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A map displaying current official federations

A federation ( [Latin] : foedus, foederis , 'covenant'), also known as a federal state , is a type of [sovereign state] characterized by a [union] of partially [self-governing states] or regions united by a central (federal) government. In a federation, the self-governing status of the component states is typically constitutionally entrenched and may not be altered by a [unilateral] decision of the central government.

The [form of government] or constitutional structure found in a federation is known as [federalism] (see also [federalism as a political philosophy] ). It can be considered the opposite of another system, the [unitary state] . The government of [Germany] with sixteen federated [Länder] is an example of a federation, whereas neighboring [Austria] and its [Bundesländer] was a unitary state with [administrative division] s that became federated, and neighboring [France] by contrast has always been unitary.

Federations may be [multi-ethnic] , or cover a large area of territory, although neither is necessarily the case. Federations are most often founded on an original agreement between a number of [sovereign] states based on mutual concerns or interests. The initial agreements create a stability that encourages other common interests, brings the disparate territories closer, and gives them all even more common ground. At some time this is recognized and a movement is organized to merge more closely. Other times, especially when common cultural factors are at play such as ethnicity and language, some of these steps in this pattern are expedited and compressed.

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