President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov solemnly unveiled a monument to Alabai, a giant gilded statue of the Central Asian Shepherd Dog bred by the Turkmens and a symbol of Turkmen national pride.
Along with horses, dogs are considered part of the country's national heritage and are widely used by local shepherds to graze sheep. Berdymukhamedov, 63, wrote a book and a poem about the Alabai dog, and in 2017 presented Russian President Vladimir Putin with a puppy of this breed for his birthday. In 2019, Berdymukhamedov made the same gift to Dmitry Medvedev.
The 15-meter-high golden dog statue is the latest addition to Ashgabat's growing collection of monuments and complements the gilded statue of President Berdymukhamedov himself, perched on a horse on a white marble cliff, built at another major intersection in 2015.
Over the years of his reign, the President of Turkmenistan has initiated major construction in the capital, which showcases her with golden domes, giant golden statues and white marble buildings. The city is listed in the Guinness Book of Records for the highest density of white marble buildings in the world, and Berdymukhamedov's portrait hangs on many of them.
Other projects include a $ 2.3 billion bird-shaped airport and the $ 5 billion Olympic Village built for the Asian Indoor Games.
At the same time, the population of Turkmenistan is faced with hyperinflation and food shortages. The economy of Turkmenistan, which relies on the country's vast gas reserves, is now in the grip of its worst economic crisis and on the brink of collapse, in part due to low gas prices and falling natural gas exports.
Information from the former Soviet republic, considered one of the most repressive states in the world by Human Rights Watch and the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights, is under strict control. According to the independent watchdog group Freedom House, there are no independent media outlets and most foreign websites have been blocked.
It is interesting that not a single case of Covid-19 has been officially registered in Turkmenistan - this is one of the very few countries in the world that live with such statistics.