Turkmenistan Leader Unveils Huge Gilded Statue of Nation’s Favorite Dog

Turkmenistan’s leader has unveiled a six-meter-high gilded statue of a dog in the center of a busy traffic circle in the nation’s capital, Ashgabat.
 
In a dedication ceremony broadcast on state television, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov could be seen acknowledging a socially distant gathering to celebrate the Alabai, or Central Asian shepherd dog. The statue features a video screen wrapped around its pedestal showing the dogs in action.  
 
The autocratic leader has long praised the dog as part of Turkmenistan’s national heritage. He has written a book and poem about the local breed, and he gifted one to Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom he has close ties.
 
The dog is a large stocky breed known as a “wolf crusher” for its prowess in guarding sheep and goats. It also is used to guard homes and often is used in dog fights, a popular passtime in Turkmenistan.
 
Berdymukhamedov erected a similar large gilded statue elsewhere in the city in 2015 in tribute to the Akhal-Teke horse, with himself in the saddle.  
 
Dogs and horses are sources of national pride in the isolated desert nation, where they are widely used by the many traditional herders among the population of 6 million people, which largely depends on revenues from natural gas reserves.
 
Berdymukhamedov has run the tightly controlled, autocratic former Soviet republic since 2007 and is unofficially known as Arkadag, or protector.

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