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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a Slavic term meaning military commander or governor.

(1) Voevody as chiefs of the prince’s retainers or heads of the militia began to be mentioned in the Russian chronicles in the tenth century. In the 15th to 17th centuries every polk (large subdivision of the Russian army) and detachment of the Russian forces was headed by a voevoda. In the second half of the 17th century the polk voevody remained only in the razriad polki (polki of large military border districts of the Russian state). They were abolished by Peter I at the beginning of the 18th century.

(2) City voevody appeared in the middle of the 16th century. The voevoda headed the administration of a city and its district, the territory adjoining and administratively subordinate to the city. In the early 17th century city voevody were introduced in all Russian cities, replacing the namestniki (imperial lieutenants) and town prikazchiki (department chiefs). The voevoda concentrated all the power in his hands in the local areas. Province voevody were instituted in Russia in 1719. Their functions were analogous to those of the city voevody. Both province and city voevody were abolished in 1775.

(3) In Poland and Lithuania voevody (wojewody) were at first the king’s lieutenants in peacetime and military commanders in wartime. Beginning with 1139 every appanage had its own wojewoda. With the liquidation of the feudal fragmentation the appanages became województwa. The wojewoda became the chief of the military and civilian administration of the województwo and a member of the senate. The post of wojewoda was for life. There were wojewody in Poland until the late 18th century. Województwo as a traditional name for an administrative unit has been retained in the Polish People’s Republic.

(4) Voevody were also known in other Slavic countries and in Wallachia in the 15th and 16th centuries.


Andreevskii, I. E. O namestnikakh, voevodakh i gubernatorakh. St. Petersburg, 1864.
Gradovskii, A. D. “Istoriia mestnogo upravleniia v Rossii.” Sobr. soch., vol. 2. St. Petersburg, 1899.


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