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Countries with at least one area labelled "autonomous" or defined as such by law

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.


Script error: No such module "main". Iraqi Kurdistan is the only region that has gained official recognition internationally as an autonomous federal entity.


Script error: No such module "main". 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

Script error: No such module "main". The most numerous type of autonomous area in China, found both within and outside the larger autonomous prefectures and regions.

Autonomous prefecture

Script error: No such module "main". China has 30 prefectures that are autonomous, mostly in the periphery of the country.

Autonomous region

Script error: No such module "main". 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

Script error: No such module "main". 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:

Autonomous okrug

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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

Script error: No such module "main". Oblast is a transliterated Slavic loanword usually understood to mean "province". As of 2011, one autonomous oblast exists: the Jewish Autonomous Oblast.

Other countries

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

Autonomous city

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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[citation needed], a city of around one million inhabitants that receives less subsidy than the smaller provincial capital Santa Fe.

Autonomous commune

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

Autonomous community

Script error: No such module "main". 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.

Autonomous province

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

Autonomous region

In addition to the autonomous regions of China mentioned above, various other areas of the world are formally described as autonomous regions:

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:

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.

Autonomous sector

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

Autonomous territory

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.

Special woreda

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.



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


  1. Also described as a "self-governing territory".[citation needed]

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.

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ar:حكم ذاتي ang:Selfrīcsiendlica landbūnessa es:Anexo:Región autónoma fr:Autonomie territoriale hu:Autonómia (szociológia) id:Daerah swatantra no:Autonom region pt:Região autônoma ro:Regiune autonomă sk:Autonómna oblasť sv:Autonom region th:เขตปกครองตนเองอิสระ za:Swcigih zh:自治地方