regional level, are the województwa (provinces)..." "Poland", Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, 2010, Macropaedia, volume 25, p. 937.
    • "GOVERNMENT... Administrative divisions: 16 provinces (wojewodztwa, singular–wojewodztwo)..." "Poland," in Central Intelligence Agency, The CIA World Factbook 2010, New York, Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., 2009, ISBN 9781602397279, p. 546. The same information appears in the current online CIA World Factbook --> "Poland --> Administrative divisions". Note that in this source, where "English translations" of province names are given, they are in the noun ("Silesia"), not the adjective ("Silesian"), form.
    • Professor Paul Best, of Southern Connecticut State University, writes: "[I]n standard dictionaries the Polish word [województwo] is translated as 'province.'" Paul Best, review of Bogdan Horbal, Lemko Studies: A Handbook (2010), in The Polish Review, vol. 58, no. 4 (2013), pp. 125–26.
  2. Alternate English renderings include "voivodship," "voievodship," "voievodeship" and "woiwodship".
  3. "Voivodeship," The Oxford English Dictionary, second edition, volume XIX, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1989, p. 739.


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