Potemkin Village

To impress Empress Catherine II during her journey to Crimea in 1787, Grigory Potemkin supposedly built fake, portable villages along her route. His people would disassemble the structures after she passed and re-assemble them farther along her path, making his village appear larger than it was.

A “Potemkin village” is a vanity display to make something look better than it is. Vanity villages can come in many forms—impressive logos to compensate for unimpressive products, vanity metrics that make a project look good but ultimately mean nothing, fancy watches to make you look wealthy when you’re drowning in debt.

I’ve made my fair share of Potemkin villages to impress others or—more often—delude myself. I’ll make elaborate, beautiful plans to create something but take no action to manifest those plans into reality. I’ll feel successful looking at two-dimensional storefronts and imagining the fictitious rooms behind them.

Tesla’s Potemkin village

In what ways do you create Potemkin villages to appear better, smarter, happier, or more successful than you are?