An example of one of the houses in the town covered in decorated tarpaulin.
To prepare for a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin, authorities in the small Russian town of Suzdal covered up all the town’s numerous dilapidated houses with large tarpaulin prints depicting with much nicer homes. Residents were also asked to be on their best behaviour. All for naught, as the president ended up cancelling his visit, which was supposed to take place in early November.
Crumbling walls, sagging doors, broken windows… The authorities in Suzdal did not want Putin to see the poor condition of some of the homes along its main road, which his car was supposed to drive down. With no time for renovations, they decided to get artistic, as the blogger O Dimitrios
revealed. They covered the homes in tarpaulin that made it look like they were in perfect shape and freshly painted. Some of the tarpaulin covers even featured details like potted plants and cats.
This technique is reminiscent of the Potemkin villages, which, as legend has it, were Crimean villages camouflaged by the Russian prince Grigory Potemkin before a visit by Empress Catherine II in 1787. Today, the phrase ‘Potemkin village’ has come to mean something that is exaggerated to look better than it really is.
Suzdal’s mayor defended the measure by explaining that “the city does not have the right to invest money into these houses [as they are private property], and we can’t order the residents to repair them, since they don’t have enough money.”
This is not the first time in recent history that a visit by a high ranking Russian official caused local authorities to panic. In 2011, when Vladimir Putin, then prime minister, visited a hospital in Ivanovo, extra equipment was brought in from several other hospitals in the region, and employees were asked to exaggerate their salaries.