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Russian Czar Peter the Great established a tax on beards.

few years into his reign, Russian Czar Peter I (aka “Peter the Great”) decided to study abroad. Worried that Russia was lagging behind in key technological areas, especially when it came to shipbuilding, Peter traveled incognito from 1697 to 1698 to various European countries, including Prussia, Holland, and England, in an effort to modernize his own nation. Afterward, with his newly learned shipbuilding know-how, he created Russia’s first navy.

But it wasn’t just maritime skills Peter learned on his “Grand Embassy.” He also picked up a few fashion and grooming ideas — including a particular interest in the freshly shaven chins of most Western European men. Determined to integrate Russia into the increasingly powerful club of European countries, Peter established (around 1705) a tax that fiscally punished anyone sporting a beard. The tax was progressive, with the well-to-do shelling out more for their facial adornments than the peasantry; nobility and merchants could pay as much as 100 rubles a year, while peasants might pay one kopek (1/100 of a ruble). Yet the tax was almost universally reviled — and even helped spark a few riots. The biggest opponent of the tax was the Russian Orthodox Church, which regarded clean-shaven faces as sinful. Despite this stiff opposition, Peter I stuck with the tax and was known to even shave off the beards of his guests at parties, much to the horror displayed on their now-clean-shaven faces.

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