Update 15 to the GEC, the successor to the FIPS standard, is dated 2014-03-31. It changes the spelling of one province from
Tamanghasset to Tamanrasset. On 2014-10-29, ISO 3166-2 made the same spelling change. It appears that the -r- spelling is
now more prevalent in English (and French).
At the beginning of the 20th century, Algeria was a French colony. The borders, except near the Mediterranean coast,
were ill-defined. The administrative division into departments and territories was based on French practice. During much
of the colonial period, Algerian departments had a legal status which was supposedly equal to that of the European
departments of France. Algeria became independent in 1962. Since then, it has re-organized twice. After the most recent
change, in 1984, the new subdivisions were called wilayas. The southern border has been clearly defined, but the southern
parts of the Tunisian and Moroccan borders are still in dispute.
When Algeria was under French administration, the official division names were in French. With independence, Arabic was
made the national language. Many place names were changed. However, the French language has continued to occupy an
important position as a lingua franca, and place names have continued to be written in the Roman alphabet using French
phonetics. In 2002-02, a constitutional amendment recognized Tamazigh (the written language of the largest Berber group)
as a national language.
Other names of country:
- Arabic: al-Jumhuriya al-Jazairiya ad-Dimuqratiya ash-Shabiya (formal)
- Danish: Algeriet
- Dutch: Algerije, Democratische Volksrepubliek Algerije (formal)
- English: Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria (formal)
- Finnish: Algeria
- French: Algérie f, République f algérienne démocratique et populaire (formal)
- German: Algerien n, Algier n (obsolete)
- Icelandic: Alsír
- Italian: Algeria f
- Norwegian: Den demokratiske folkerepublikk Algerie (formal) (Bokmål), Den demokratiske folkerepublikken Algerie (formal) (Nynorsk), Algerie
- Portuguese: Argélia, República f Popular Democrática da Argélia f (formal)
- Russian: Алжирия, Алжирская Народная Демократическая Республика (formal)
- Spanish: Argelia f, República f Argelina Democrática y Popular (formal)
- Swedish: Algeriet
- Turkish: Cezayir Demokratik Halk Cumhuriyeti (formal)
Origin of name:
Arabic al-Jazairiya from capital city Algiers, which comes from Arabic al-jaza`ir: the islands, for four
islands in the harbor (now connected to the mainland by jetties)
Algeria is divided into 48 wilayat (provinces; sing. wilaya).
|Bordj Bou Arréridj|
|Oum el Bouaghi|
|Sidi Bel Abbès|
- Status: These divisions are wilayat (provinces).
- HASC: Hierarchical administrative subdivision codes.
- ISO: Province codes from ISO 3166-2. For full identification in a
global context, prefix
DZ-" to the code (ex:
Oran). Codes also appear at the right side of
- FIPS: Codes from FIPS PUB 10-4.
- Population: 2008-04-16 census (source ).
- Area (km.²): Sources , 
- Capitals: all have the same name as their province.
Algeria uses five-digit postal codes. The first two digits are the same as the two-digit ISO province code.
See the Municipalities of Algeria page.
The provinces are subdivided into 160 dayrat (sub-prefectures), and further into 1,541 municipalities. Under French
administration, the country was divided into départements (departments), which were subdivided into arrondissements,
which in turn were subdivided into communes. (I use "commune" to translate the French "commune," and "municipality" to
translate the Arabic "baladiyah," but they're essentially the same thing.)
Origins of names:
- Adrar: Tamashek adrar: mountain
- Alger: Arabic al-jaza`ir: the islands, for four islands in the harbor
- Annaba: corruption of Arabic madinat al-`unnab: city of the jujube tree
- Béchar: after Wadi Bashshar, possibly from Arabic bashar: to bring good news (i.e., finding water)
- Béjaïa: ethnic name, possibly from Arabic baqaya: survivors
- Constantine: rebuilt in 311 by Roman emperor Constantine the Great
- El Oued: = the Wadi (intermittent stream)
- Oran: Arabic Wahran (name of a Berber chief)
- Sétif: ancient Sitifi, possibly from Berber sedif: black
- Sidi Bel Abbès: Arabic Saydi Bal-`Abbas (a person's honorific and name)
- Skikda: Arabic corruption of Latin Rusicade, from Punic ruš: cape
- Tizi-Ouzou: Berber tizi: mountain pass, uzzu: prickly furze
- Tlemcen: Arabic tilimsan: place of the rushes
- 1831-12-01: By ordinance, Algeria was divided into civil and military territory. Generally speaking, the civil
territories were in the north along the coast, while the military territories were in the Sahara region.
- 1845-04-24: By ordinance, Algeria was divided into three provinces. Their names were Alger (English: Algiers),
Constantine, and Oran, after their capitals. Each province was further subdivided into three territories.
- 1848-12-09: By French presidential decree, the civil territory in each province was elevated to a department of
the same name, with a status nominally equal to the departments of European France. The departments were subdivided
into arrondissements, communes, and districts (civilian commisariats). The military territory was divided into three
provinces, with external capitals Alger, Constantine, and Oran. The provinces later became divisions. They were
further divided into subdivisions, which in turn were divided into cercles (circles). The subdivisions were to the
military territories as the arrondissements were to the civil territories, and the cercles were on a par with
- 1870-10-24: By decree No. 134, the departments united the civil and military territories, strengthening the
equivalence between arrondissements and subdivisions. There were five or six subdivisions. As time went by, the
civil territories grew at the expense of the military territories. Certain parts of the military territory were
organized as annexes. An annex was the area dominated by a fort, and was part of a cercle.
- 1900: According to Jean-Jacques Sudre, in 1900, mentioning only "clearly definable entities", Algeria was divided
into the entities shown in this table (dep = department, div = division, arr = arrondissement, sub = subdivision).
|Alger dep||Alger arr|
|Alger div||Laghouat sub||El Goléah *, Laghouat *|
|Médéa sub||Boghar, Bou Saada, Djelfa *|
|Constantine dep||Batna arr|
|Constantine div||Batna sub||Biskra *, Khenchela, Tebessa, Touggourt *|
|Oran dep||Mascara arr|
|Sidi Bel Abbès arr|
|Oran div||Aïn Sefra sub||Aïn Sefra *, Geryville *, Mecheria *, Saïda|
- 1902-12-24: Parts of the military territories - the cercles marked with an asterisk (*) above, with minor
alterations - were consolidated into a unit called Territoires du Sud. As a result, Algeria was divided into three
departments and one territory. The departments were divided into arrondissements, as shown below.
|2,240,911||2,765,898||3,103,205||54,861||Alger, Aumale, Blida, Médéa, Miliana, Orléansville, Tizi-Ouzou|
|2,727,766||3,108,165||3,424,217||87,578||Batna, Bône, Bougie, Constantine, Guelma, Philippeville, Sétif|
|1,623,356||1,990,729||2,178,835||67,262||Mascara, Mostaganem, Oran, Sidi Bel Abbès, Tiaret, Tlemcen|
|Territoires du Sud|
- No.: Department code, assigned in 1951.
- Pop-1936: Source .
- Pop-1948: 1948-10-31 census (source ).
- Pop-1954: 1954-10-31 census (source ).
- 1905-08-14: Territoires du Sud organized into four territories: Aïn Sefra, Ghardaia, Oasis (no capital), and
- 1955-08-07: Bône department formed by taking the eastern arrondissements of Constantine department: Bône
and Guelma. Twelve new arrondissements created, making a total of 32.
- 1956-06-28: The three northern departments of 1955 were restored and given the status of igamies. (An igamie is the
jurisdiction of an igame, which is an acronym for inspecteur général de
l'administration en mission extraordinaire = administrative
inspector general on special mission.) Each igamie was subdivided into four new departments. For details, see the table
below. The departments were further subdivided into arrondissements.
- 1957-01-10: The four territories joined a union called Organisation commune des régions sahariennes =
Common Organization of Saharan Regions.
- 1957-05-20: Thirty-four new arrondissements were created.
- 1957-07-01: New department codes assigned to the thirteen departments.
- 1957-08-07: Territoires du Sud (formerly department no.
9T) split into two departments. The western part,
Aïn Sefra territory, became Saoura department; the eastern part, Ghardaïa, Oasis, and Touggourt territories, became Oasis
department. (Details provided by Huang Qingqi.)
- 1958-03-17: Saïda department created by taking parts of Oran, Saoura, and Tiaret departments. Aumale (department no.
9N) department created by taking Aumale, Bou-Saâdaa, Ouled-Djellal, and Tablata arrondissements from Médéa
department. Bougie (
9P) department created by taking Djidjelli arrondissement from Constantine department and
Akbou, Bougie, Kerrata, Lafayette, and Sidi-Aïch arrondissements from Sétif department. Barika arrondissement transferred
from Batna department to Sétif. Tébessa arrondissement transferred from Bône to Batna.
- 1959-11-07: Aumale and Bougie departments abolished and restored to their original departments, except that
Ouled-Djellal arrondissement from Aumale department merged with Barika arrondissement of Sétif department to become Barika
arrondissement of Batna department. Tébessa arrondissement restored from Batna to Bône. Le Telagh arrondissement
transferred from Saïda to Oran. This table shows the resulting subdivision of Algeria. Note: total area has changed since
1902, because of border adjustments in desert areas.
|Department||No.||FIPS||Igamie||Population||Area 1||Area 2||Capital|
- No.: Department code, assigned in 1957-1958.
- FIPS: Codes from FIPS PUB 10-3, a U.S. government standard.
- Igamie: Igamie to which the department belonged.
- Population: 1960 census.
- Area 1: Area (km.²) as shown in the 1977-78 edition of the Statesman's Year-Book.
- Area 2: Area (km.²) as shown in the Encyclopædia Britannica World Atlas, 1964 edition.
- Capital: Department capital. Names of capitals are the same as their departments,
except for the southern territories of Oasis
and Saoura. Where differences between
the department name and the capital name appear in the table, one of the names is
older, newer, or
in a different language.
- 1960-12-03: Six new arrondissements created in Oasis department; two new arrondissements created in Saoura department.
- 1962-07-01: Algeria became independent from France.
- ~1962: Name of Bône department changed to Annaba.
- 1964: Name of Orléansville department changed to El Asnam.
- 1974-06: Fifteen departments reorganized to form thirty-one. The resulting division was as shown below. New FIPS
codes were assigned to those departments whose names had changed.
|Alger, El Asnam|
|Batna, Médéa, Oasis, Tiaret|
|Batna, Médéa, Sétif|
|Oum el Bouaghi||400,182||8,123|
|Oran, Saïda, Saoura|
|Sidi Bel Abbès||531,684||11,648|
|El Asnam, Tiaret|
- Population: 1978 estimates (source ).
- FIPS: Codes from FIPS PUB 10-4, a U.S. government standard.
- Formerly: Former departments which contributed territory to the
- Capitals: have the same name as their department.
- 1980: Name of El Asnam department and its capital changed to Ech Chéliff, later spelled Chlef.
- 1983-12-15: Thirty-one departments re-organized to form 48 provinces (as shown in the first table). The new
provinces were predominantly formed by taking the old departments as they were, or by splitting them into two
provinces. Aïn Defla split from Chlef; Aïn Témouchent split from Sidi Bel Abbès; Bordj Bou Arréridj split from Sétif;
Boumerdès formed from parts of Alger and Tizi Ouzou; El Bayadh split from Saïda; El Oued split from Biskra; El Tarf
formed from parts of Annaba and Guelma; Ghardaïa split from Laghouat; Illizi split from Ouargla; Khenchela formed from
parts of Oum el Bouaghi and Tébessa; Mila formed from parts of Constantine, Jijel, Oum el Bouaghi, and Sétif; Naama
split from Saïda; Relizane split from Mostaganem; Souk Ahras split from Guelma; Tindouf split from Béchar; Tipaza
split from Blida; Tissemsilt formed from parts of Alger and Tiaret.
Other names of subdivisions:
The boundaries of subdivisions have changed, although the names may have stayed the same. Since the subdivision
name is usually the same as the name of its capital, the easiest way to track the changes is to consider them as city
names. Also note that diacritical marks may be different, depending on the method of transliteration used.
- Adrar: Duperré (obsolete)
- Alger: Algeri (Italian); Algiers (English); Algier (Danish, German); al-Jazair, al-Djazair, El Djazaïr (Arabic);
Argel (Portuguese, Spanish); Dzayer, Djezaïr (variant); Алжир (Russian)
- Annaba: Anaba (Portuguese, Spanish); Bona (Portuguese-obsolete, Spanish-obsolete); Bône (obsolete)
- Béchar: Colomb-Béchar (obsolete)
- Béjaïa: Bougie, Bedjaya (French); Bidjaia (variant); Bugia (Italian); Bujia (Portuguese-obsolete)
- Biskra: Beskra (variant)
- Blida: El Boulaïda, al-Boulaida (variant)
- Bordj Bou Arréridj: Bordj Bou Ariridj, Borj Bou Arreridj (variant)
- Boumerdès: Boumerdas (variant)
- Chlef: El Asnam, Orléansville (obsolete); Chelif, Ech Cheliff (variant)
- Constantine: Constantina (Portuguese, Spanish); Costatina (Italian); Qoussantina, Qacentina (Arabic)
- Djelfa: El Djelfa (variant)
- El Bayadh: El Bayad, El Beyyadh (variant); Géryville (obsolete)
- El Oued: El Ouadi, El Wad (variant)
- El Tarf: Et Tarf (variant)
- Ghardaïa: Ghardaya (variant)
- Illizi: Polignac, Fort Polignac (obsolete); Ilizi (variant)
- Jijel: Djidjel (variant); Djidjelli (obsolete)
- Khenchela: Khenchla (variant)
- Mascara: Mouaskar (variant)
- Médéa: El Mediyya, Lemdiyya (variant)
- Mostaganem: Mestghanem (variant)
- Msila: M'Sila (variant)
- Oasis: Oásis Saharianos (Portuguese); Oasis Sahariennes (variant); Saharan Oases (English)
- Oran: Orán (Spanish); Orano (Italian); Orão (Portuguese); Ouahran, Ouahrane, Wahran (variant)
- Ouargla: Wargla (variant)
- Oum el Bouaghi: Oum el Bouagui (variant); Canrobert (obsolete)
- Relizane: Ghelizane, Ghilizane (variant)
- Saoura: La Saoura (variant)
- Sétif: Stif (variant)
- Skikda: Philippeville (obsolete); Skidda (variant)
- Souk Ahras: Souq Ahras (variant)
- Tamanrasset: Tamanghasset, Tamenghasset, Tamenghest (variant); Fort Laperrine (obsolete)
- Tébessa: Tbessa (variant)
- Tiaret: Tihert (variant)
- Tissemsilt: Vialar (obsolete)
- Tlemcen: Tilimsene, Tlemsane, Tilimsen (variant); Tremecém (Portuguese-obsolete)
|Bordj Bou Arréridj||429,009||555,402||628,475|
|Oum el Bouaghi||402,683||519,170||621,612|
|Sidi Bel Abbès||444,047||525,632||604,744|
Note: in the 1998 census data, the sum of the province populations is 2 less than the reported total for Algeria.
-  Quid 1993, Éditions Robert Laffont, Paris, 1992.
-  Masson, Jean-Louis. Provinces, Départements, Régions. Paris: Éditions Fernand Lanore, 1984.
-  Fifth United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names, Vol. II, United Nations, New
-  The American Oxford Atlas. Oxford University Press, New York, 1951.
-  Journal Officiel de la République
Algérienne , dated 2002-07-10 (retrieved 2004-11-20). In most cases, the areas given
in Quid (source ) seemed more plausible than the ones given here, but I already knew that the area of Tindouf
province according to Quid was much too small, so I used the figure from here. Curiously, this source seems to have a
compensating error in the area of neighboring Béchar province.
-  The Statesman's Year-Book 1981-82. John Paxton, ed. St. Martin's Press, New York, 1981. There was a census on
1977-01-12, returning a population of 17,273,000, according to this source.
-  "Population résidente par age, par sexe et par wilaya", pdf file downloaded from
Office National des Statistiques by
clicking on "Population" and then under "Population résidente par sexe et par commune" (retrieved 2013-04-16).
-  Webster's Geographical Dictionary. G. & C. Merriam Co., Springfield, MA, 1957.
-  Encyclopædia Britannica World Atlas, 1957 edition.