January 17 in Russian history

1700: (Julian Jan. 6) Tsar Peter I the Great, who had just returned from Western Europe, decreed that all Russians, except for clerics, had to shave their beards off and to wear short dress instead of the old long one. The new clothes were copied from European fashions: the summer clothes reminded German dress and the winter ones were in the Hungarian style.

1799: Ballerina Avdotya Ilyinichna Istomina was born. Her father was a policeman. Mother died soon. At the age of 6 she entered the St.Petersburg theater college, which was a luck for a girl from a poor family. At the age of 9, she danced for the first time in the ballet 'Zephyr and Flora'. She was the first ballerina to dance sur les pointes, on the toes. She was known not only for her outstanding technique, but also for the purely artistic, dramatic talent. Now, her name is widely known because Pushkin, who admired her, mentioned her name in Evgeny Onegin:

Then with a half-ethereal splendour,
Bound where the magic bow will send her,
Istomina, thronged all around
by Naiads, one foot on the ground,
twirls the other slowly as she pleases,
then suddenly she's off, and there
she's up and flying through the air
like fluff before Aeolian breezes;
she'll spin this way and that, and beat
against each other swift, small feet.

Istomina died from cholera on June, 26, 1848.

1920: Capital punishments outlawed in Soviet Russia.During the rule of Ivan IV the Terrible, death penalty was widely used, around 4000 people were killed (it may be interesting to compare the figure with around 72000 vagabonds hanged by Henry VIII). Boris Godunov swore during the accession to observe a five-year moratorium on death penalty. After these five years, though, he used it often. In the times of Peter I, death penalty was the punishment for 123 various crimes. Peter's daughter, Elizabeth, was the first ruler in Europe who attempted to outlaw the capital punishment. During the period of 1891-1905, it was never used. After the revolutions began, in 1905-1906, about 4000 people were shot. Death penalty was outlawed again in 1917, but not for long, until July, 17. During the Soviet period, death penalty was outlawed three times: Nov.1917-Feb.1918, 17 Jan 1920-11 May 1920, 26 May 1947-12 Jan 1950. Since 1962, death penalty became a punishment for 'economic' crimes. 24000 people were executed during 1962-1990. After the break-up of the USSR, use of capital punishment was dramatically cut (163 executions during 1991-1996). Since 1996, the moratorium was enacted and the death penalty is not used now. However, it is not totally outlawed as yet, unfortunately.

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