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Guberniya (also gubernia, guberniia, and gubernya) (Russian: губе́рния) was a major administrative subdivision of the Imperial Russia, usually translated as province or Governorate. A guberniya was ruled by a governor (Russian: губерна́тор; English transliteration: gubernator). Sometimes this term was informally used to refer to the office of a governor.
This subdivision type was created by the edict (ukase) of Peter the Great on December 18 1708, which divided Russia into 8 guberniyas. In 1719 guberniyas were further subdivided into provinces (Russian: прови́нции). Later the number of guberniyas was increased to 23.
By the reform of 1775, subdivision into guberniyas and further into uyezds (уе́зды) was based on the amount of population, and the term "guberniya" was replaced by the synonym of Russian origin: наме́стничество (English transliteration: namestnichestvo), sometimes translated as "viceroyalty". The term "guberniya", however, still remained in use. These viceroyalties were governed by "namestniks" (наме́стник) (literal translation: "deputy"), also called Governors General (генера́л-губерна́тор). Correspondingly, the term Governorate General (генера́л-губерна́торство) was in use to refer to the actual territory being governed. The office of Governor General had more administrative power and was in a higher position than the previous office of Governor. Sometimes a Governor General ruled several guberniyas.
By the ukase of Russian Senate by December 31, 1796, the office of Governorate General was demoted to the previous level of Governorate, and Russia was again divided into guberniyas, which were subdivided in uyezds (уе́зд), further subdivided into volosts (во́лость), nevertheless several Governorates General made from several guberniyas existed until 1917.
The latter subdivision existed until after the Russian Revolution.
After the February Revolution, the Russian Provisional Government renamed governors into guberniya commissars. The October Revolution left the subdivision in place, but the governing apparatus was replaced by guberniya soviets (губе́рнский сове́т).
Actual subdivisions of the Soviet Union into particular territorial units was subject to numerous changes, especially during the 1918-1929 period. Eventually, in 1929 the subdivision was replaced by the notions of oblast, okrug and raion.
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