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A federation is a state comprised of a number of self-governing regions (often themselves referred to as states) united by a central (federal) government. In a federation the self-governing status of the component states is constitutionally entrenched and may not be altered by a unilateral decision of the central government. Federations may be multi-ethnic, or cover a large area of territory, although neither is necessarily the case. Federations are often founded on an original agreement between a number of sovereign states. The component states of a federation usually do not have the right to secede unilaterally .

Table of contents
1 Federations and other forms of state
2 Modern 'federations'
3 See also
4 Other meanings of federation

Federations and other forms of state

Federations usually exhibit a single uniform two-tier structure of government across an entire jurisdiction. Exceptions may occur in which certain parts of the federation are under the federal government's direct sovereignty, as is the case with the autonomous 'territories' of Canada and Australia, and with the US District of Columbia. However it is not characteristic in a federation for small peripheral regions to be self-governing, while a central, much larger 'metropolis' region remains under the direct control of the central government.

A federation is distinct from a state which is composed of self-governing regions but in which the autonomous status of those regions exists at the sufferance of the central government, and may be unilaterally revoked. Such a state is a form of unitary state. Spain and Belgium are examples of unitary states that are superficially federal in structure. A federation is further to be distinguished from:

The Russian Federation is not a true federation in the strict sense. It consists of the metropolis of Russia proper, which includes the great majority of the population and is governed by the national government in Moscow, and a number of small ethnic enclaves, which are known as Autonomous Republics or Autonomous Oblasts, but which possess very little actual autonomy.

The European Union possesses some of the attributes of a federal state but its central government is weaker than that of most federations. Furthermore, its member states are separate entities under international law and, currently at least, possess a de facto if not explicit de jure right of secession.

Modern 'federations'

See also

Other meanings of federation