Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Potemkin village

When I saw Paul Krugman's opinion piece in the New York Times, I was reminded that the metaphor he used was helpful in explaining government and politics in Russia. Here's the introduction to his editorial. Now imagine how this image (a Potemkin village) could help make sense out of elections in contemporary Russia, a constitution that can be modified by the supermajority in the Duma, or Putin as virtually president for life.

Do a web search for Potemkin Village to see how common the idea is.

Trump’s Potemkin Economy
According to legend, Grigory Potemkin, one of Catherine the Great’s ministers (and her lover), created a false impression of prosperity when the empress toured Ukraine. He supposedly did this by setting up fake villages, or possibly just facades, along her route, then dismantling them after she passed, and setting them up again further down the road.
A movie set as a Potemkin Village

There probably isn’t much if any truth to the story — among other things, Catherine was too smart and tough-minded to be that easily deceived — but never mind: the legend has become a byword for the general idea of prettifying reality to please a tyrannical ruler…


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