Administrative divisions of Lithuania

Administrative divisions of Lithuania

This article is about the administrative divisions of Lithuania.

Grand Duchy of Lithuania (1251–1569)

In the earliest stages of the formation of the Lithuanian state, there had been several lands (Lithuanian: plural – "žemės", singular – "žemė"), such as Nalšia, Deltuva and Lietuva, as well as others. They were ruled by regional dukes. When King Mindaugas (1251–1263) unified the state, he killed, expelled, or subjugated most of the regional dukes. The lands were either added to ruler's domain or granted to members of his family.

As the Grand Duchy of Lithuania expended into Slavic lands, acquired principalities were trusted to be ruled by Grand Duke's offspring or other relatives. For example, Mindaugas granted Black Ruthenia with center in Navahrudak to his son Vaišvilkas; Gediminas sent his brother Fiodor to Kiev. [cite book | title=Lithuania Ascending: A Pagan Empire Within East-Central Europe, 1295-1345 | first=C. S. | last=Rowell | pages=97 | year=1994 | publisher=Cambridge University Press | series=Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought: Fourth Series| isbn=9780521450119 ] Such system had major disadvantages as principalities remained semi-independent with loose ties to the central government. Rulers of such principalities were powerful rivals to the Grand Duke; that led to frequent power struggles.

In early 15th century Vytautas the Great initiated administrative reforms. He replaced regional dukes and princes with trustworthy nobles, who relied on the favors from the Grand Duke. This marked the rise of Lithuanian nobility. In 1413 Union of Horodło was signed; Vilnius and Trakai Voivodeships were created in ethnic Lithuanian lands by copying Polish system. Eldership of Samogitia had a special semi-autonomous status. Former Slavic principalities and duchies largely preserved their old political, social, administrative features. [cite book | last=Kiaupa | first=Zigmantas | coauthors=Jūratė Kiaupienė, Albinas Kunevičius | title=The History of Lithuania Before 1795 | origyear=1995 | edition=English | year=2000 | publisher=Lithuanian Institute of History | location=Vilnius | isbn=9986-810-13-2 | pages=163–164] They were only slowly incorporated into administration of the Grand Duchy. Kiev Voivodeship was established in 1471, other five voivodeships were established between 1504 and 1514. Smolensk Voivodeship, the largest of all, was established in 1508, but was lost to the Grand Duchy of Moscow in 1514.

Voivodeships (Lithuanian: plural – "vaivadijos", singular – "vaivadija"), ruled by appointed officials – voivodes, were further subdivided into powiats (Lithuanian: plural – "pavietai", singular – "pavietas").

Major administrative reforms took place in 1564–1566 in preparation for the second Statute of Lithuania and overhaul of judicial system. [lt icon cite book |title=Lietuvos istorija 11–12 klasėms | first=Rūstis |last=Kamuntavičius |coauthors=Vaida Kamuntavičienė, Remigijus Civinskas, Kastytis Antanaitis |year=2001 |publisher=Vaga |location=Vilnius |isbn=5-415-01502-7 |pages=112] The entire territory of the Grand Duchy, with exception of Samogitia, was divided into 12 voivodeships.

Grand Duchy of Lithuania (1569–1795)

:"See also: Administrative division of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth":main|Administrative division of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (1569-1795)Just before the Union of Lublin (1569), four voivodeships (Kiev, Podlaskie, Bracław, and Wołyń) of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were transferred to Polish Crown by direct order of Sigismund II Augustus and the Duchy of Livonia, that was acquired in 1561, became condominium (joint domain) of both Lithuania and Poland. Lithuania had eight voivodeships and one eldership remaining:

After the Livonian War (1558–1582), Lithuania acquired vassal state Duchy of Courland with capital in Jelgava. The administrative division remained without major changes up to the dissolution of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795.

Russian Empire (1795–1914)

Under the Russian Empire, the territory of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania was divided into governorates (Russian: "guberniya", Lithuanian: "gubernija") and districts (Russian: "uyezd", Lithuanian: "apskritis"). Such system was introducing in Russia during the reforms of 1775. The first governorates, Vilna Governorate (consisting of eleven districts) and Slonim Governorate, were established after the third partition of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Just a year later, on December 12 1796, they were merged into one governorate, called Lithuania Governorate, with capital in icon cite book |last=Kulakauskas |first=Antanas |title=Gimtoji istorija. Nuo 7 iki 12 klasės |url= |accessdate=2007-08-04 |edition= |year=2002 |publisher=Elektroninės leidybos namai |location=Vilnius |isbn=9986-9216-9-4 |chapter=Administracinės reformos |chapterurl=] In 1801 Lithuania Governorate was split into Lithuania-Vilna Governorate and Lithuania-Grodno Governorate. Forty years later the word "Lithuania" was dropped from the two names and official maps of Europe. The territory of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania became known as the Northwestern Krai. In 1843 another administrative reform took place, creating Kovno Governorate out of seven western districts of the Vilna Governorate. Vilna Governorate received three additional districts: Vileyka and Dzisna from Minsk Governorate and Lida from Grodno Governorate.

In 1837 Augustów Governorate was established in the territories of the Congress Poland, a state in personal union with Russia. Lithuanian Suvalkija was included into this governorate. After the January Uprising, Augustów Governorate was split into Suwałki Governorate and Łomża Governorate (see Administrative division of Congress Poland). This way most of the present-day territory of Lithuania fell into three governorates (Vilna, Kovno, and Suwałki). Two more governorates included some small Lithuanian territories. In 1819 a narrow coastal strip with Palanga and Šventoji was transferred to the Courland Governorate. This territory was acquired from Latvia after an international arbitration in 1920. Small areas in northernmost Grodno Governorate were given to Lithuania after it "joined" the Soviet Union in 1940. [lt icon cite book | title=Lietuvos istorijos atlasas |publisher=Briedis | isbn=9955-408-67-7 |pages=23]

In 1861, after announcing the abolition of serfdom, peasants acquired civil rights, among them a right to self-governmence. To facilitate such a right townships (Russian: "volost", Lithuanian: "valsčius") and elderates (Russian: "mir", Lithuanian: "seniūnija") were established. By the end of 1861 there were 1,479 elderates in 181 townships of Vilna Governorate and 1,033 elderates in 153 townships of Kovno Governorate. [lt icon cite book |last=Kulakauskas |first=Antanas |title=Gimtoji istorija. Nuo 7 iki 12 klasės |url= |accessdate=2007-08-04 |edition= |year=2002 |publisher=Elektroninės leidybos namai |location=Vilnius |isbn=9986-9216-9-4 |chapter=1861 m. žemės reforma ir baudžiavos panaikinimas |chapterurl=] The elderates would elect an elder (Russian: "starosta", Lithuanian: "seniūnas") and representatives to a township council (Lithuanian: "valsčiaus sueiga"). However, these institutions had very little power and were dependent on the local nobles. The power was concentrated in the hands of governors, all of whom were appointed by the tsar.

Interwar (1918–1940)

During the interwar, Lithuania regained independence. The first law on administrative sub-units was passed on July 1 1919. It declared that Lithuania was divided into twenty counties (Lithuanian: singular – "apskritis", plural – "apskritys"). Several more counties (including Zarasai, Naujieji Švenčionys, Vilnius, Eišiškės, Lida, Ashmyany and Hrodna) were reserved for territories in the Vilnius Region, that Lithuania had claims to, but were under Polish or Russian control. Later on Suwałki county was lost to Poland, but Zarasai (also known as Ežerėnai) county was acquired. Two of the designated counties, Trakai and Sejny, had their proclaimed capitals outside the "de facto" borders of Lithuania and had their temporary capitals established at Kaišiadorys and Lazdijai. After the Klaipėda Region was acquired in 1923, it was divided into three counties (Klaipėda, Šilutė and Pagėgiai). That way the number of counties increased to twenty three and remained stable until 1939. According to a law passed in 1931 eleven first-class cities became independent of county administration and had their own government. [cite encyclopedia | editor=Simas Sužiedėlis | encyclopedia=Encyclopedia Lituanica | title=City or Town | year=1970-1978 | publisher=Juozas Kapočius | volume=I | location=Boston, Massachusetts | id=LCC|74-114275 | pages=536–539] In March 1939, after an ultimatum from Hitler, Lithuania lost the Klaipėda Region with its three counties. In October Soviet Union returned one fifth of the Vilnius Region in exchange for Red Army stations in Lithuania. Acquired Vilnius Region was divided into three counties (Vilnius, Eišiškės, and Naujieji Švenčionys).cite encyclopedia | editor=Simas Sužiedėlis | encyclopedia=Encyclopedia Lituanica | title=Administration | year=1970-1978 | publisher=Juozas Kapočius | volume=I | location=Boston, Massachusetts | id=LCC|74-114275 | pages=17–21] Therefore, at the end of 1939 Lithuania again had twenty three counties. Counties were further subdivided into townships (Lithuanian: singular – "valsčius", plural – "valsčiai"). In 1933 there were 365 icon cite encyclopedia | last=Biržiška | first=Vaclovas | editor=Vaclovas Biržiška | encyclopedia=Lietuviškoji enciklopedija | title=Apskritis | year=1933 | publisher=Spaudos Fondas | volume=I | location=Kaunas | pages=866–867] The townships were further subdivided into elderates (Lithuanian: "seniūnija").

The counties were governed by a county governor (Lithuanian: "apskrities viršininkas"), appointed by the Minister of Interior. Being almost the only link between the central government and the local population, governors were first responsible for a wide range of duties. They were to collect all property left by the retreating German army, organize local government, recruit local army groups, ensure security and stability in the county, icon cite encyclopedia | editor=Vaclovas Biržiška | encyclopedia=Lietuviškoji enciklopedija | title=Apskrities viršininkas | year=1933 | publisher=Spaudos Fondas | volume=I | location=Kaunas | pages=864–865] In 1920 they were also entrusted to preside over county police. In 1931, in an effort to centralize the government, county governors also became the chairmen of a three-member county governing body (Lithuanian: "apskrities valdyba"), an executive institution of a county council. That way power in a county became centralized in the hands of a governor. County councils (Lithuanian: "apskrities taryba") were elected by local population for a three-year term. The number of representatives from a township depended upon the number of residents in that icon cite encyclopedia | editor=Vaclovas Biržiška | encyclopedia=Lietuviškoji enciklopedija | title=Apskrities taryba | year=1933 | publisher=Spaudos Fondas | volume=I | location=Kaunas | pages=863–864]

These were the counties, their territory and residents according to the 1923 census: [lt icon cite book | last=Vaitiekūnas | first=Stasys | title=Lietuvos gyventojai: Per du tūkstantmečius | year=2006 | publisher=Mokslo ir enciklopedijų leidybos institutas | location=Vilnius | isbn=5-420-01585-4 | pages=134 | chapter=Lietuvos gyventojai XX amžiuje]

oviet system (1940–1994)

Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union on June 15 1940. However due to ensuring World War II the authorities did not introduce major changes to the administrative divisions, just elderates were renamed to "apylinkė".lt icon cite encyclopedia | editor=Jonas Zinkus, et. al | encyclopedia=Tarybų Lietuvos enciklopedija | title=Apylinkė | year=1988 | publisher=Vyriausioji enciklopedijų redakcija | volume=1 | location=Vilnius, Lithuania | pages=86] After the second occupation in 1944, the number of counties grew from 26 to 41: eleven counties were added in 1946–47 and four more were introduced in 1949. [lt icon cite encyclopedia | editor=Jonas Zinkus, et. al | encyclopedia=Tarybų Lietuvos enciklopedija | title=Apskritis | year=1985 | publisher=Vyriausioji enciklopedijų redakcija | volume=1 | location=Vilnius, Lithuania | pages=91–92] At the end of 1947 there were 37 counties subdivided into 320 townships that were further subdivided into approximately 2,900 apylinkės. [lt icon cite book |editor=Arvydas Anušauskas, et al. |title=Lietuva, 1940–1990 |year=2005 |publisher=Lietuvos gyventojų genocido ir rezistencijos tyrimo centras |location=Vilnius |isbn=9986-757-65-7 |pages=271]

The entire interwar system was scraped for the 10th anniversary of the first occupation. The new system matched that of other Soviet Republics. On July 20 1950 Lithuanian SSR was divided into four provinces (Russian: "oblast", Lithuanian: "sritis"). The provinces were further subdivided into 87 districts (Russian: "raion", Lithuanian: "rajonas"): Kaunas Province with 23 districts, Klaipėda Province with 16 districts, Šiauliai Province with 24 districts, and Vilnius Province with 24 districts. [lt icon cite encyclopedia | editor=Jonas Zinkus, et. al | encyclopedia=Tarybų Lietuvos enciklopedija | title=Sritis | year=1988 | publisher=Vyriausioji enciklopedijų redakcija | volume=4 | location=Vilnius, Lithuania | pages=84]

The townships were abolished and the districts were further subdivided into apylinkės. As of 1984, there were 527 apylinkės in Lithuania. Both provinces and districts were named after their capitals. Three exceptions were: Smėliai district had its capital in Ukmergė (also capital of Ukmergė district), Panemunė district – capital Garliava, and Klaipėda district – capital Gargždai. In addition to districts, there were five (Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda, Šiauliai, and Panevėžys) province-administered cities (Lithuanian: "srities pavaldumo miestas").lt icon cite encyclopedia | editor=Jonas Zinkus, et. al | encyclopedia=Tarybų Lietuvos enciklopedija | title=Miestai | year=1987 | publisher=Vyriausioji enciklopedijų redakcija | volume=3 | location=Vilnius, Lithuania | pages=71–72] They had similar rights as a district.

The provinces were short-lived and on May 28 1953 they were abolished, leaving the districts as the first-level administrative division. The number of districts was reduced several times, and in 1962 it settled at 44. The province-administered cities were renamed to "republic-administered cities" (Lithuanian: "respublikinio pavaldumo miestas"). The number of such cities grew to eleven in 1979. These cities became the city municipalities after the reform in 1994.

Current division (1994– )

:"See: Counties of Lithuania, List of municipalities of Lithuania, Elderships".The current administrative division was created in 1994 and modified in 2000. Lithuania is divided into:
*10 counties (Lithuanian: plural – "apskritys", singular – "apskritis"), each named after their principal city (see: Counties of Lithuania). These "apskritys" should not be confused with "apskritys" that existed in the interwar period.
*the counties are subdivided into 60 municipalities (Lithuanian: plural – "savivaldybės", singular – "savivaldybė"). There are three types of municipalities:
**43 district municipalities (Lithuanian: "rajono savivaldybė"). They roughly correspond to districts that existed under the Soviet rule. Before 1994 they were known just as districts and still are commonly referred to as districts. The word "municipality" was added in effort to diminish the Soviet heritage (districts were created as raions throughout the Soviet Union);
**8 city municipalities (Lithuanian: "miesto savivaldybė"). They are situated around major or important cities. In common language they are referred to as just cities or as just municipalities (because word "municipality" in Lithuanian language is associated more with cities and city rights than with districts);
**9 municipalities. They were all established after 1994 and they do not have the word "district" associated with them.
*municipalities consist of over 500 elderships (Lithuanian: plural – "seniūnijos", singular – "seniūnija"). Each municipality's government is elected in democratic elections of municipality councils. The elections used to take place every three years, but now they are held every four years. The municipality mayors are elected by municipality councils. Also, municipality councils appoint elders to be in charge of an eldership. Currently it is proposed that both mayors and elders should be elected in direct elections.

Counties are ruled by "apskrities viršininkas" (officially translated as "governor") who is appointed by the central government in Vilnius. Their primary duty is to ensure that the municipalities obey the laws of Lithuania and the constitution. They do not have great powers vested in them, and so it is suggested that 10 counties are too much for Lithuania (the smallest county has only four municipalities). It is proposed to replace the counties with four or five "lands", a new administrative unit, that would be decided according to the ethnographic regions of Lithuania and based on the five major cities.


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