Tsar Peter I and the “Beard Tax”

September 5, 1698 – In an effort to Westernize his nobility, Tsar Peter I of Russia imposes a tax on beards for all men except the clergy and peasantry.

Those who paid the tax were required to carry a “beard token”.  This was a copper or silver token with a Russian Eagle on one side and on the other, the lower part of a face with nose, mouth, whiskers, and beard. It was inscribed with two phrases: “the beard tax has been taken” (lit: “Money taken”) and “the beard is a superfluous burden”.  Those who resisted the ban on beards were forcibly and publicly shaved.  (Wikipedia)

Eventually, the ruler’s stance softened. Smelling a profit, Peter imposed an annual “beard tax” upon those who hoped to keep their facial hair. An impoverished beggar could retain his for the meager yearly sum of two kopeks, while a well-off merchant could expect to shell out 100 rubles … Despite the fee’s widespread unpopularity, it remained in place until 1772, 47 years after Peter’s death.  (Mark Mancini, “Mental Floss”)

Here are some postage stamps depicting a montage of Russian men sporting beards:

Karl Marx – philosopher and revolutionary socialist:

beards - karl marx - russia

 

Ilya Repin – realist painter:

beards - Russia IlyaRepin - realist painter

Ivan Turgenev – novelist and playwright (b. 1818, d. 1883)

beards - russia Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev - author - b.1818 d.1883

 

Krushjanis Barons – Latvian folklorist and writer (b. 1835, d. 1923):

beards - Russia Krushjanis Barons - Latvian folklorist writer

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