Have Beards Ever Gone out of Fashion?

In 1698, Tsar Peter I, better known to history as Peter the Great, had just returned from a two-year tour of Europe, where he observed modern society and visited factories, arsenals, schools, and museums. Traveling incognito as Sgt. Pyotr Mikhaylov, the quirky tsar also worked at a shipyard to learn how modern ships were built. When he returned to Russia, he began westernizing the country, changing its economy, government, culture, and religious affairs. He even enacted a beard tax, so that his people would be encouraged to shave and adopt Western European fashions.

Growing the Russian economy:

  • The tsar empowered police to forcibly and publicly shave those who refused to pay the tax, but resistance was widespread, mainly on religious grounds.

  • The amount of the tax depended on a man’s status. Members of the Imperial Court, military, and government were charged 60 rubles annually if they wore a beard. Wealthy merchants had to pay 100 rubles a year.

  • When you paid the tax, you had to carry a “beard token” at all times. The tokens were either copper or silver, and featured a Russian eagle on one side and a man’s bearded face on the other.

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More Info: Smithsonian magazine

Discuss this Article

Post 3

I thought I heard a story about how the Greeks had their soldiers shave so the enemy could not grab their beards in battle.

Post 2

I love today's beards in younger adds a look of maturity/sophistication!

Post 1

I wish Prince Harry would resume shaving.

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