In the late 18th Century, Russian ruler Catherine the Great chose to visit the villages of her country to see how the peasants were living. Her first minister, Potemkin, arranged to have façades of fake villages filled with actors constructed along Catherine’s route that showed a scenic, peaceful and prosperous country. Actors played the parts of the peasants, and Catherine remained in the confines of her carriage as she travelled through. Potemkin feared that Catherine might react badly if she encountered the despair and poverty that was really being faced by the Russian serfs, and as a result of his actions Catherine saw a healthy, happy nation. The idea of a fake façade built to distort a view became known as a Potemkin Village.
There have been many such illusions created by councils and governments in years since. In his book The New Rulers of The World, journalist John Pilger drew attention to how the council of Sydney had hidden the city’s poorer aboriginal communities from the Olympic Committee during the selection process for the 2000 Olympic Games. Continue reading