Peter the Great, who was a Russian emperor on the edge of 17th-18th centuries, is famous for elevating the country on the level of other European states. He brought many changes and conducted various reforms. Some of them seemed ridiculous at the time but proved to be beneficial in the long shot. Still, many of his novelties are amusing even to the modern person. Of course one of the most important changes during his ruling was the new date of New Year’s Celebration. For many years this holiday took place on the first night of September before Peter I changed the date to the first of January. He was also the one to instruct everybody to decorate their homes with pine that has become the symbol of the holiday.
His orders have also concerned fashion. He banned shoes that had nails or metallic taps on their soles. It was done in order to preserve the surface of the new wooden pavements of St. Petersburg. The funny thing is that the streets of the city became almost deserted after it, since many didn’t have any other type of boots.
During his reign, tailors were ordered to decorate the sleeves of the military uniform with a row of buttons. It was done not only to enrich the clothing design, but also to cure one of the bad habits that flourished among soldiers. Men would often wipe their mouths after a meal with a sleeve which stained expensive fabric of a military coat. The addition of buttons made it highly uncomfortable.
Etiquette was an important aspect of social life for the Peter Alexeyevich. In his attempts to teach Russian people the basics of it, he prohibited such things as picking one’s nose, licking dirty fingers, dangling feet and blowing one’s nose in the tablecloth. Those are certainly some good quality developments. Way to go, Petya!
The emperor knew a great deal about having fun too. He often held assemblies where guests enjoyed delicious food and alcohol. All participants were not advised to indulge in eating, but were strongly encouraged to drink till their legs give off. To the ones who couldn’t stand straight drinks were served. And if someone lost conscious from the copious amount of alcohol, their bodies were gently carried to the side so they won’t get in the way of the dancing people.
However, getting drunk was strictly prohibited for the marines, when they were on duty outside the country. They were expected to be a shining example of Russian men and they were not allowed to cast a shadow on the country’s reputation. Another ordinance denied steersman an opportunity to relax in taverns. It was prohibited to let them in for they were always responsible for a great number of ruckus and fights.
In order to change the image of a contemporary Russian men and make them look “more European”, so to say, Peter the Great installed a high tax on beards. Everybody was supposed to shave them off unless they were ready to pay for having their facial hair. The only exception were the members of the clergy.
Another interesting order of his was the one that prohibited senators to read their speeches from a paper. From then on, all of them had to speak freely, without any scripts. This was done in order to expose the ones with low intellectual abilities, who were not good for thinking fast on their feet. Subordinates, on the other hand, were commanded to pull on a silly, foolish facade when talking to their superiors. According to the Emperor’s opinion, men shouldn’t be allowed to show that they are in any way smarter than their bosses in order not to embarrass them.
As you can see, some of the new laws of that time were pretty odd. But there is no denying that they did manage to bring European customs and behavioural peculiarities to Russia. Peter the Great in many ways determined future evolution and history of his empire. So who are we to judge a couple of his strange decisions?