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Countries with at least one autonomous area.
An autonomous area is an area of a country that has a degree of autonomy, or freedom from an external authority. Typically it is either geographically distinct from the country or is populated by a national minority. Countries that include autonomous areas are often federacies. Autonomous areas can be divided into territorial autonomies, subregional territorial autonomies and local autonomies.

For a list of autonomous areas, see List of autonomous areas by country and List of territorial autonomies.


Many autonomous areas lie within two of the world's largest countries, People's Republic of Chinamarker and Russiamarker.


Iraqi Kurdistanmarker is the only region which has gained official recognition internationally as an autonomous federal entity. It has been referred to as a quasi-independent state.

Southern Sudan

Under the terms of the deal with Republic of Sudanmarker, the Southern Sudan has been given a large degree of autonomy, and the chance to vote for full independence in 2011 after six years of home rule.


China (PRC) has five types of autonomous areas.

Autonomous banner
Found only as divisions of Inner Mongolia. In effect, these are autonomous counties (see below).

Autonomous county

The most numerous type of autonomous area in China, found both within and outside the larger autonomous prefectures and regions.

Autonomous prefecture

China has 30 prefectures that are autonomous, mostly in the periphery of the country.

Autonomous region

A first-level administrative subdivision of China. There are five ARs in China. They are Inner Mongolia AR, Tibet AR, Ningxia Hui AR, Xinjiang Uyghur AR, and Guangxi Zhuang AR. Regardless of the names, these regions are in fact less autonomous than the special administrative regions of China.

Special administrative region

Although not autonomous in name, in practice China's special administrative regions (Hong Kongmarker and Macaumarker) enjoy a high degree of autonomy.


Apart from its republics, which by definition have a degree of autonomy, Russia has two types of autonomies:

Autonomous okrug

Okrug is a transliterated Slavic loanword usually translated as "district". The sizes of okrugs, however, vary more widely than other areas commonly identified as "districts", from large first-level divisions to third-level divisions within cities. As of 2008, Russia has four autonomous okrugs.

Autonomous oblast

Oblast is a transliterated Slavic loanword usually understood to mean "province". , one autonomous oblast exists: the Jewish Autonomous Oblastmarker.

Other countries

The other types of autonomous areas to be found in the world are:

Autonomous city

Four cities are formally designated by their countries as autonomous: the capital of Uzbekistanmarker, Tashkentmarker; the capital of Belgiummarker, Brusselsmarker; the Spanishmarker exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla; and the Argentinianmarker capital, Buenos Airesmarker. Another Argentinian city that has been pressing for autonomous status is Rosariomarker, a city of around one million inhabitants that receives less subsidy than the smaller provincial capital Santa Fe.

Autonomous commune

Banguimarker, the capital of the Central African Republicmarker, is described as an autonomous commune (commune autonome).

Autonomous community

The region-like areas into which Spain's provinces are grouped are known as autonomous communities (comunidades autónomas), as are the three atolls constituting the New Zealandmarker territory of Tokelaumarker.

Autonomous province

Six countries formally designate areas of their territory as autonomous provinces:

Autonomous region

In addition to the autonomous regions of China mentioned above, various other areas of the world are formally described as autonomous regions:

Autonomous republic

In addition to the Russian republics mentioned above, areas known as "autonomous republics" exist within some of the countries established following the end of the Soviet Unionmarker:

The Palestinian Authority within Israelmarker exercises certain sovereign powers within its borders, but is not a fully independent government. The PA-administrated territories are internationally recognized as occupied by Israel, and not a proper part of that country.

Autonomous sector

The Bissau Region, in which Guinea-Bissaumarker's capital Bissaumarker is found, is described as an "autonomous sector" (sector autónomo).

Special woreda

In Ethiopiamarker, "special woredas" are a subgroup of woredas or districts that are organized around the traditional homelands of an ethnic minority, and are under outside the usual hierarchy of a Region or kilil. These woredas have many similarities to autonomous areas in other countries.



Other areas that are autonomous in nature but not in name are areas designated for indigenous peoples, such as those of the Americas:

If elected, the Action démocratique du Québec party promises to make Quebecmarker an autonomous region within Canadamarker.


  3. Also described as a "self-governing territory" .

See also


  • M. Weller and S. Wolff (eds), Autonomy, Self-governance and Conflict Resolution: Innovative Approaches to Institutional Design in Divided Societies. Abingdon, Routledge, 2005
  • From Conflict to Autonomy in Nicaragua: Lessons Learnt, report by Minority Rights Group International
  • P.M. Olausson, Autonomy and Islands, A Global Study of the Factors that determine Island Autonomy. Åbo: Åbo Akademi University Press, 2007.

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