Russia, known for Potemkin villages, is now ‘a garden of fig leaves,’ Yerofeyev says

One of "Potemkin village" buildings where only the central street-facing facade is maintained while the rest of it is let to crumble to pieces in Norilsk, Russia (Image: tema.ru)

One of "Potemkin village" buildings where only the central street-facing facade is maintained while the rest of it is let to crumble to pieces in Norilsk, Russia (Image: tema.ru) 

Analysis & Opinion, Russia

Russia gave the world the Potemkin village, in which officials tried to cover up problems from those above them; but now it has become “a garden of fig leaves,” in which those at the top have turned the country into “a garden of fig leaves” in which the real reason the regime is doing something is concealed under a lie that it is doing something else, according to Viktor Yerofeyev.

The situation today is “quite murky,” the Moscow novelist and commentator says, with winds blowing in various directions as far as Russian culture is concerned. But the murkiness is intentional and covers the fact that “everything is becoming worse and worse.”

The realm of culture is where this is perhaps clearest, Yerofeyev says. On the one hand, “culture exists independently from censorship.” Writers can write in the most horrific times as did Platonov and Pasternak. But on the other, the Putin regime is restricting the ability of writers and other producers of culture to reach their audiences.

How it is doing so is significant: If 20 years ago, cultural figures could produce what they wanted and count on reaching an audience, now, it is impossible for them to do so “without the fear that their work one way or another will be interpreted as Russophobic or offensive to the feelings of someone and so on.”

This reflects one “episode of the civil war” which is taking place “between the Russia which wants to be part of Europe and the Russia which wants to belong to itself and to live with isolationism, nationalism and an extremely archaic philosophy,” the writer says. Putin and his regime belong to the latter unfortunately.

But the Kremlin hides its true purposes behind various “fig leaves,” claims that it is doing something for one reason when in fact it is doing something for quite another and that it uses to reduce people to objects that the powers that be control and direct rather than being individuals who belong to themselves.


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Edited by: A. N.

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