Monday, November 19, 2012

Beard Tax

Peter the Great (1672-1725), Tsar of Russia, was a beard-hater.  He also wanted to Westernise his nation. To do so, among other actions, he required the men of Russia to shave their beards in imitation of the high-born men of Western Europe. Or, alternatively, to pay a beard tax.  On 16 January 1705, men 'of all ranks', were ordered to shave.  Anyone who wished to keep his beard and whiskers had to pay the beard tax based on their social status: 60 roubles for nobles, military officers and chancellery officials, 100 roubles for merchants of the first guild. Peasants and the clergy were exempt from the tax. Travelling beard wearers had to pay a kopeck each time they entered the city gates.
Men who paid this beard tax were given a special permit in the form of a beard token (obtained from the police station) to prove that they were honest, beard tax-paying citizens.  The beard token was a small bronze medallion with a Russian eagle on one side and a beard on the other.  It was inscribed with two phrases: "the beard tax has been taken" and "the beard is a superfluous burden".  The token was often worn on a chain around the neck, underneath the beard it gave permit for.
Peter the (beard hating) Great was not the only beard tax instigator.  Almost two hundred years earlier in 1535, King Henry VIII of England, who himself had a beard, introduced a beard tax. The tax was also graduated, varying with the wearer's social position. His daughter, Elizabeth I, reintroduced the beard tax, taxing every beard of more than two weeks' growth.
You can read more on Beard Taxing by downloading Erik Jensens 2003 article from the journal Tax Notes.

No comments:

Post a Comment