Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Potemkin-Putin Village

I've taught about the Potemkin village metaphor as long as I've taught comparative politics. It just won't go away. But now, maybe we ought to call it the Putin village.

Russia: Fake facades on unkempt homes 'to impress Putin'
A Russian city has wrapped its dilapidated buildings in fake facades ahead of a planned visit by President Vladimir Putin, it's emerged.
The front (left) and back of a house in Suzdal

Local authorities in the historic city of Suzdal draped unkempt traditional wooden houses in banners camouflaged to look like well-tended facades, complete with carved window frames and flowerpots in the windows, according to a blog post by a local journalist. The sprucing-up operation earlier in November came ahead of a national conference of local government leaders that Putin was scheduled to attend.

Media websites - such as Moskovsky Komsomolets - were quick to liken the result to fake villages said to have been erected by Catherine the Great's favourite, Grigory Potemkin, in war-ravaged regions of southern Ukraine in the 18th Century. This was allegedly done in an effort to impress the visiting empress and foreign ambassadors. The window-dressing habit apparently continued in Soviet Russia. Stories abound of regional authorities giving blocks of flats quick licks of paint and stacking fresh goods in usually barren shops ahead of visits by party bigwigs.

n Suzdal's case, the effort seems to have been in vain. Putin never got around to putting in an appearance after all.

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