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".
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. After the fall of the Soviet Union, some of the republics kept the raion (e.g. Azerbaijan) while others dropped it (e.g. 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.
|Abkhazia (partially recognised state)||(existing)||araion (араион)||inherited from the Abkhaz ASSR||Districts of Abkhazia|
|Armenia||1995||inherited from the Armenian SSR||Districts of Armenia|
|Austria||~ 1918||Rayon, Rajon||Used only by the k.k. Gendarmerie to designate police districts ("Behördenrayon", lit. authorities' raion).|
|Azerbaijan||(existing)||rayon, pl. rayonlar;||inherited from the Azerbaijan SSR||Districts of Azerbaijan|
|Belarus||(existing)||Belarusian: раён, rajon||inherited from the Belorussian SSR||Districts of Belarus|
|Bulgaria||(existing)||raions are subdivisions of three biggest cities: Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna. Sofia is subdivided to 24 raions (Sofia districts), Plovdiv - 6, Varna - 5 raions|
|China||(existing)||行政分区||restricted to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region as influenced by the USSR. The districts of Ürümqi City and Karamay City are called رايون (SASM/GNC/SRC and ULY: rayon) in Uyghur.|
|Crimea (Republic of Crimea - short lived Republic recognized by only a few UN member states)||2014-03-16||2014-03-16||inherited from Ukraine. The Republic is now split into the federal subjects of Russia named Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol|
|Estonia||1990||Estonian: rajoon||inherited from the Estonian SSR. In 1990 transformed into district municipalities (Estonian: maakond)||Districts of Estonia|
|Georgia||2006||Georgian: რაიონი raioni||inherited from the Georgian SSR ; 2006 as first-level entities reorganized into municipalities. A raioni remains a territorial subdivision of Georgia's capital, Tbilisi.||Districts of Georgia|
|Kazakhstan||(existing)||Russian: райо́н||inherited from the Kazakh SSR||Districts of Kazakhstan|
|Latvia||2009-07-01||rajons; pl. rajoni||inherited from the Latvian SSR||Districts of Latvia|
|Lithuania||1994||Lithuanian: rajonas||inherited from the Lithuanian SSR. In 1994 transformed into district municipalities (Lithuanian: rajono savivaldybė)||Districts of Lithuania|
|Moldova||(existing)||Moldovan: raion||introduced in administrative reform in 2003||Districts of Moldova|
|Romania||1968-02-16||Romanian: raion||one of the Administrative divisions of the People's Republic of Romania||Districts of the People's Republic of Romania|
|Russian Federation||(existing)||Russian: райо́н||inherited from the Russian SFSR||Districts of Russia|
|South Ossetia-Alania (partially recognised state)||(existing)||inherited from the South Ossetian AO||Districts of South Ossetia|
|Soviet Union||1991-12-26 (end of entity)||At various levels below the constituent republics.|
|Transnistria (breakaway territory; de jure part of Moldova)||(existing)||inherited from the Moldavian SSR||Districts of Transnistria|
|Ukraine||(existing)||inherited from the Ukrainian SSR, there are a about 500 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).||Districts of Ukraine|
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.
Following the model of the Soviet Union raions have been introduced in Bulgaria, Romania. In China the term is used in Uyghur in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
In Romania they have been later replaced.
They are also used in breakaway regions: Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria.
|Districts of Abkhazia||7||first-level|
|Districts of Azerbaijan||59||first-level, 18 other entities at that level exist|
|Districts of Belarus||118||second-level below oblasts and Minsk City|
|Districts of Moldova||32||first-level, 5 other entities at that level exist|
|Districts of South Ossetia||4||first-level, 1 other entity at that level exists|
|Districts of Russia||second-level below federal subjects|
|Districts of Transnistria||5||first-level|
|Districts of Ukraine||490 and 118 city raions||second-level, numbers as of 2004, including Sevastopol and Crimea|
In Georgia they exist as districts in Tbilisi.
Abkhazia is divided into seven districts.
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).