A ?upa (or zhupa, ?upanija) is a historical type of administrative division in Southern Europe and the Balkans, that originated in medieval Slavic culture, commonly translated as "parish", later synonymous "kotar", commonly translated as "county". It was mentioned for the first time in the 8th century. It was initially used by the South and West Slavs, denoting various territorial units of which the leader was the ?upan. In modern Bosnian, Croatian and Slovenian, the term ?upa also means an ecclesiastical parish, while term ?upanija is used in Bosnia and Croatia (in Bosnia also kanton as synonymous) for lower state organizational units.
The word ?upa or zhupa (Serbian and Bulgarian; adopted into Hungarian: ispán and rendered in Greek as (zoupania, "land ruled by a ?upan")), is derived from Slavic. Its medieval Latin equivalent was comitatus. It is mostly translated into "county" or "district". According to Kmietowicz, it seems that the territorial organization had been created in Polish territories before the Slav Migrations. Some Slavic nations changed its name into "opole", "okolina" and "vierw", but it has survived in ?upan. Some scholars consider the word's older meaning was "open area in the valley". This interpretation is confirmed by the Bulgarian ?upa (tomb), Polish zupa and Ukrainian ?upa (salt mine), and Old Slavonic ?upi?te (tomb). As such, the Proto-Slavic *?upa wouldn't derive from *gheu-p- (with *gheu- meaning "bend, distort"), yet from Indo-European *g(h)eup-/*gheub- meaning "cavity, pit", which derives from Nostratic *gopa meaning "hollow, empty". However, Albert Bruckner suggested the opposite evolution; ?upa as a back formation from title ?upan (for the etymology see corresponding article), which is a borrowing from Iranian languages (*fsu-p?na, "shepherd").
The division had a widespread distribution, and did not always had a concrete institutional definition. The term ?upa signified the territorial and administrative unit of a tribe, and later only an administrative unit without tribal feature. The South Slavs that settled in Roman lands to a certain degree adopted Roman state organization, but retained their own tribal organization. Slavic tribes were divided into fraternities, each including a certain number of families. The territory inhabited by a tribe was a ?upa, and its leader was the ?upan.
The zhupa (plural zhupi) was an administrative unit in the First Bulgarian Empire, a subdivision of a larger unit called comitatus. In these countries, the equivalent of "county" is "judet" (from Latin judicium). The Croats and the Slovaks used the terms ?upanija and ?upa for the counties in the Kingdom of Croatia and Kingdom of Hungary. German language translation of the word for those counties was komitat (from Latin comitatus, "countship") during the Middle Ages, but later it was gespanschaft (picking up the span root that previously came from ?upan).
Territorial-political organization in medieval Bosnia was intricate, and composed on several levels. In this scheme in the territorial-political organizational order of the medieval Bosnian state, ?upa or parish was basic unit of the state organization, with feudal estate at the bottom, followed by village municipality, both below ?upa, and county or zemlja above it, with the state monarch at the top.
The Croatian word ?upa signifies both a secular unit (county) and a religious unit (parish), ruled over by a "?upan" (count) and "?upnik" (parish priest).
Today the term ?upanija is the name for the Croatian regional government, the counties of Croatia. Mayors of counties hold the title of ?upan (pl. ?upani), which is usually translated as "county prefect". In the 19th century, the counties of the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia were called ?upanija. The Croats preserved the term ?upa until the modern times as the name for local clerical units, parishes of the Catholic Church and of the Protestant churches. The parish priest is called ?upnik.
In c. 1074, the ?upa is mentioned in Hungary as -spán, also as határispánságok (march, frontier county). The derivative titles were ispán, nominated by the king for not defined time, and gradually replaced by f?ispán in the 18-19th century; megyésispán, also nominated by the king but could be expelled anytime; alispán was the leader of the jurisdiction in the county if the 'megyésispán' was not available; várispán was more linked to the "vár" (fortress) in Hungary in the times of Árpád.
The Serbs in the Early Middle Ages were organized into ?upe, a confederation of village communities (roughly the equivalent of a county), headed by a local ?upan (a magistrate or governor). Thus the title of Grand ?upan in Ra?ka in 11th-12th century meant "supreme ?upan" of ?upans who ruled over ?upas.
Du?an's Code (1349) named the administrative hierarchy as following: "land(s), city(ies), ?upa(s) and kraji?te(s)", the ?upa(s) and kraji?te(s) were one and the same, with the ?upa on the border were called kraji?te (frontier). The ?upa consisted of villages, and their status, rights and obligations were regulated in the constitution. The ruling nobility possessed hereditary allodial estates, which were worked by dependent sebri, the equivalent of Greek paroikoi; peasants owing labour services, formally bound by decree.
Though the territorial unit today is unused, there are a number of traditional ?upe in Kosovo, around Prizren: Sreda?ka ?upa, Sirini?ka ?upa, Gora, Opolje and Prizrenski Podgor. The Serbian language maintains the word in toponyms, the best known being that of the ?upa Aleksandrova?ka.
The term ?upa was popularized in Slovak professional literature in the 19th century as a synonym to contemporary Slovak term stolica (county). After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, it was used as the official name of administrative units of Slovakia within Czechoslovakia in 1919 - 1928 and then again in the Slovak Republic during WWII in 1940-1945. Nowadays, the term is used semi-officially as a short alternative name for the self-governing regions of Slovakia. President of the self-governing region is semi-officially called ?upan.
During World War II, when Slovenia was partitioned between Italy, Hungary, and Germany on 17 April 1941, in the Italian portion, named province of Ljubljana, the new administration was led by an Italian High Commissioner, but there also were Presidents of the Council of Zhupans of Ljubljana: Marko Natla?en (1941), Leon Rupnik (1942-1943).