Gubernia (huberniia). An administrative territorial unit in the Russian Empire. The division into gubernias was introduced by Peter I. In Ukraine, Azov gubernia and Kyiv gubernia were formed in 1708; the latter existed alongside the Ukrainian regimental administrative system, which was abolished in 1764–81. The extent and status of gubernias in Ukraine changed often (see Administrative territorial division). Most administrative, fiscal, judicial, and military institutions were headed by the governor, although they were staffed by officials of the respective ministry. Reforms enacted in 1775–85 were intended to create an elaborate system of administration involving the representative institutions of the nobility, urban strata, and peasants. These were only partly successful, although the gubernia Gentry Assemblies (founded in 1785) had a noticeable influence on local government. Self-administrating institutions in the gubernias, the zemstvos, began to appear in the 1860s. Towards the end of the 18th century, alongside the gubernias, the government created vicegerencies; these later became gubernias or were included in pre-existing gubernias. In 1914, there were 10 gubernias (Chernihiv gubernia, Katerynoslav gubernia, Kharkiv gubernia, Kherson gubernia, Kholm gubernia, Kyiv gubernia, Podilia gubernia, Poltava gubernia, Tavriia gubernia, and Volhynia gubernia) on Ukrainian ethnic territory, and eight (Bessarabia, Hrodna, Kursk, Lublin, Mahiliou, Minsk, Orel, and Voronezh) in ethnically mixed territories. Most gubernia administrations published an official newspaper called Gubernskie vedomosti. At certain times some individual gubernias were united to create general-gubernias, headed by a governor-general. This occurred in Ukraine in the first half of the 19th century. Gubernias were in turn subdivided into counties (povity; Russian: uezdy). Gubernias were abolished in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1925.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 2 (1989).]

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