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.
Fourteen countries have or had entities that were named "raion" or the local version of it.
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.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, raions as administrative units continued to be used in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Latvia, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine.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.
See: Districts of Azerbaijan
In Belarus, raions (Belarusian: раён, rajon) are administrative units subordinated to oblasts. See also: Category:Districts of Belarus.
In Bulgaria, raions are subdivisions of three biggest cities: Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna. Sofia is subdivided to 24 raions (Sofia districts), Plovdiv - 6, Varna - 5 raions.Administrative divisions of Moldova
Raions of Transnistria
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:Sakha (Yakutia) Republic: ulus (улус)
Tyva Republic: kozhuun (кожуун)
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).