A Golden Statue for Turkmenistan Chief’s Favourite Canine

Some animal lovers buy treats for their favorite animals. Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has gone a step further and unveiled a 19-foot sculpture of a gold-colored dog to honor his favorite breed, the Central Asian Shepherd Dog.

The monument to the dog, tail up and head held high, was erected on a pedestal in the middle of a roundabout in the capital, said Ashbagat, the Turkmenistan state news agency, adding that it is the “pride and self-esteem of the breed” reflected confidence. “

The statue was unveiled Wednesday in a ceremony that saw exuberant singers and swirling dancers, clouds of colored balloons and a rotating television screen on the statue’s base broadcast images of the dogs – the breed is locally known as Alabai – in action showing footage that the state broadcaster Altyn Asyr has published on YouTube.

An Alabai puppy held by a young child also appeared as Mr. Berdymukhammedov, an autocrat who rules one of the world’s most repressive governments, watched with apparent pride.

Mr Berdymukhammedov’s love for the Alabai, symbolizing national pride and power, has long been documented. Last year he published a book on the breed, including a poem that he reportedly wrote during a cabinet meeting. When the book was released, participants sang songs in honor of the dog in a crowded hall.

The president’s son, Serdar Berdymukhammedov, widely viewed as a potential successor, is chairman of the Turkmen Alabai Association, which held its first international meeting in August. The government said this month that it is preparing to nominate the dog for inclusion on UNESCO’s World Heritage List as a cultural asset.

The alabai is traditionally used to protect and guard farm animals and is found across Central Asia in countries such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

The dog statue was unveiled as part of a package of new infrastructure in western Ashgabat, the state news agency said, which also included several high-rise buildings and a shopping mall.

Mr Berdymukhammedov, a former dentist who became president in a 2007 election that international observers said was manipulated after the death of the nation’s longtime dictator Saparmurat Niyazov, has a flair for dramatic performance. He has propaganda videos boasting of his athletic and military ability – including one shooting a gun.

Dogs aren’t the only animals to win his heart: he also has an affinity for the Akhal-Teke horse, a Turkmen breed known for their physical prowess and golden sheen. This breed has already been remembered; In 2015, the Turkmen leader unveiled a 69-foot high golden statue of himself on top of an akhal-teke.

The opulent monuments are in stark contrast to the everyday lives of many people in a country that remains impoverished despite the rich natural gas reserves, which it mostly exports to China.

Mr Berdymukhammedov governs the country, which gained independence from Soviet rule in 1991, with autocratic hands, controls all media and punishes unauthorized forms of religious and political expression.

Western human rights organizations have been banned from Turkmenistan and Human Rights Watch calls it “one of the most repressive and closed countries in the world”.

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