300-year-old coin that men needed to avoid Russian 'Beard Tax' found


Russian archeologists have found an exceptionally rare 'beard kopek' - a coin that men had to buy under Peter the Great if they wanted to remain unshaven.

Minted in 1699, the copper money is only the second known example of the coin that still survives today, and has been described by experts as 'priceless'.

It shows an image of a beard and moustache and the words 'Money Paid'.

The kopek was part of Peter the Great's 'beard tax' imposed soon after he returned from an incognito trip to Britain in 1697 to learn about Western ways in his bid to modernise Russia.

As part of the modernisation imposed after his trip, Peter the Great banned all facial hair unless people paid for a special coin that made them exempt from the rule.

The newly found coin was discovered in a ruined 17th Century building in the Russian city of Pskov alongside a haul of 5,000 other ancient coins.

Minted in 1699, the copper money is described as 'priceless' and shows an image of a beard and moustache as well as the description the words 'Money Paid'. It shows an image of a beard and moustache (right) and the words 'Money Paid'

The wealthy had to fork out high sums but peasants paid one kopek - the lowest coin of the realm.

The 'beard kopeks' acted as a token proving those with facial hair had paid and were expected to be carried at all times.

Currently only one other example is known to exist of these coins - and it is held in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.

The new discovery is better quality, say archeologists.

The new find was among a haul of 5,000 ancient 18th and 19th Century coins discovered in Pskov in 2016.

Marina Kulakova, head of the Pskov archeological center, said at the time that the find was 'sensational'.

Researchers have only now noticed the rare beard coin among the treasure which acted as 'protection' for those with facial hair.

In 1698, Emperor Peter I of Russia instituted a beard tax to bring Russian society in line with Western European models. To enforce the ban on beards, the tsar empowered police to forcibly and publicly shave those who refused to pay the tax

Treasure with coins found in Pskov, Russia. Theywere first unearthed two years ago but the unique coin went unrecognised among the masses of other coinage 

Peter the Great (pictured) lived between 1672 and 172)

Peter the Great lived between 1672  and 1725.

He ruled the Tsardom of Russia and later the Russian Empire from 7 May 1682 until his death. 

Through a number of successful wars, he expanded the Tsardom into a much larger empire and became one of the major European powers.

He implemented sweeping reforms aimed at modernising Russia.

Peter was heavily influenced by his advisers from Western Europe and he reorganised the Russian army along modern lines. 

He faced much opposition to his policies and  brutally suppressed rebellions that questioned his authority. 

Peter's reforms made a lasting impact on Russia, and many institutions of Russian government trace their origins to his reign. 

The new find was among a haul of 5,000 old coins discovered in Pskov in 2016. Researchers have only now noticed the rare coin among the coins which acted as 'protection' for those with facial hair

'Those who did not carry such a token with them, were forced to shave,' said Tatiana Ershova, senior scientist of Pskov Archaeological Centre.

'Nobody would dare to name its price on this,' she said.

'It is truly a unique find.'

Currently only one other example is known to exist of these coins - and it is held in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg - the country's premier museum. The new discovery is better quality, say archeologists

In 1728 - three years after Peter's death - the beard tax coins were removed from circulation, melted down, and made into other money.

Two years ago the eccentric leader of Tajikistan - a former Soviet republic - ordered police to shave off the beards of 13,000 men.

Emomali Rahmon indicated the measure was to stem the tide of Islamic extremism in his country.

Archeologists working in Pskov found the coins among the ruins from a Russian settlement in Pskov 

Cutting off the beards - Russian picture from early 18th century. Beards were frowned upon by Russians throughout the time period and men had to purchase the special coin for the privilege