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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(from the Common Slavic kraiati, “to cut”).

(1) Country, region, land, or locality. Originally, a krai was a territory located on the borders of a state’s possessions; an outlying district. Later, the term referred to a region that covered a considerable area, either geographical (such as Meshchera Krai, Turukhan Krai, and Ussuri Krai) or historical (such as Zamoskovnyi Krai and Novorossiia Krai). In the narrow sense, any district, even one that is insiginificant in size, that gravitates toward a geographical locality (such as a city or river), can be called a krai.

(2) In Russia in the 18th to the early 20th century, krai was the name applied to the outlying territories of the empire, which consisted of several gubernii (provinces) or oblasts under common administration. The term is synonymous with generalgubernatorstvo (governor-generalship), the name of a large administrative-territorial unit. The term “krai” was used officially for the Caucasus (Caucasus Krai, 1882–1905) and Turkestan (Turkestan Krai, 1886–1917) and only semiofficially for other territories. The most common names were Novorossiia Krai (1805–74; Kherson, Ekaterinoslav, Tauride, and Bessarabia provinces), Orenburg Krai (1796–1865, Orenburg and Samara provinces; 1865–81, Orenburg and Ufa provinces and Ural’sk and Turgai oblasts), Amur Krai (1884–1917; Amur, Transbaikalia, and Primor’e oblasts), Baltic (or Ost-see) Krai (1801–76, Livonia, Courland, and Estonia provinces), Vistula Krai (1874—1917, Warsaw governor-generalship; ten provinces of the Kingdom of Poland), Northwestern Krai (1850–1912; Wilno, Kovno, and Grodno provinces), Steppe Krai (1882–1917; Akmolinsk and Semipalatinsk oblasts and, until 1898, Semirech’e Oblast), and Southwestern Krai (1832–1914; Kiev, Podol’sk, and Volyn’ provinces). After the abolition of a number of governor-generalships, the name “krai” was traditionally retained for these territories until 1917.

(3) In the USSR from 1924, krai has meant a large administrative unit in the RSFSR (in the first half of the 1960’s, also in the Kazakh SSR). The organ of state power in a krai is the krai Soviet of Working People’s Deputies, which is elected by the population for two years. The krais (like the oblasts) were created in accordance with a plan for the division of the country into economic districts as administrative-economic units in contrast to the prerevolutionary provinces, which were only administrative. Between 1923 and 1929, six oblasts and seven krais were formed in the RSFSR in place of the abolished provinces. The krais that were established differed from the oblasts mainly in being economically less developed, and they usually included sparsely populated districts and autonomous oblasts. As exceptions, certain ASSR’s (with their consent) became part of the krais that were formed, including the Buriat-Mongol (from 1930), Dagestan (from 1931), Volga Region German (from 1928), and Chuvash (from 1929) ASSR’s. The Kalmyk ASSR, Mordovian ASSR, and Udmurt ASSR, which had been reorganized from autonomous oblasts in 1934—35, also continued to be part of krais. The borders of the autonomous oblasts and ASSR’s remained unchanged when they were made part of krais. During the division of the administrative units into smaller ones, the number of krais increased to 12 (1935). According to the USSR Constitution of 1936, seven krais were called oblasts after the ASSR’s ceased being part of krais. Beginning in 1938, there have been six krais in the RSFSR: Altai (formed Sept. 28, 1937, with the Gorno-Altai Autonomous Oblast), Krasnodar (formed Sept. 13, 1937, with the Adygei Autonomous Oblast), Krasnoiarsk (formed Dec. 7, 1934, with the Khakass Autonomous Oblast), Primor’e (formed Oct. 20, 1938), Stavropol’ (formed Feb. 13, 1924; until Mar. 13, 1937, known as Northern Caucasus Krai; until Jan. 12, 1943, as Ordzhonikidze Krai, with the KarachaiCherkess Autonomous Oblast), and Khabarovsk (formed Oct. 20, 1938, with the Jewish Autonomous Oblast). The newly formed krais were divided into okrugs (until July 30, 1930) and raions; from 1932 there have been oblasts and okrugs in some of the krais.

Krais in the RSFSR (1924–38). The krais in the RSFSR from 1924 to 1938 are given below. (When the name of the administrative center differs from the name of the krai, it appears in parentheses.)

Azov-Black Sea Krai (Rostov-on-Don), which existed from Jan. 10, 1934, to Sept. 13, 1937, was formed from part of Northern Caucasus Krai. The Adygei Autonomous Oblast and the Severskii Donets Okrug (which was called Northern Oblast until July 5, 1934) were part of the krai. It was subsequently divided into Krasnodar Krai and Rostov Oblast.

Eastern Siberia Krai (Irkutsk), which existed from July 30, 1930, to Dec. 5, 1936, was formed from part of Siberia Krai and part of Far East Krai. The Buriat-Mongol ASSR, Chita Oblast (1934), and three national okrugs (the Taimyr, Evenki, and Vitim-Olekminsk) were part of the krai. In 1934 part of its territory was transferred to Krasnoiarsk Krai. Eastern Siberia Krai was renamed an oblast, which was divided into Irkutsk and Chita oblasts in 1937.

Far East Krai (Khabarovsk), which existed from Jan. 4, 1926, to Oct. 20, 1938, was formed from the provinces of Amur, Kamchatka, and Primor’e and part of Transbaikalia Province. The territorial divisions that were part of the krai were the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (from 1934); two national okrugs—Koriak and Chukchi (from 1930); Amur, Kamchatka, and Sakhalin oblasts (from 1932); and Zeia, Lower Amur, Primor’e, Ussuri, and Khabarovsk oblasts (from 1934). Part of the territory was transferred to Eastern Siberia Krai (1930) and to Chita Oblast (1937). Far East Krai was subsequently divided into Primor’e and Khabarovsk krais.

Gorky Krai, which existed from Jan. 14, 1929, to Dec. 5, 1936 (until July 15, 1929, as Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, and until Oct. 7, 1932, as Nizhny Novgorod Krai), was formed from Nizhny Novgorod Province and part of the provinces of Kostroma, Viatka, and Vladimir. The Chuvash ASSR, Mari Autonomous Oblast, and Udmurt Autonomous Oblast were part of Gorky Krai. Kirov Krai was separated from it in 1934, Gorky Krai was renamed an oblast.

Kirov Krai, which existed from Dec. 7, 1934, to Dec. 5, 1936, was formed from part of Gorky Krai and part of the Northern Oblast. The Udmurt AO (from Dec. 28, 1934, the Udmurt ASSR) was part of the krai. It was renamed an oblast.

Kuibyshev Krai, which existed from May 14, 1928, to Dec. 5, 1936 (until Oct. 20, 1929, as Middle Volga Oblast; until Jan. 27, 1935, as Middle Volga Krai), was formed from the provinces of Samara, Orenburg, UPianovsk, and Penza and part of Saratov Province. The Mordovian Autonomous Oblast (from 1930; an ASSR from Dec. 20, 1934) and Orsk Okrug (1934) were part of the krai. Part of the krai’s territory was transferred to Orenburg Oblast (1934). The krai was renamed an oblast.

Lower Volga Krai (Saratov), which existed from May 21, 1928, to Jan. 10, 1934 (until June 11, 1928, it was known as Lower Volga Oblast), was formed from the provinces of Astrakhan, Saratov, and Stalingrad and part of Samara Province. The Volga Region German ASSR and the Kalmyk Autonomous Oblast were part of Lower Volga Krai. It was subsequently divided into Saratov and Stalingrad krais.

Northern Krai (Arkhangelsk), which existed from Jan. 14, 1929, to Dec. 5, 1936, was formed from the provinces of Arkhangel’sk, Vologda, and Severnaia Dvina and part of Viatka Province. The Komi Autonomous Oblast was part of the krai. It was renamed an oblast and, in 1937, was divided into Arkhangelsk and Vologda oblasts.

Northern Caucasus Krai existed from Feb. 13, 1924, to Mar. 13, 1937. It was known as Southeastern Oblast until Oct. 17, 1924, and its capital was Rostov-on-Don; Piatigorsk was the capital from Jan. 10, 1934, and Ordzhonikidze, from Jan. 10, 1936, The krai was formed from the Don and Kuban’-Black Sea oblasts and Stavropol’ and Terek provinces. Northern Caucasus Krai was made up of the Dagestan ASSR (1931–36), Adygei Autonomous Oblast (until 1934), Kabarda-Balkar AO (until 1936), Karachai AO (until 1926, the Karachai-Cherkess AO), Severnaia Osetiia AO (until 1936), Cherkess AO (from 1928; from 1926 to 1928 it was a national okrug) Chechen-Ingush AO (1934–36; before that it was the Chechen AO and the Ingush AO), and Northern Oblast (1933–34). In 1934, Azov-Black Sea Krai was separated. Northern Caucasus Krai was renamed Ordzhonikidze Krai.

Ordzhonikidze Krai (capital, Ordzhonikidze; from May 26, 1937, Voroshilovsk, present-day Stavropol’), which existed from Mar. 13, 1937, to Jan. 12, 1943, was renamed from Northern Caucasus Krai. The Cherkess AO, Karachai AO, and Kizliar Okrug (from 1938) were part of Ordzhonikidze Krai. It was renamed Stavropol’ Krai.

Saratov Krai, which existed from Jan. 10, 1934, to Dec. 5, 1936, was formed from part of Lower Volga Krai. The Volga Region German ASSR was part of the krai. It was renamed an oblast.

Siberia Krai (Novosibirsk), which existed from May 25, 1925, to July 30, 1930, was formed from the provinces of Altai, Eniseisk, Irkutsk, Novonikolaevsk, Omsk, and Tomsk. The Oirot AO was part of the krai. It was subsequently divided into Eastern Siberia and Western Siberia krais.

Stalingrad Krai, which existed from Jan. 10, 1934, to Dec. 5, 1936, was formed from part of Lower Volga Krai. The Kalmyk AO, which became an ASSR on Oct. 20, 1935, was part of the krai. The krai was renamed an oblast.

Western Siberia Krai (Novosibirsk), which existed from July 30, 1930, to Sept. 28, 1937, was formed from part of Siberia Krai. The Oirot AO, Khakass AO (until 1934), and Narym Okrug (from 1932) were part of the krai. In 1934 part of the krai’s territory was transferred to Krasnoiarsk Krai and Omsk Oblast. The krai was subsequently divided into Altai Krai and Novosibirsk Oblast.

Krais in the Kazakh SSR (1960–65). The krais in the Kazakh SSR between 1960 and 1965 are given below.

Southern Kazakhstan Krai (Chimkent) existed from May 3, 1962, to Dec. 1, 1964, and consisted of Dzhambul, Kzyl-Orda, and Chimkent oblasts.

Tselinnyi Krai (capital, Tselinograd; until Mar. 20, 1961, Akmolinsk) existed from Dec. 26, 1960, to Oct. 19, 1965, and consisted of Kokchetav, Kustanai, Pavlodar, Severnyi Kazakh-stan, and Tselinograd oblasts and one industrial raion (district).

Western Kazakhstan Krai (Aktiubinsk) existed from May 3, 1962, to Dec. 1, 1964, and consisted of Aktiubinsk, Gur’ev, and Ural’sk oblasts and three industrial raions.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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