The oblast is located on the Caspian lowland, to the north and east of the Caspian Sea between the lower reaches of Volga in the northwest and the Ustyurt plateau in the southeast.
Atyrau oblast borders with Astrakhan oblast of Russia in the west, West Kazakhstan oblast in the north and northeast, Aktobe oblast in the east (there is an architectural monument “Alyp-Ana” on the border of Aktobe and Atyrau oblast), Mangystau and the Caspian Sea in the south.
Guryev oblast was established on January 15, 1938. It includes Baksaisky, Dengizsky, Zhilokosinsky, Ispulsky, Makatsky and Mangistau districts.
In October 1939, Novobogatinsky district was formed.
In 1941, Fort-Shevchenko district was formed.
On May 11, 1944, Kzylkuginsky district was formed.
On October 30, 1957, Guryevsky district was formed. Novobogatinsky district was abolished.
On January 2, 1963, Ispulsky and Baksaysky districts were merged into Makhambetsky Industrial district.
On January 10, 1963, Balykshinsky Industrial district was formed. Makatsky and Zhilokosinsky districts were merged into the Emba Industrial District.
On November 3, 1963, the Balykshinsky Industrial district was abolished.
On October 30, 1964, Makhambetsky and Emba industrial districts were abolished, and Indersky and Emba districts were formed.
In January 1966, Makatsky and Uzensky districts were formed.
On April 25, 1966, Guryevsky district was renamed Balykshinsky district.
In February 1977, Novobogatinsky district was re-formed.
In March 1973, Mangystau and Uzen districts and Shevchenko and Fort-Shevchenko cities were transferred to new Mangyshlak oblast. Balykshinsky, Dengizsky, Kzylkuginsky, Makatsky, Indersky, Emba, Makhambetsky districts and Guryev city remained as part of Guryev oblast.
In 1988, Mangyshlak oblast was annexed to the Guryev oblast. Balykshinsky, Novobogatinsky and Makatsky districts were abolished.
In August 1990, Balykshinsky and Makatsky districts were restored, and Novobogatinsky district was restored under the name Isataisky district.
On November 4, 1990, Mangyshlak oblast was again separated from Guryev oblast.
In February 1992, Guryev oblast was renamed Atyrau, and Guryev city was renamed Atyrau.
In 1993, Emba district was renamed Zhylyoisky, and Dengizsky district was renamed Kurmangazinsky.
On May 21, 1995, Balykshinsky district was abolished.
Atyrau oblast is divided into 7 districts and 1 city of regional subordination:
1. Zhylyoisky district — Kulsary
2. Indersky district — Inderborsky
3. Isataisky district — Akkistau
4. Kzylkoginsky district — Miyaly
5. Kurmangazinsky district — Kurmangazy
6. Makatsky district — Makat
7. Makhambetsky district — Makhambet
13. Atyrau city
Total: 2 cities (Atyrau is a city of regional subordination, Kulsary is a city of district subordination), 4 villages (Inderborsky, Makat, Dossor, Zhana Karaton) and 64 rural districts.