The ruler of Turkmenistan has unveiled a 50ft golden statue of his favourite dog breed in the country’s capital.
Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who has ruled the Middle Eastern country since 2007, revealed the statue of the Turkmen Alabi dog at a ceremony on Wednesday.
The statue sits at the centre of a roundabout in a newly-built area of Ashgabat, the capital, and features a plinth covered in TV screens that play videos of the dog.
Berdymukhamedov has a long-running love affair with the breed, which is native to Turkmenistan and which he considers part of the country’s national character.
He has dedicated books and poems to the dog breed, describing it as ‘a symbol of achievement and victory’, and once gifted an Alabi puppy to Vladimir Putin.
The statue itself is cast of bronze and stands at 20ft tall, and is covered in 24ct gold leaf. The podium measures 30ft for a total height of 50ft, according to the Turkmenistan government.
The dog sits at the center of a new area of Ashgabat, designed and built to house civil servants.
It includes several white marble apartment buildings, schools, parks, shops, cinemas, wedding venues and sport grounds.
Despite the lavish ceremony, most of Turkmenistan’s population is impoverished and badly repressed.
The barrel-chested, large-skulled dog has been at the side of nomads in the Central-Asian nation for as long as it has existed.
Historian Victoria Clement, author of the book Learning to Become Turkmen, said the breed serves to foster a sense of national pride.
“It assists the state in solidifying the idea of the territory of Turkmenistan as firmly Turkmen,” she told France 24 last year.
The new statue is just the latest opulent monument erected at the behest of the nation’s dictators.
In 2015, Berdymukhamedov unveiled a gold statue of himself in the capital riding a horse atop a cliff of white marble.
And the former dictator, Saparmurat Niyazov, erected a golden statue of himself which would rotate so that it always faced the sun, placing it atop a 246ft-tall tripod.
The capital, Ashgabat, has been described as Pyongyang meets Las Vegas.
The economy of Turkmenistan benefits from huge reserves of oil and natural gas but it’s been called one of the most oppressive nations on Earth.
Freedom House lists Turkmenistan as the fourth least-free country in the world, behind only South Sudan, Eritrea and Syria.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Chris Pleasance and Michael Havis