The Romanov Dynasty had ruled Russia since 1613. Nicholas II had succeeded to the throne in 1894. His title, like other Tsars before him, was 'Emperor and Autocrat of all Russia'. The country was run by a ten man ministerial council. Each minister was both appointed and dismissed by the Tsar.
The Tsar also had the power to grant hereditary titles. These usually went to men who had achieved high rank in the armed forces and the civil service. It 1900 it was estimated that there were about 1.8 million members of the nobility in Russia.