A total of 41 counties (Romanian: județe), along with the municipality of Bucharest, constitute the official administrative divisions of Romania. They represent the country's NUTS-3 (Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics – Level 3) statistical subdivisions within the European Union and each of them serves as the local level of government within its borders. Most counties are named after a major river, while some are named after notable cities within them, such as the county seat.
The earliest organization into județe of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia (where they were termed ținuturi) dates back to at least the late 14th century. For most of the time since modern Romania was formed in 1859, the administrative division system has been similar to the French departments one. The system has been changed several times since then, and the number of counties has varied over time, from the 71 județe that existed before World War II to only 39 after 1968. The current format has largely been in place since 1968 as only small changes have been made since then, the last of which was in 1997.
According to 2011 census data from the National Institute of Statistics, the average population of Romania's 41 counties is about 445,000, with Iași County as the most populous (772,000) and Covasna County (210,000) the least. The average county's land area is 5,809 square kilometres (2,243 sq mi), with Timiș County (8,697 square kilometres (3,358 sq mi)) the largest and Ilfov County (1,583 square kilometres (611 sq mi)) the smallest. The municipality of Bucharest, which has the same administrative level as that of a county, is both more populous and much smaller than any county, with 1,883,425 people and 228 square kilometres (88 sq mi).
The earliest organization into județe (for Wallachia), and ținuturi (for Moldavia), dates back at least to the late 14th century.[note 1] Inspired from the organization of the late Byzantine Empire, each județ was ruled by a jude (or pârcălab for a ținut), a person officially appointed with administrative and judicial functions. Transylvania was divided into royal counties headed by comes (royal counts) with administrative and judicial functions.
After modern Romania was formed in 1859 through the union of Wallachia and the rump of Moldavia, the administrative division was modernized using the French administrative system as a model, with județ as the basic administrative unit. Aside from the 1950–1968 period, this system has remained in place until today. Since 1864, for each județ there exists a prefect, a subordinate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and representative of the government inside the county; he is also the head of local administration for areas not delegated to local authorities. Until 1948, each județ was further divided into several plăși, each administered by a pretor.
After the adoption of a new Constitution in 1923, the traditional local administrative systems of the newly acquired regions of Transylvania, Bukovina and Bessarabia were made uniform in 1925 with that of the Romanian Old Kingdom. County borders were kept largely intact, with few adjustments, and the total number of counties was raised to 71; this lasted until the beginning of World War II.
In 1938, King Carol II modified the law on the administration of the Romanian territory according to the fascist model. Ten ținuturi (approx. translation "lands") were created, ruled by Rezidenți Regali (Royal Residents), appointed directly by the Monarch. The ținuturi represented another layer of administration between counties and the country, as the county borders were not erased.
Due to the territorial changes during World War II, this style of administration did not last, and the administration at the județ level was reintroduced after the war. Between 1941–1944, Romania administered the territory between the Dniester and Southern Bug rivers known as Transnistria, which consisted of 13 separate counties.
After taking over the administration of the country in 1945, the Communist Party changed the administrative model to that of the Soviet Union (regions and raions) in 1950, but changed it back in 1968. Nevertheless, the county borders set then were quite different from those present during the interbellum, as only 39 counties were formed from the 56 remaining after the war.
In 1981, Giurgiu and Călărași were split from Ialomița and the former county of Ilfov, while in 1997, Ilfov County, which had been a dependency of the municipality of Bucharest for nearly two decades, was reinstated. The county borders set in 1968 are still largely in place today, but the functions of different authorities have changed due to administrative reforms in the 1990s.
At present, Romania is divided into 41 counties and one municipality (Bucharest); these are assigned as the NUTS-3 geocode statistical subdivision scheme of Romania within the European Union. Each of the counties is further divided into cities (some of which have municipality status) and communes. The prefect and his administration have executive prerogatives within the county limits, while limited legislative powers are assigned to a County Council elected every four years during local elections. The territorial districts of the Romanian judicial system overlap with county borders, thus avoiding further complication in the separation of powers on the government.
||Alba River||Center||AB||51||58||RO121||342,376||6,242 km2 (2,410 sq mi)|
||county seat||West||AR||31||57||RO421||430,629||7,754 km2 (2,994 sq mi)|
||Argeș River||South-Muntenia||AG||11||48||RO311||612,431||6,862 km2 (2,649 sq mi)|
||county seat||North-East||BC||60||34||RO211||616,168||6,621 km2 (2,556 sq mi)|
||Biharia commune||North-West||BH||41||59||RO111||575,398||7,544 km2 (2,913 sq mi)|
||Bistrița River and Năsăud city||North-West||BN||42||63||RO112||286,225||5,355 km2 (2,068 sq mi)|
||county seat||North-East||BT||71||31||RO212||412,626||4,986 km2 (1,925 sq mi)|
||county seat||Center||BV||50||68||RO122||549,217||5,363 km2 (2,071 sq mi)|
||county seat||South-East||BR||81||39||RO221||321,212||4,766 km2 (1,840 sq mi)|
||(Municipality of Bucharest)
|last name Bucur||Bucharest-Ilfov||B||01–06
|RO321||1,883,425||228 km2 (88 sq mi)|
||Buzău River||South-East||BZ||12||38||RO222||451,069||6,103 km2 (2,356 sq mi)|
||defunct Caraș and Severin Counties||West||CS||32||55||RO422||295,579||8,514 km2 (3,287 sq mi)|
||county seat||South-Muntenia||CL||91||42||RO312||306,691||5,088 km2 (1,964 sq mi)|
||county seat||North-West||CJ||40||64||RO113||691,106||6,674 km2 (2,577 sq mi)|
||county seat||South-East||CT||90||41||RO223||684,082||7,071 km2 (2,730 sq mi)|
||Covasna River||Center||CV||52||67||RO123||210,177||3,710 km2 (1,430 sq mi)|
||Dâmbovița River||South-Muntenia||DB||13||45||RO313||518,745||4,054 km2 (1,565 sq mi)|
||Jiu River[note 10]||South-West Oltenia||DJ||20||51||RO411||660,544||7,414 km2 (2,863 sq mi)|
||county seat||South-East||GL||80||36||RO224||536,167||4,466 km2 (1,724 sq mi)|
||county seat||South-Muntenia||GR||08||46||RO314||281,422||3,526 km2 (1,361 sq mi)|
||Jiu River[note 11]||South-West Oltenia||GJ||21||53||RO412||341,594||5,602 km2 (2,163 sq mi)|
||Harghita Mountains||Center||HR||53||66||RO124||310,867||6,639 km2 (2,563 sq mi)|
||Hunedoara city||West||HD||33||54||RO423||418,565||7,063 km2 (2,727 sq mi)|
||Ialomița River||South-Muntenia||IL||92||43||RO315||274,148||4,453 km2 (1,719 sq mi)|
||county seat||North-East||IS||70||32||RO213||772,348||5,476 km2 (2,114 sq mi)|
|RO322||388,738||1,583 km2 (611 sq mi)|
||Maramureș historical region||North-West||MM||43||62||RO114||478,659||6,304 km2 (2,434 sq mi)|
||Mehadia commune||South-West Oltenia||MH||22||52||RO413||265,390||4,933 km2 (1,905 sq mi)|
||Mureș River||Center||MS||54||65||RO125||550,846||6,714 km2 (2,592 sq mi)|
||Neamț River||North-East||NT||61||33||RO214||470,766||5,896 km2 (2,276 sq mi)|
||Olt River||South-West Oltenia||OT||23||49||RO414||436,400||5,498 km2 (2,123 sq mi)|
||Prahova River||South-Muntenia||PH||10||44||RO316||762,886||4,716 km2 (1,821 sq mi)|
||county seat||North-West||SM||44||61||RO115||344,360||4,418 km2 (1,706 sq mi)|
||Sălaj River||North-West||SJ||45||60||RO116||224,384||3,864 km2 (1,492 sq mi)|
||county seat||Center||SB||55||69||RO126||397,322||5,432 km2 (2,097 sq mi)|
||Suceava River||North-East||SV||72||30||RO215||634,810||8,553 km2 (3,302 sq mi)|
||Teleorman River||South-Muntenia||TR||14||47||RO317||380,123||5,790 km2 (2,240 sq mi)|
||Timiș River||West||TM||30||56||RO424||683,540||8,697 km2 (3,358 sq mi)|
||county seat||South-East||TL||82||40||RO225||213,083||8,499 km2 (3,281 sq mi)|
||Vaslui River||North-East||VS||73||35||RO216||395,499||5,318 km2 (2,053 sq mi)|
||medieval county of Vîlcea[note 12]||South-West Oltenia||VL||24||50||RO415||371,714||5,765 km2 (2,226 sq mi)|
||medieval county of Vrancha[note 13]||South-East||VN||62||37||RO226||340,310||4,857 km2 (1,875 sq mi)|
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