Un impozit rusesc neobişnuit din vremea ţarului Petru cel Mare oglindit în numismatică / An Unusual Russian Tax from the Time of Peter the Great Reflected in Numismatics
|Limba de redactare||română|
|Excerpt||In Synadino collection, now in the collection of the National History Museum of Romania, contains an interesting counter issued in 1705 by the Russian Empire, during the reign of Peter the Great. The round bronze counter wears on its obverse a representation a nose, two lips and, the most interesting, a big moustache and a beard. It can be noticed also a countermark in the right field, with the Russian state's coat of arms: the great Russian double-headed eagle holding a sceptre in the dexter claw and an orb in the sinister, followed by the legend: ДEHГИ ВЗАТЫ (the cash were taken). On the reverse is depicted the Russian state's arms, the towheaded eagle with sceptre and orb; beneath them there is the date of the issuing: ΑѰЕΕ ΓΟДУ (year 1705). There are following the technical dates: AE, 5 gms/24 mm.
The counter was issued on the occasion of the new tax imposed by Peter the Great to all bearded people of his Empire. The counter was used as a certificate attesting the payment of the tax. The taxpayers were asked the hold always the counter, to prove the fulfilment of their duties. Besides this round counter, it was issued another counter, of rhombic shape, with a single face, struck in 1725, with the legend: БОРОДЬІ ПОШЛИНА ВЗАТА 1725 (the tax on the beard was taken). On the edge there is the legend: БΟΡΟДΑ ЛИШН TАГOТА (the beard is an extra burden). The counters were issued in silver and in bronze.
Imposing this tax, Peter the Great intended to change the Russian life style, too patriarchal in his view. The tsar’s answer to the landed gentry's protest is a very clear illustration of his ideas and feelings: "From ignorance our ancestors believed that without beard were not be able to reach to Heaven, although this place is open for all the honest people, with or without the beard, with wig or baldness". There are also known the measures taken in the changing of the Russian society old habits: the interdiction of the long clothes with long sleeves and their replacement with "Hungarian and German clothes for the glory and the adornment of the State". The high landed gentry and the clergy, ruled by Patriarch Adrian, in person, opposed against these innovations, and especially, against the tax on beard, because the beard was regarded as very prized adornment of the Orthodox Christians.
Starting with Peter's reform, the beard becomes object of quarrels between the advocates of the old system and those of the reformation, grouped around the tsar, for whom it was "not a need of the male countenance, but an exposure of the political wishes, a mark of the rebellion against the Russian Empire", so as can be observed from the legend on the edge of the rhombic counter. Peter the Great started the fight against the old symbols w i t h very roughs methods; as soon as after his returning from abroad (the 26th of August). He started himself to shave his Court gentry's beards.
The outside look - the hair and the coat - became one of the basic conditions for choosing his officials. This tax was imposed to all his subjects, no matter of class or social status, and it was established according the taxpayers incomes, divided in five categories. Only the priests, the soldiers and the workers who built the new capital in Sankt-Petersburg were free of this new tax. The first class of tax-payers - the nobles of the Imperial Court, the court-servants, the high officials, the merchants and the inhabitants of the towns, payed 60 roubles. Those in the second class were the landowners, rich merchants, the owners of workshops - payed 100 roubles. The landowner servants, the workers on the mail coach composed the third category, the church servants, besides the priests and deacons - payed 60 roubles. The fourth category was composed by the inhabitants of Moscow, regardless their social status, have to pay 30 roubles. The fifth category - the peasants - payed two denga at the entry and the exit of the cities. This illustrated that Peter I intended by imposing this tax to accelerate the joining Russia to the European standards, in order to decrease the power of the landowners, that category which could become dangerous because of its estates and power. Peasants can observe this fact payed by the landowners and those payed. But it can't be forgotten the fact that in the budget of state needed new incomes. At that times the expenses of Russia were very big, due to the construction of the capital in Sankt- Petersburg to the wars with the Ottomans and the Sweden. It's interesting to analyse the results of the tax on beard. If we take into account Peter's intention to change the Russian lifestyle, it was an apparent success. The number of payers decrease very quickly (it's unknown if the number of the bearded people did the same). In 1714, three of four taxpayers vanished. It had to be mentioned that Peter the Great employed a great number of peasants as workers i n the building sewers in Sankt-Petersburg and in the army. So it appears a decrease of payers, independently from the results of the reform, because the workers in Sankt-Petersburg were tax-free, and the soldiers were compulsory shaved. But the tsar’s intention to find a resource of incomes for the great expenses at those times was a failure, although it was created a special department for collecting it. In 1720 the beard tax was estimated officially at 2148 roubles and 87 kopeiks. In 1722, the income of the beard tax was only 297 roubles and 20 kopeiks. The sum are extremely little for a state having tenth of millions of inhabitants. It is unknown the moment when the counter, issued in 1705 received a new value by countermarking the arms of the Russian Empire. The countermarking was used when the mints were unable to provide enough new money, or when a new face value was allowed to the old issues, without too big expresses, by recalling the currency and melting it down, to struck a new one. The countermarking of the counter could be done in 1722, when Peter issued an imperial decree ordering that anybody who wear beard to be obliged to wear a specific suite, or in 1725, at the same times with the issuing of the second type of counter. It is possible that the mints of Russian Empire hadn't had a sufficient capacity to produce each year the required quantity of millions of counters.
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