Regions of Belarus

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Update 13 to Geopolitical Entities and Codes (formerly FIPS 10-4) is dated 2013-09-30. The only change for Belarus is to add Russian names to the Belarusian ones.

Source [7] has the results of the 2009 census, which I have reported here. I've also changed the region names to a more English-sounding set, as they are given in source [7].

Newsletter II-2, an update to the ISO 3166-2 standard, is dated 2010-06-30. It assigns an ISO code to Horad Minsk, as shown in the main table below. In the original draft, ISO DIS 3166-2 (1996), Horad Minsk appeared with the code (code MSQ). In the first public version (1998-12-15), the independent municipality was omitted. Presumably, that meant that Horad Minsk was considered part of the surrounding voblasts', Minsk.

The initial release of FIPS 10-4, dated 1995-01-04, didn't list any subdivisions of Belarus. Change Notice 1, dated 1998-12-01, gave the seven codes shown in the table below.

International standard ISO 3166-2 was published on 1998-12-15. It superseded ISO/DIS 3166-2 (draft international standard). For Belarus, the draft standard showed six regions and one independent municipality: Horad Minsk. The final standard omitted Horad Minsk. Presumably, it is now considered part of the surrounding voblasts', Minsk.

Country overview: 

Short nameBELARUS
ISO codeBY
LanguageBelarusian (be)
Time zone+3


At the beginning of the 20th century, Belarus was part of the Russian Empire, in the area named West Russia. In the course of two World Wars and the Russian Revolution, its map was repeatedly redrawn. When the Soviet Union disintegrated, Belarus declared independence on 1991-08-25. Soon afterward, it adopted a new system of Romanization, changing the preferred transliteration of many place names.

Other names of country: 

  1. Belarusian: Respublika Belarus (formal)
  2. Danish: Belarus, Hviderusland
  3. Dutch: Wit-Rusland, Republiek Wit-Rusland (formal)
  4. English: Republic of Belarus (formal), Byelarus (obsolete), White Russia (obsolete)
  5. Finnish: Valko-Venäjä
  6. French: Bélarus, Biélorussie f
  7. German: Belarus, Weißrußland n
  8. Icelandic: Hvíta-Rússland
  9. Italian: Bielorussia f, Russia f Bianca
  10. Norwegian: Hviterussland (Bokmål), Kviterussland (Nynorsk), Republikken Belarus (formal)
  11. Portuguese: Belarus, Bielorrússia, Bielo-Rússia, República f de Belarus, República da Bielorrússia f (formal), Rússia Branca (obsolete)
  12. Russian: Белоруссия (obsolete), Республика Беларусь (formal)
  13. Spanish: Belarús, Bielorrusia, Rusia Blanca
  14. Swedish: Vitryssland
  15. Turkish: Beyaz Rusya (obsolete), Belarus Cumhuriyeti (formal)

Note: Some Belarusians are offended by the use of names that imply a link between Belarus and Russia.

Origin of name: 

Belarusian for White Rus, a division of the Rus tribe

Primary subdivisions: 

Belarus is divided into six voblastsi (sing. voblasts': regions) and one horad (municipality). In the Soviet era, the divisions were called oblasts.

Brest BY.BRBRBO0111,401,20032,300 12,500
Gomel BY.HOHOBO0231,440,70040,400 15,600
Minsk CityBY.HMHMBO0451,836,800
Grodno BY.HRHRBO0341,072,40025,000 9,700
Mogilev BY.MAMABO0671,099,40029,000 11,200
Minsk BY.MIMIBO0561,422,50040,800 15,800
Vitebsk BY.VIVIBO0721,230,80040,100 15,500
7 divisions 9,503,800207,60080,200
  • HASC: Hierarchical administrative subdivision codes.
  • ISO: Codes from ISO 3166-2.
  • FIPS: Codes from FIPS PUB 10-4.
  • Cod: Source [2].
  • Population: 2009-10-14 census.
  • Capitals: Capitals have the same name as their regions.
    (Minsk is the capital of Horad Minsk.)

Postal codes: 

Belarus appears still to be using Soviet-era postal codes, six-digit numbers always beginning with '2'.

Further subdivisions:

See the Districts of Belarus page.

The regions are subdivided into rayoni (districts). There are 118 districts now, down from 172 in 1958.

Territorial extent: 

The UN LOCODE page  for Belarus lists locations in the country, some of them with their latitudes and longitudes, some with their ISO 3166-2 codes for their subdivisions. This information can be put together to approximate the territorial extent of subdivisions.

Origins of names: 

  1. Brest (also Brest-Litovsk, i.e., Lithuanian Brest): from Old Russian bieriest: elm
  2. Hrodno: from Slavonic grad: city
  3. Mahilyow: from Russian mogila: tomb
  4. Minsk: Men for Menka River + -sk: city suffix

Change history: 

Sources [3] and [4] have much additional information about subdivision changes in Belarus.

At the beginning of the century, the present-day area of Belarus corresponded roughly to the guberniy (governments) of Minsk, Mogilev, most of Grodno, part of Vitebsk, and part of Vilna.

  1. 1918-03-03: Russia and Germany signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, allowing Germany to occupy Byelorussia. Both Germany and Russia later renounced this treaty. Since the Allies were slow to recognize the Soviet regime in Russia, they neglected to set the border between Poland and Russia in their division of European territory after World War I. Lord Curzon proposed a boundary, the Curzon Line, which nearly matched the pre-war border, but the Russo-Polish War (1919-20) left it a dead letter.
  2. 1919-01-01: The Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (Byelorusskaya Sovyetskaya Sotsialisticheskaya Respublika) was declared. Its territory remained in dispute for two years.
  3. 1921-03-18: Peace treaty between Poland and Russia divided Byelorussia into a western section, annexed to Poland, and an eastern section, the Byelorussian S.S.R. The latter contained what is now all of Minsk except a western fringe, plus the western part of Homyel', a western slice of Mahilyow, and a small part of Vitsyebsk. Brest-Litovsk was renamed to Brzešč nad Bugiem.
  4. 1924-03-03: By decree of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, the Byelorussian S.S.R. was augmented by the rest of Mogilev and Vitebsk, and a central strip of Gomel'.
  5. 1924-07-17: Byelorussian S.S.R. reorganized into 10 okrugs: Bobruysk, Borisov, Kalinin, Minsk, Mogilev, Mozyr, Orsha, Polotsk, Slutsk, and Vitebsk. They were subdivided into 100 rayons (districts), which were in turn subdivided into 1,202 selsovets.
  6. 1926-12-06: Another decree annexed the rest of Gomel' to Byelorussia. On 1926-12-08 the annexed land was formed into Gomel' and Rechitsa okrugs.
  7. 1927-06-09: Borisov, Kalinin, Rechitsa, and Slutsk okrugs abolished, absorbed by other okrugs.
  8. 1930-07-26: Okrugs abolished. The districts became primary subdivisions.
  9. 1938-02-20: Belarus reorganized into five oblasts (regions): Gomel', Minsk, Mogilev, Polesye, and Vitebsk.
  10. 1939: Brzešč nad Bugiem renamed to Brest.
  11. 1939-09-17: The Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east.
  12. 1939-11: With Poland divided between Germany and the Soviet Union, West Byelorussia, formerly part of Poland, was merged with the Byelorussian S.S.R. (East Byelorussia), forming five more regions: Baranovichi, Bialystok, Brest, Pinsk, and Vileika. The territory changed hands back and forth during the war.
  13. 1944-09-20: Bialystok region abolished. Three new regions formed: Bobruysk, Grodno, and Polotsk. Vileika region renamed Molodechno. By 1946, Byelorussia had essentially the same territory that it does now. Its oblasts were:
OblastCapitalLater became part of
BaranovichiBaranovichiBrest, Grodno, Minsk
BobruyskBobruyskMinsk, Mogilev
PolotskPolotskMolodechno, Vitebsk
  1. 1954-01-08: Baranovichi, Bobruysk, Pinsk, Polesye, and Polotsk regions abolished and merged with other regions (as shown in third column of preceding table).
  2. 1960-01-20: Byelorussia reorganized. Molodechno region split up among Grodno, Minsk, and Vitebsk. Begoml' rayon transferred from Minsk to Vitebsk. Glusk rayon transferred from Minsk to Mogilev. At that time, the divisions of Byelorussia were as listed here (source [5]):
6 divisions8,055,000207,600
  • Population: 1959 estimate.
  • Russian: Russian name of oblast (adjectival
    form), transliterated.
  • Capitals: Capitals have same names as oblasts.
  1. ~1993: Horad Minsk split from Minsk. Names changed to modern transliteration.

Other names of subdivisions: 

  1. Brest: Brestskaya Voblasts' (formal)
  2. Gomel: Gomel', Homyel'; Homyel'skaya Voblasts' (formal)
  3. Grodno: Hrodna; Hrodzenskaya Voblasts' (formal)
  4. Mogilev: Mahilyow; Mahilyowskaya Voblasts' (formal)
  5. Minsk: Minskaya Voblasts' (formal)
  6. Minsk City: Horad Minsk (formal)
  7. Vitebsk: Vitsyebsk; Vitsyebskaya Voblasts' (formal); Witebsk (German)

Population history:

Minsk City1,385,0001,677,1001,836,800


  1. [1] Ministry of Statistics and Analysis  of the Republic of Belarus (retrieved 2005-08-16) included 2004 population estimates.
  2. [2] "Symbol System for Objects of Administrative-Territorial Division and Population Points", personal communication, 2005-08-10.
  3. [3] Belarus Archives  (retrieved 2005-04-02).
  4. [4] JewishGen  genealogy site (retrieved 2005-11-30).
  5. [5] Kratkaya Geograficheskaya Entsiklopediaya, Moscow, 1960.
  6. [6] БССР Атлас 1958
  7. [7] Population Census 2009 , National Statistical Committee of the Republic of Belarus (retrieved 2011-03-15).
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