Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, October 28, 2011

Another Potemkin village

Even New York Times reporter Ellen Barry includes a reference to Potemkin Villages in her report about a "rally" for Putin that really wasn't. It all makes me wonder if Grigory Potemkin could have gotten away with building facades for Catherine the Great if the peasants had had Twitter.

I'd extend the Potemkin Village metaphor from the "rally," described below, to the whole campaign by Putin for the presidency.

Social Media Raise Curtain on Staged Event in Moscow
Dmitri A. Medvedev, stepped into a packed lecture hall at Moscow State University’s venerable journalism department. Applause washed over him, proof that progressive, social media-savvy young people still look to him as a standard-bearer.

Except — it wasn’t.

Starting that morning, journalism students had been complaining over Twitter that the 300 people in the audience were outsiders, chosen by Kremlin-connected organizers and brought to the university. They included contingents from pro-Kremlin youth movements [Nashi], while only a tiny number of students from the department were allowed in…

Stage-managed events are a mainstay of politics here, but this year they are being greeted with sourness, especially among people who get their news from the Internet…

Mr. Medvedev himself has expressed disdain for the political showcases known as Potemkin villages, after the fake settlements erected by the minister Grigory Potemkin to ingratiate himself with Catherine the Great…

It is difficult to imagine this playing out so publicly in years past, before the center of political discussion swung to the Internet. Social networks have forced the authorities to respond to unorthodox critiques: two weeks ago, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin’s press secretary explained on a Web-based news channel that some of Mr. Putin’s televised exploits had been staged…

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