Peter the Great, born 1672, was one of the most famous czars of Russia for many reasons. He had a penchant for torture, murder, and power, even exiling his own half-sister and killing one of his sons to prevent any sort of family coup. He also is credited for modernizing Russia—and that’s where the beard tax comes in.
Though today we associate beards more with hipsters and Red Sox fans than courtiers, in the 1700s beards were pretty typical fare for most of the population in chilly Russia. However, when Peter the Great toured Western Europe, he found many modern European courts were filled with clean-shaven men. So how to bring this barber culture to his barbarian population? Tax the beards. In order to have a beard, one had to carry around a token showing they had paid their beard tax. Though the grizzlier men may have taken issue with the law, Peter the Great prevailed: he ruled Russia for 43 years.