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Etymology

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Named for purported fake settlements erected at the direction of Russian minister Grigori Aleksandrovich Potemkin to fool Empress Catherine II during her visit to Crimea in 1787. Calque of Russian потёмкинская деревня (potjómkinskaja derevnja).

Noun

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Potemkin village (plural Potemkin villages)

  1. (idiomatic) Any false construct devised to disguise a shortcoming or improve appearances.
    • 1949 April 3, Harry Schwartz, “Soviet Capital Likened to a Potemkin Village”, in The New York Times[1], →ISSN, page E4:
      Such concentration not only simplifies the task of keeping tabs on foreigners' movements, but it also enables the Government to influence the outside world's picture of Russia by arranging matters in Moscow to make it a sort of huge, latter-day Potemkin Village.
    • 2005 December 11, Frank Rich, “It Takes a Potemkin Village”, in The New York Times[2], →ISSN:
      When a government substitutes propaganda for governing, the Potemkin village is all. Since we don't get honest information from this White House, we must instead, as the Soviets once did, decode our rulers' fictions to discern what's really happening.
    • 2007 August 14, Cory Doctorow, “Don't fall for the Potemkin scam”, in The Guardian[3]:
      When Soviet bureaucrats wanted to impress foreign visitors with the success of the grand experiment, they would visit Potemkin villages—fake towns where actors pretended to be living a life of luxury amid bulging granaries and well-paved streets bustling with happy babushkas pushing prams.

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