Potemkin Villages

In 1787, the Russian Empress Catherine II embarked on a long journey from Saint Petersburg to see the city of Novorossiysk in the Crimean Peninsula, which had been taken over from the Ottoman Empire. The empress was accompanied by her court and foreign ambassadors who wanted to see life in the Russian countryside.

In order to impress the traveling group and hide the true reality of poverty and underdevelopment, Prince Potemkin came up with an unorthodox idea. He had frames of windmills placed on the horizon and set up villages close to the road. Potemkin also gathered good-looking peasants and ordered them to pretend to prepare hay, conduct trade, and have celebrations. All these acts were performed at all stops. As a result, the Empress' group was thoroughly impressed. That is why the Russians now use the phrase "Potemkin village" to describe any action that deceives others into believing a situation is better than it really is.

The phrase can also be applied to many things happening in Mongolia. We are currently too focused on our external appearance without being able to truly understand or pay attention to internal reasoning. Those who are looking for political gain have used this situation to their advantage, and are pushing harder to deceive others.

For instance, tens of thousands of people spent a whole day in a stadium looking for Chinggis Khaan this summer. Chinggis Khaan turned out to be a member of parliament, who is staying silent, waiting for the right moment to be "acknowledged". After the National Naadam Festival, two Danshig Naadam Festivals were organized. The one that was held in Uvurkhangai Province was funded with 500 million MNT from the state budget and 100 million MNT from the local budget. The Danshig Naadam in Ulaanbaatar was supported with funding of 600 million MNT from the budget for the city. There is nothing wrong with marking a historical anniversary and attracting tourists. However, it would be more appropriate if it was carried out by tour operator associations, companies, and businesses.

It is time to think and question whether or not these events are a top priority when funding is about to be drawn down from the state and local budgets. For example, one of the issues that must be urgently resolved is the availability of water and sanitation facilities. Installing a water fountain on a bridge in Ulaanbaatar and improving sanitation facilities in ger districts are two fundamentally different issues that...

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