Grigori Aleksandrovich Potemkin (1739–91) was a Russian field marshal who came to the attention of Catherine II (Catherine the Great) for his part in the 1762 coup that made her czarina. He was made count in 1774, at around the same time he became one of Catherine's many lovers; thereafter he had much influence at court and was one of her chief advisors. Potemkin had an important role in the 1783 annexation of the Crimea, for which he was rewarded by being made prince and governor of the new province. In 1787 he organized a fabulous tour of the Ukraine and Crimea for his queen and her guests, and it is said that he masked the poverty of the villages along the route by erecting elaborate cardboard facades of apparent splendour. Though many believe the story to be apocryphal, it has stuck and become an eponym. Thus, a Potemkin village is a pretentiously showy or imposing front which is erected to divert attention from embarrassing or shabby facts or conditions.

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