Voivodeships, Gubernias, and Departments in Russian Poland

After the formation of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569, the chief administrative division in Poland was the Wojwództwo, translated into English as Voivodeship, Administrative District, or Province.

After the third partition of Poland on 24 Oct 1795, Poland ceased to exist as a nation. The territory had been divided among Russia, Prussia, and Austria. Polish territory in the Russian Partition was divided into sixteen Gubernias. These divisions were changed repeatedly after the partitions.

The Napoleonic Wars led to the formation of the Duchy of Warsaw on 09 Jun 1807 from some of the territory formerly partitioned by Prussia and Russia. On 14 Oct 1809, part of the Austrian partition was also included in the Duchy. The Duchy was divided into Departments, rather than Gubernias.

In 1815, the Congress of Vienna redistributed the Polish lands and created the Congress Kingdom of Poland and, in 1816, the Congress Kingdom of Poland was divided into eight Voivodeships.

This terminology was short-lived, however. After the November Uprising, Russia tightened its grip on the Congress Kingdom of Poland and, on 07 Mar 1837, the administrative divisions were once again called Gubernias. In 1844, the number of Gubernias was reduced from eight to five.

In 1867, after the failed January Uprising, the structure of the Gubernias changed once again. Moreover, the Russian government no longer referred to the territory as the Congress Kingdom of Poland, but as the Vistulan Country or Vistulaland. The names of the Gubernias after 1867 were:

  • Kalisz Gubernia
  • Kielce Gubernia
  • Lublin Gubernia
  • Łomża Gubernia
  • Piotrków Gubernia
  • Płock Gubernia
  • Radom Gubernia
  • Siedlce Gubernia
  • Suwałki Gubernia
  • Warsaw Gubernia

These are the Gubernias seen on maps of the Congress Kingdom of Poland from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

Finally, in 1912, Chełm Gubernia was formed from parts of the Siedlce and Lublin Gubernias. Chełm Gubernia was administered directly by the Russia Empire, while the other Gubernias were administered through the Vistulan Country.

And so, with all the changes that happened within the territory in this time period, it’s no wonder that anyone has questions about how to describe the location of a Polish village at any given point in history.

Copyright © 2007 by Stephen J. Danko

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2 Responses to Voivodeships, Gubernias, and Departments in Russian Poland

  1. Marlene says:

    The reader should not be mislead to think that the gubernia mentioned here were the only ones. In 1708, Peter the Great partitioned his western frontier into 8 gubernia and they had not yet annexed Poland. Later, after the annexation and further on, there were actually 23 gubernia; the area of some of these is now in modern day Belarus and Lithuania.

    Among the gubernia, not mentioned in your article, but which had portions in Poland, was Grodno gubernia. In the Riga Peace Treaty of 1921, the Grodno gubernia went into Poland.

    I am not an expert on Polish history, but my family was from this region and I am particularly conscious of histories that make mention of it.

  2. You’re absolutely right, Marlene. When writing this article, I neglected to mention any gubernias that were not within the borders of Poland during the time Poland was under Russian control.

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