The Barber of All Russia. Lawmaking, Resistance, and Mutual Adaptation during Peter the Great’s Cultural Reforms
The Peter the Great’s cultural policy is generally regarded as a decisive break with the past ushered in at the autocrat’s behest with no heed paid to public opinion. This is particularly true of measures aimed at the Europeanization of Russian subjects’ grooming and dressing habits. The notorious Petrine beard shaving dictate has long been a symbol of the radical changes implemented by the Tsar-Transformer and the violent nature of such policies. Historians have based their findings primarily on top-down legislative acts, but since no one has carried out an in-depth analysis of the actual implementation of Peter’s decrees in situ, there became entrenched in the historiography and in the public consciousness alike a prevailing assumption that Peter’s beard shaving policy was implemented in one blow and immediately led to “positive” results. The question of specific historical actors’ personal attitudes toward Peter’s innovations has also been neglected by students of the Tsar-Transformer’s reign.