...the close relationship between Field Marshal Potyomkin and Empress Catherine made it likely that she was aware of the fictitious nature of the villages. Thus, the deception would have been mainly directed towards the foreign ambassadors accompanying the imperial party.
Regardless, Potyomkin 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 phrase may not apply to its original context.
Well we have a modern update to this, as can be seen here.
The idea, right now, that Israel and those neighbors with which it has no peace accord - which means Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza - have even a remote chance of reaching some sort of peace accord is the modern Potemkin village, with the goal of deluding the chattering classes in the West that there can be such an agreement. As such, it takes pressure off the Israelis and gives legitimacy to the Syrians (God knows they need as much as they can get).
What Mr. Totten, however, fails to mention is who is interested in keeping up the conflict more so than anyone else: Iran.
And in an aside: there are those who do not need Potemkin Villages.
As can be seen here.
Unannounced, quiet, away from the limelight, President Bush did what President Obama failed to do: he did the right thing and was there for the victims' families, for as long as they needed.
What a difference.