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Relationships have been studied between the background magnetic field and the distribution of active regions over the solar surface and time. A series of magnetic-field synoptic maps covering a 20-year period has been cross-correlated with spatio-temporal distributions of three types of active formations (sunspots, calcium plages, and solar flares) used as indicators of the active regions. To make the data analysis more effective, we expanded both the magnetic-field and the active-region distributions in terms of Fourier series in longitude, and then cross-correlated the latitude-dependent Fourier harmonics. Cross-correlation functions calculated from the lower-order Fourier harmonics exhibit prolonged maxima of the amplitude. For the first-order harmonic, the maxima can be tracked throughout a long time interval of at least 13 Carrington rotations, but the time of cross-correlation decreases down to 2 rotations, as the harmonic order increases up to 8. The maxima of the cross-correlation functions indicate moreover a poleward directed drift of the magnetic features that occurred with a velocity of 10–15 m s−1. The cross-correlation functions calculated separately by using the three types of active formations as indicators of the active regions are similar to each other, although they differ in some details of minor significance. The results of the data analysis make it possible to conclude that the cross-correlation between the magnetic-field and the active-region distributions displays long-term evolution of the magnetic features emerged in the photosphere in the form of the active regions, and that the evolution occurs in accordance with Leighton's (1964) concept known at present as the flux transport model. In order to verify this conclusion, we applied the cross-correlation technique to analyze a magnetic field distribution simulated by means of the flux transport equation by using an ensemble of local-scale magnetic bipoles as a source of magnetic flux. Results of the simulated magnetic field analysis exhibit a substantial qualitative agreement with those obtained by examining the observational data.