The Cheat with the Ace of Diamonds, by George de la Tour, c. 1635. Louvre Museum, Paris.

Swindle & Fraud

Volume VIII, Number 2 | spring 2015


In January 1787 Catherine the Great embarked on a six-month survey of her empire, and Gregory Potemkin, former lover and governor general of Crimea, was among those in charge of the tour. Georg von Helbig, a critic of Potemkin, coined the term Potemkin villages to indict the governor general for falsifying his accomplishments, going so far as to claim that while Catherine sailed the Dnieper River, elaborate facades were set up, removed, and placed farther downriver so that she would see the same scenes five or six times.

We have to distrust each other. It is our only defense against betrayal.

—Tennessee Williams, 1953