As I was researching Poland about a month ago, after completing my first travel there, to Warsaw, I came across the word voivodeship. At first, I thought this was a Polish term for something, so I did the Google Translate from Polish to English on it, to no avail. I was surprised to find out that this is really an English term, even though its use is to describe a primarily Polish subject.

A voivodeship is essentially a province of some Slavic countries, namely Poland, similar to arrondissements (France), palatinates, states, duchies, administrative districts, and departments in other countries. Voivodeships have existed in many eastern European countries for hundreds or thousands of years (especially the Slavic countries), such as Romania, Hungary,Lithuania, Latvia, Russia and Serbia, in addition to Poland.

The term voivode (which can also be spelled voivod, voievod, or voievode) was originated from the Old Slavic language to mean something along the lines of “warrior leader.” This leader would be the foremost individual of his region, and soon this word came to mean the governor of the territory. Thus, the voivodeship became the district which he governed.

Today, Poland is really the only country to use the voivodeship term to refer to administrative districts. Instead of the people democratically electing their voivode, the central government in Warsaw one to each of the 16 voivodeships in Poland. These Polish voivodeships are divided into powiats, like counties in a state, and then further into gminas, which are equivalent to towns, cities, communes, or municipalities. Like many cities around the world, several of the larger Polish cities (gminas) are coextensive with their “states” (powiats); this is similar to Brooklyn of New York City being coextensive (having the same borders) with King’s County, NY. In smaller and less influential areas, gminas are sometimes divided even further into osiedle or dzielnica in towns, or sołectwo in rural areas.

A voivodeship can also be spelled or called: voivodship, voievodship, voivodina or vojvodina (województwo, voievodat, vojvodina (војводина), vojvodstvo (војводство) or vojvodovina (војводовина), vajdaság, vajvodstva (вайводства), vaivadija.


  1. Just one note: Latvia, Lithuania and Romania are not Slavic Countries. In future, do some background check before you post.

    • Matt, you’re absolutely right. I know that these countries are not Slavic, but I phrased that sentence wrong. I basically meant to say that it is a common concept in many E. Euro countries, including all the ones I mentioned, but especially for the Slavic ones. I’ve added two parentheses above, which makes a world of difference, I guess. Thanks for pointing that out!

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