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“Potemkin Villages” Expose a World of Architectural Fakery

According to Russian legend, "Potemkin Villages"—entirely fake urban conurbations made to appear real—can be traced to it's namesake, Field Marshall Aleksandrovich Potemkin. In 1787, this soldier faced an unusual request: Catherine the Great demanded the construction of swathes of artificial settlements along her route to the Crimea in order to disguise, or veil, the run-down face of the region.

In a new book, photographer Gregor Sailer documents versions of Potemkin Villages from around the world. From faithful replicas of European cities in China to vehicle test cities in Scandinavia, grand political gestures to combat training centers, Sailer’s images lend us access to "the world of fakes, copies, and stage sets."

Germany, Schnöggersburg. Image © Gregor SailerGermany, Schnöggersburg. Image © Gregor SailerRussia, Ufa & Suzdal. Image © Gregor SailerUSA, Junction City. Image © Gregor Sailer+ 12