WHEN THE PRESIDENT COMES

in Ethnologia Europaea
Author:
Anastasiya Astapova University of Tartu, Uppsala University anastasiya.ast@gmail.com

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The Potemkin village is a metaphor for the cases of conscious, yet false construction or beautification for the sake of presenting something as better than it is, usually in front of high officials. Enumerating multiple cases and possible applications of the term (and its synonyms), I base my research on Belarus, a former Soviet and still socialist independent state governed by the same president since 1994. Going there for fieldwork at least twice a year, I noticed the extreme popularity of stories about Potemkin villages erected for the visits of the president, high officials, or foreigners. Analyzing vernacular attitudes toward Potemkinism, I argue for the multidimensionalunderstanding of it, suggesting that in a socialist state, Potemkinist order becomes a viable alternative to democracy and a significant means for the country’s self-representation.

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