Geek Trivia

Peter the Great of Russia Used Taxes to Banish What?

Which Sci-Film Was The First Nominated For A Best Picture Oscar?

Answer: Beards

In 1705, the emperor of Russia, popularly known as Peter the Great, wanted to modernize the look of Russia. Specifically, he wanted Russian men to adopt the clean shaven look that had become popular in central and western Europe.

However, centuries of tradition stood in his way. In Russia, a large and full beard was considered an indicator of virility and masculinity. He couldn’t simply decree beards were bad and expect everyone to follow his lead. Instead, he imposed a significant tax on beards. The tax varied based on professional and social class, but was between 60-100 roubles (a small fortune for the time).

Although beard wearing persisted in some areas and social classes (Orthodox priests were, for example, exempt), the tax was for the most part successful as very few people could afford to pay it.

Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of State.