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Subdivions of the Russian Empire in 1914

A guberniya ( ) (also ) was a major administrative subdivision of the Russian Empiremarker, usually translated as government, governorate, or province. A guberniya was ruled by a governor ( , ), a word borrowed from Latin , in turn from Greek . Sometimes the term guberniya was informally used to refer to the office of a governor.

This subdivision type was created by the edict (ukase) of Peter the Great on December 18, 1708, which divided Russia into eight guberniyas. In 1719, guberniyas were further subdivided into provinces ( , ). Later the number of guberniyas was increased to 23.

By the reform of 1775, subdivision into guberniyas and further into ( ), was based on population size, and the term guberniya was replaced by the synonym of Russian origin: ( ), sometimes translated as "viceroyalty". The term guberniya, however, still remained in use. These viceroyalties were governed by ( ) (literal translation: "deputy") or "Governors General" ( , ). Correspondingly, the term "Governorate General" ( , ) was in use to refer to the actual territory being governed. The office of Governor General had more administrative power and was in a higher position than the previous office of Governor. Sometimes a Governor General ruled several guberniyas.

By the ukase of the Russian Senate of December 31, 1796, the office of Governorate General was demoted to the previous level of Governorate, and Russia was again divided into guberniyas, which were subdivided into , further subdivided into ( ); nevertheless several Governorates General made from several guberniyas existed until 1917.

The latter subdivision existed until after the Russian Revolution of 1917.

For the guberniya ( , , , ) as subdivisions of the Congress Kingdom of Polandmarker ("Russian Poland") and the Grand Duchy of Finland ("Russian Finland"); see Administrative division of Congress Poland and Governorates of the Grand Duchy of Finland.

After the February Revolution, the Russian Provisional Government renamed governors into guberniya commissars. The October Revolution left the subdivision in place, but the governing apparatus was replaced by guberniya sovietsmarker ( ).

Actual subdivisions of the Soviet Unionmarker into particular territorial units was subject to numerous changes, especially during the 1918–1929 period. Eventually, in 1929, the subdivision was replaced by the notions of oblast, okrug, and raion.

In modern Russia, although the term Guberniya is obsolete, the word gubernator is used when referring to a governor of an oblast or a krai.

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