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(Russian, graf; from German Graf), in Western Europe during the early Middle Ages, a royal servitor. Beginning in the second half of the sixth century, a count in the Frankish state possessed his own district—the county—with judicial, administrative, and military authority. Gradually the post of count became hereditary. In the period of feudal disintegration, the count was a feudal sovereign; then, at the end of this period, he became a high aristocrat. The title of count is maintained to this day in most European countries with a monarchical form of government.
In Russia the title of graf was introduced in the 18th century by Peter I and was abolished in 1917.