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An autonomous area or autonomous entity is an area 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. Countries that include autonomous areas are often federacies. Autonomous areas can be divided into territorial autonomies, subregional territorial autonomies and local autonomies.
Many autonomous areas lie within two of the world's largest countries, People's Republic of China and Russia.
Iraqi Kurdistan is the only region that has gained official recognition internationally as an autonomous federal entity.
China (PRC) has five types of autonomous areas.
- Autonomous banner
Found only as divisions of Inner Mongolia. In effect, these are autonomous counties (see below).
- Autonomous county
The most numerous type of autonomous area in China, found both within and outside the larger autonomous prefectures and regions.
- Autonomous prefecture
China has 30 prefectures that are autonomous, mostly in the periphery of the country.
- Autonomous region
A first-level administrative subdivision of China. There are five ARs in China. They are Inner Mongolia AR, Tibet AR, Ningxia Hui AR, Xinjiang Uyghur AR, and Guangxi Zhuang AR. Regardless of the names, these regions are in fact less autonomous than the special administrative regions of China.
- Special administrative region
Although not autonomous in name, in practice China's special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau, enjoy a very high degree of autonomy.
Apart from its republics, which by definition have a degree of autonomy, Russia has two types of autonomies:
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.
Oblast is a transliterated Slavic loanword usually understood to mean "province". As of 2011, one autonomous oblast exists: the Jewish Autonomous Oblast.
The other types of autonomous areas to be found in the world are:
Five cities are formally designated by their countries as autonomous: the capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent; the capital of Belgium, Brussels; the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla; and the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires. Another Argentine city that has been pressing for autonomous status is Rosario, a city of around one million inhabitants that receives less subsidy than the smaller provincial capital Santa Fe.
Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, is described as an autonomous commune (commune autonome).
The territories into which Spain's provinces are grouped are known as autonomous communities (comunidades autónomas), as are the three atolls constituting the New Zealand territory of Tokelau.
Four countries formally designate areas of their territory as autonomous provinces:
- The provinces of Trentino and South Tyrol in Italy.
- Jeju-do, a South Korean offshore island.
- Vojvodina in Serbia (Kosovo is also regarded an autonomous province by Serbia and UN Security Council Resolution 1244, although it declared unilaterally its independence in 2008)
- Indonesia has the following provinces designated as autonomous: Aceh, Yogyakarta, Papua and West Papua
In addition to the autonomous regions of China mentioned above, various other areas of the world are formally described as autonomous regions:
- The Åland Islands, dependent territory within the Republic of Finland.
- The Autonomous Region of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea.
- The Faroe Islands and Greenland, two autonomous regions within the Kingdom of Denmark.
- Rodrigues, an autonomous dependency within the Republic of Mauritius.
- The autonomous regions of India.
- The four "autonomous regions with special statute" in Italy: Sicily, Sardinia, Aosta Valley, and Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
- The two autonomous regions of Portugal: the Azores and Madeira.
- Nunatsiavut, a self-governing region of Labrador Inuit in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
- The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, in the Philippines.
- The five municipalities, or caracoles in Chiapas, in the southeast of Mexico.
- Mount Athos in Greece.
- Región Autónoma del Atlántico Norte (RAAN) and Región Autónoma del Atlántico Sur (RAAS) in Nicaragua.
- The Nisga'a of British Columbia and Tli Cho of the Northwest Territories in Canada have self-government as a result of treaties.
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:
- the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic within Azerbaijan.
- the Autonomous Republic of Adjaria within Georgia (Abkhazia is also regarded an autonomous republic by Georgia, although it declared unilaterally its independence in 1994).
- the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province within Tajikistan.
- the Autonomous Republic of Crimea within Ukraine.
- the Karakalpakstan Republic within Uzbekistan.
The Palestinian Authority exercises certain sovereign powers within its borders, but is not a fully independent government. The PA-administrated territories are internationally recognized as occupied by Israel, and not a proper part of that country.
The Bissau Region, in which Guinea-Bissau's capital Bissau is found, is described as an "autonomous sector" (sector autónomo).
Ostensibly Moldova has two autonomous territories: Gagauzia and Transnistria. However, this nominal status obscures the fact that the central government of Moldova has no effective authority in Transnistria, which although unrecognized by any other nation, effectively governs itself as a sovereign state. Gagauzia, on the other hand, is an actual autonomous territory, with a degree of control being exercised by the central government.
In Ethiopia, "special woredas" are a subgroup of woredas or districts that are organized around the traditional homelands of an ethnic minority, and are outside the usual hierarchy of a Region or kilil. These woredas have many similarities to autonomous areas in other countries.
- Autonomous Silesian Voivodeship
- Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus in Albania (1914).
- Autonomous republics of the Soviet Union (1922–1990)
- Bantustans of apartheid-era South Africa and Namibia.
- Subcarpathian Ruthenia and Slovakia within Czechoslovakia (1938–1939).
- Baltic Provinces of the Russian Empire.
- Grand Duchy of Finland of the Russian Empire.
- Hungarian Autonomous Province of Communist Romania (1952–1968)
- Southern Ireland (1921–1922) and Northern Ireland (1921–1972) within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
- Free imperial city of the medieval Holy Roman Empire
- Transjordan of British Palestine
Other areas that are autonomous in nature but not in name are areas designated for indigenous peoples, such as those of the Americas:
- Aboriginal (First Nation or Native American) reserves and reservations, in, respectively, Canada and the United States.[discuss]
- the five comarcas indígenas ("indigenous regions") of Panama.
- ↑ Also described as a "self-governing territory".
- List of autonomous areas by country
- Country subdivision
- Personal union
- List of autonomous regions leaders
- 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.
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