Society, Culture, Education & Self

A Simulacrum – 'Pokazukha'


The launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union in 1957 revealed itself as a Styrofoam Crown King simulacrum.
The reality of observed facts and gathered intelligence that constituted solid knowledge about the inferior state of the Soviet Union's economic, political, and social spheres of life and military capabilities was ignored
by the United States’ politicians in favor of gaining popularity with voters and meeting the demands
of powerful social groups.

In the Soviet Union, the launch of Sputnik was an old cultural stratagem known as a Potemkin façade.
It was a fake appearance of scientific and technological progress by the country that hid behind its Iron Curtain an ideology inflicted by a brutal police force, an economy sustained by prisoners' labor, and scientific
and technological achievements developed within the dungeons of the Gulag camps.

Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin1 (1895–1975) conceptualized a theory of carnival, a long-practiced custom where, at certain times of the year, the clown and fool as well as the czar and king, find themselves,
in a setting of liberated cultural traditions, reigning over the barriers of social constructions. Such experiences
of cultural freedom were crushed under the cruel ideology and practices of the Soviet regime.
Synthesized with the customary technique of the Potemkin facade, the conventions were directed into a new cultural hybrid – pokazukha.

The unification of the Soviet people with their leader metamorphosed into idolization of the fake constructions – pokazukha. In the Potemkin facade approach, one party didn't know that it was being tricked
by the magnificent displays screening a lousy reality. In pokazukha, as with window dressing, both sides are visible and people are well aware of an incongruity between what is displayed and what is available in reality. And yet, to stay alive, people had no other choice but to play the spectacle as if they couldn't see the truth. Throughout the seventy years of the Soviet regime, the people underwent a thorough brainwashing, so that they were trained to act their part in a pokazukha spectacle by instinct, without having a script for every new situation.

The pokazukha was and still remains a tragic Soviet and post-Soviet cultural trend that indicates people's crushed spirit and their readiness to accept any government lies without resistance but, on the contrary,
with ready praise. This trend became so ingrained in Russian collective psychology that it is normalized
to the point of becoming indiscernible. There are examples presented in the book I Really Do Care – Shouldn't We All? that indicate its continuing presence.

If pokazukha is nothing peculiar as observed in Russian cultural dealings, it is, however, a striking experience to watch its distinct emergence in the contemporary politics of the United States. The rise of a camp of Trump's followers fighting for power by not hesitating a bit to play 'pure-coin' pokazukha—that is, acting as if the lie is truth and no one sees it—is something that is not only remarkably dangerous, but also somewhat bloodcurdling. That word maybe taken as an exaggeration. But there is no term that can exaggerate the effect
of witnessing the most influential country in the world being taken over by a force that is so like that which operated in one of the most harmful governments in the history of the mankind.

Potemkin facade – Russian cultural trend of screening lavishly something that
is poorly done or poorly organized.


Carnival – Mikhail Bakhtin theory
of a cultural tradition that allows
a temporary emancipation from socially constructed boundaries.


Pokasukha – a cultural trend where people accept and take part
in a spectacle based on a false premise and made-up facts as if they are truth and as if no one can see their falsehood.

1 Bakhtin, Mikhail, M. (1984). Rabelais and His World. Tvorchestvo Fransua Rable [Trans.]. Indiana University Press.

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