Kazakhstan is divided into fourteen regions (Kazakh: облыстар, oblystar; Russian: области, oblasti). The regions are subdivided into 177 districts (Kazakh: аудандар, aýdandar; Russian: районы, rayony). The districts are further subdivided into rural districts at the lowest level of administration, which include all rural settlements and villages without an associated municipal government.
The cities of Almaty and Nur-Sultan have status “state importance” and do not belong to any region. The city of Baikonur has a special status because it is being leased until 2050 to Russia for the Baikonur cosmodrome. In June 2018 the city of Shymkent became a “city of republican significance”.
Each region is headed by an äkim (regional governor) appointed by the president. District äkimi are appointed by regional akims. Kazakhstan’s government relocated its capital from Almaty, established under the Soviet Union, to Astana on 10 December 1997.