a Potemkin village

Potemkin village

Something that is made to seem very grand, elaborate, and/or prosperous for the purposes of impressing others, but which in reality has no real worth or substance. Taken from a story about Russian minister Grigory Potemkin (1739–1791), who allegedly erected false, painted façades to mimic a thriving, successful village along the Dnieper River in Crimea to impress the visiting Empress Catherine II. The tightly controlled totalitarian country is often accused of creating a Potemkin village each time it televises some event, a meager attempt to convince the outside world that its people are happy under the thumb of the dictatorship.
See also: Potemkin, village

a Potemkin village

a sham or unreal thing.
Count Potemkin ( 1739–91 ), a favourite of Empress Catherine II of Russia, reputedly ordered a number of fake villages to be built for the empress's tour of the Crimea in 1787 .
See also: Potemkin, village
References in periodicals archive ?
I believe that under the dictatorial watch of Mayor Duterte, he has successfully converted Davao City into a Potemkin village, "a pretentiously showy or imposing facade intended to mask or divert attention from an embarrassing or shabby fact or condition" where like in the Animal Kingdom, "some are more equal than others."
Elvira's Beauty Shop, 2001, is a Potemkin village of facades behind which there's nothing but the great void of Texas, signaled by the oppressively black space of the night sky.
The time Putin spends abroad is the foreign policy equivalent of a Potemkin Village. They were a great power.