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Autonomous entity

For other uses, see Autonomous.

An autonomous administrative division is an administrative division of a country that has a degree of autonomy, or freedom from an external authority. Typically it is either geographically distinct from the rest of the country or populated by a national minority. Decentralization of self-governing powers and functions to such divisions is a way for a national government to try to increase democratic participation, administrative efficiency and/or to defuse internal conflicts. Countries that include autonomous areas may be federacies, federations or confederations. Autonomous areas can be divided into territorial autonomies, subregional territorial autonomies and local autonomies.

By country

By designation

The other types of autonomous areas to be found in the world are:

Autonomous banner

Found only as divisions of Inner Mongolia. In effect, these are autonomous counties (see below).

Autonomous city

Main article: Autonomous city

Five cities are formally designated by their countries as autonomous: the capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent; the Korean administrative city, Sejong, the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla; and the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires.

Autonomous commune

Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, is described as an autonomous commune (commune autonome).

Autonomous community

The territories into which Spain's provinces are grouped are known as autonomous communities (comunidades autónomas). The Spanish model of state established by the 1978 Constitution is a quasi-federation, consisting of 17 autononomous communities having the constitutional right to self-rule. Spain is not a federation in name and is not yet a fully formed federation, but it does exhibit some of the institutional characteristics of contemporary federal political systems.[1]

Autonomous county

Main article: Autonomous counties of China

The most numerous type of autonomous area in China, found both within and outside the larger autonomous prefectures and regions.

Autonomous district council

See Category:Autonomous district councils of India

Autonomous okrug

Okrug is a transliterated Slavic loanword usually translated as "district". Okrugs, however, vary more widely in size than other areas commonly identified as "districts", from large first-level divisions to third-level divisions within cities. As of 2008, Russia has four autonomous okrugs.

Autonomous oblast

Oblast is a transliterated Slavic loanword usually understood to mean "province". As of 2011, one autonomous oblast exists: the Jewish Autonomous Oblast.

Autonomous prefecture

Main article: Autonomous prefectures of China

China has 30 prefectures that are autonomous, mostly in the periphery of the country.

Autonomous province

Main article: Autonomous province

Four countries formally designate areas of their territory as autonomous provinces:

Autonomous region

Main article: Autonomous region

Autonomous republic

In addition to the Russian republics mentioned above, areas known as "autonomous republics" exist within some of the countries established following the end of the Soviet Union:

Autonomous sector

The Bissau Region, in which Guinea-Bissau's capital Bissau is found, is described as an "autonomous sector" (sector autónomo).

Autonomous territorial unit

Moldova has two autonomous territorial units:

Other entities with devolution (autonomy)

British constituent countries and Crown Dependencies

In the United Kingdom, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each have separate elected devolved legislatures which have the ability to legislate in devolved matters. The Parliament of the United Kingdom retains all legislative power of the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom is a unitary state, however the devolved legislatures have legislative powers devolved by the relevant Act of Parliament.

New Zealand dependent territories

New Zealand has several autonomous islands and atolls in the Pacific Ocean, like the Cook Islands and Niue (two states in free association with New Zealand), the Chatham Islands (a special territory within New Zealand) and Tokelau (a non-self-governing territory of New Zealand).

Ethiopian special woredas

In Ethiopia, "special woredas" are a subgroup of woredas (districts) that are organized around the traditional homelands of an ethnic minority, and are outside the usual hierarchy of a kilil, or region. These woredas have many similarities to autonomous areas in other countries.

Danish constituent countries



Other areas that are autonomous in nature but not in name are areas designated for indigenous peoples, such as those of the Americas:


See also


  • M. Weller and S. Wolff (eds), Autonomy, Self-governance and Conflict Resolution: Innovative Approaches to Institutional Design in Divided Societies. Abingdon, Routledge, 2005
  • From Conflict to Autonomy in Nicaragua: Lessons Learnt, report by Minority Rights Group International
  • P.M. Olausson, Autonomy and Islands, A Global Study of the Factors that determine Island Autonomy. Åbo: Åbo Akademi University Press, 2007.
  • Thomas Benedikter (ed.), Solving Ethnic Conflict through Self-Government - A Short Guide to Autonomy in Europe and South Asia, EURAC Bozen 2009,
  • Thomas Benedikter, The World's Modern Autonomy Systems, EURAC Bozen 2010;

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