The Tsar Who Decided Modernization Needed A Beard Tax

Peter The Great traveled all around Europe for a year during 1697, he was in disguise and wanted to learn about Western culture. He was on a mission for Russia to learn about shipbuilding and how they could integrate into the world. What was his proposal? Shave.

historylearningsite.co.uk

Around 1698, Tsar Peter I or Peter The Great created a beard tax in Russia. And funnily enough, he is not the only king in history to have done this – England’s Henry VII also made one. But there is a fascinating story about how Peter’s beard tax came about.

At the time Russia was not really part of Europe at all, it may have been a huge country but it had no power to control any authority. They had barely any navy of any note, so could not patrol any of their sea borders. And whilst other great empires like the British or the Dutch were out colonizing the world, Russia was stuck at home, with no connection to the outside world. Peter The Great decided he had to learn and understand what made the European nations so great. So he traveled around Europe in disguise as a diplomat for Russia, together with high ranking ambassadors.

In fact, he even spent months working in a shipyard, blending in completely and never causing any suspicion that he was, in fact, a Tsar. He learned about shipbuilding from the Dutch and the British, hoping he could bring this knowledge back to Russia.

On his return to Russia, he set out his grand plans in motion: to modernize Russia so it would compete with the world’s superpowers. And he was vital to the westernizing of Russia in all forms: he changed their economy, government, culture and even religious affairs. He even reformed their calendar, and attempted to make all men beardless! Peter The Great had noticed that the modern western Europeans were all shaven, so he was determined that Russian society followed suit.

Initially, he announced every man in Russia had to lose their beards. But this was wildly unpopular, so eventually, he decided a beard tax would be more appropriate. Because might as well make some money for the state too, no? For proof of paying the tax, little tokens were made: silver for nobility and copper for commoners.

If you had a beard then you had to keep your token on you at all times, just in case you were stopped by the beard tax police. Haha! Just kidding… there was no beard police. But one thing is for sure Peter I’s reforms really did bring Russia into the modern world.

Next Article
ADVERTISEMENT
  • Before 1935 Toilet Paper Had Splinters

    Yes, your nightmare, toilet paper with splinters, was actually a sold commodity before the 1930s. Imagine going to the toilet, only to have to face a dangerous roll of toilet paper that was planning to stab you the moment you let your guard down. Those splinters would have been extremely painful, that is for sure....

    Read More
  • Melanism Nature’s Incredible Opposite Of Albinism

    Most people have heard of Albinism which is the congenital disorder that is known by the complete or partial absence of any skin pigments. The pigments are often lacking in the skin, hair, and eyes. Normally this results in white hair and pink eyes when it comes to mammals. When it comes to animals it...

    Read More
  • Wolverine Horror Frog Breaks It Own Bones For A Claw

    The hairy frog or the horror frog as eloquently known is not only a strange looking creature in the animal kingdom. It also possesses a trait which as far as everyone knows is completely unique. When under aggression or needing to defend itself from a predator, the hairy frog will break its own toe to...

    Read More
  • So Many People Were Buried Alive A Safety Coffin Was Patented

    During the 17th and 18th century one of the great fears that played in the back of everyone’s mind was the possibility of being buried alive. With sicknesses and diseases often ravaging whole communities, sometimes mistakes were made. It could only take someone falling into a deep fever, with their breathing extremely lowered for them...

    Read More
  • The Mouse That Believes It's A Wolf

    If you heard this creature deafening cry during the night, you may be mistaken to think a wolf was right behind you. Definitely, you would not want to hear it creep up behind you howling in a forest, though if it did you may be forgiven for breaking down into nervous laughter. Because this is...

    Read More