Volost (Russian: vlast). In Old Ukrainian the term meant ‘power’ or ‘government.’ During the Princely era it was also used, like the earlier term zemlia, to refer to the princely state, especially in relation to the appanage principalities, and sometimes to its population. In the 11th to 13th centuries a volost was an administrative-territorial division consisting of several hromady, headed by a volostel or starosta. The volost center was usually called a pryhorod, headed by a horodnychyi.
As the medieval Ukrainian states disintegrated, the term fell out of use. In 1861 the volost (or gmina) was introduced by Alexander II in the Russian Empire as an administrative unit of rural self-government; it was composed of several village hromady and had limited administrative and judicial powers. The volost was governed by a board which included the volost starshyna, village starostas, tax collectors, and a scribe. The volost assembly, which included those officials plus deputies of the rural population (1 per 10 farmsteads), oversaw the elections of local officials, candidates to county zemstvo assemblies, and members of the volost court, which settled minor disputes. Under the Ukrainian national government in 1917–20, the volost was implemented as a secondary self-governing entity, between the zemlia and the hromada. Volosti continued to function under the Soviet regime until the administrative reform of 12 April 1923, when they were replaced by raions. The 1,989 volosti of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic were then reorganized into 706 raions.
[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993).]
Encyclopedia of Ukraine