Potemkin village

From Academic Kids

Potemkin villages were, purportedly, fake settlements erected at the direction of Russian minister Grigori Aleksandrovich Potemkin to fool Empress Catherine II during her visit to Crimea in 1787. Conventional wisdom has it that Potemkin, who led the Crimean military campaign, had hollow facades of villages constructed along the desolate banks of the Dnieper river in order to impress the monarch and her travel party with the value of her new conquests, thus enhancing his standing in the empress's eyes.

Modern historians, however, consider this scenario of self-serving deception to be, at best, an exaggeration, and quite possibly simply malicious rumors spread by Potemkin's opponents. Potemkin did mount efforts to develop the Crimea and probably directed peasants to spruce up the riverfront in advance of the party bringing the empress by boat to the Crimea. But the tale of elaborate, fake settlements, the glowing fires of which were designed to comfort the monarch and her entourage as they surveyed the barren territory at night, is largely fiction. Potemkin had in fact directed the building of fortresses, ships of the line, and thriving settlements, and the tour - which saw real and significant accomplishments - solidified his power.

So, while "Potemkin village" has come to mean, especially in a political context, any hollow or false construct, physical or figurative, meant to hide an undesirable or potentially damaging situation, the irony is that in fact there appears to have been no such thing.

The term "Potemkin Village" is also often used by judges, especially judges who dissent from the majority's opinion on a particular matter, to describe an inaccurate or tortured interpretation and/or application of a particular legal doctrine to the specific facts at issue. Use of the term is meant to imply that the reasons espoused by the majority in support of its decision are not based on accurate or sound law and their restrictive application is merely a masquerade for the court's desire to avoid a difficult decision. Often, the dissent will attempt to reveal the majority's adherence to the restrictive principle at issue as being an inappropriate function for a court because the decision involves more than traditional adjudication because the resolution of the case will effectively create an important and far-reaching policy decision, which the legislature would be the better equipped and more appropriate entity to address.

External links

References

ISBN: 0875803245 (edited and translated from the Russian by Douglas Smith)

de:potjomkinsches Dorf he:כפרי_פוטיומקין hu:Patyomkin-falu

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