The highest unit of administrative-territorial division in prerevolutionary Russia.
In 1708 Peter I decreed the organization of Russian territory into eight large administrative regions (Petersburg, Moscow, Arkhangelsk, Smolensk, Kiev, Kazan, Azov, and Siberia), each under the jurisdiction of a centrally appointed governor. Between 1713 and 1719, each government was subdivided into provintsii (provinces) and uezdy (districts). By the time of Catherine II's accession in 1762, Russian territory had been reorganized into twenty governments. During the first decade of her reign, Catherine resolved to rationalize the territorial division and administration of imperial territory. Her "Constitution for the Administration of Governments" of 1775 established forty guberny, each with a male population of between 300,000–400,000 (by the end of her reign the number of governments had increased to fifty-one). Each government was subdivided into several okrugy or uezdy of between twenty and thirty thousand male inhabitants. This system was retained in European Russia throughout the nineteenth century, but the new territories of the imperial periphery were organized into general-governorships and, later, oblast (regions). The 1864 zemstvo reform established assemblies in many provinces, elected on a narrow, indirect franchise, which were responsible for nominating an executive board with responsibility for regional economic administration. Judicial and policing matters remained the responsibility of the governor, who also ratified the appointment of the president of the executive board. After the February Revolution of 1917, the Provisional Government replaced governors with commissars and after the Bolshevik Revolution authority passed to the executive committee of the regional soviet. Between 1924 and 1929 the new regime dissolved governments and replaced them with oblast and kraya.
See also: communist party of the soviet union; local government and administration; uezd; zemstvo