In a move that echoes his predecessor’s cult of personality, the isolated Central Asian state of Turkmenistan on Monday unveiled a massive gold statue of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov riding a horse.
The 21-meter (69-foot) statue, located in the capital, Ashgabat, depicts the president mounted on his favorite horse, Akkan (“White Khan”), and carrying a dove with his right hand.
Cast in bronze and covered in 24-carat gold leaf, it is the first such monument of the president of the energy-rich former Soviet country.
The statue is called “The Protector,” Berdymukhamedov’s unofficial title.
Berdymukhamedov, a former dentist, came to power after the death of Saparmurat Niyazov, who built a gold statue of himself that rotated with the sun’s movements before he suffered sudden heart failure in 2006.
The statue was taken down several years after Niyazov’s death, but has since been relocated to the outskirts of the capital.
Niyazov, known for his cult of personality, also renamed months after members of his family and wrote a “book of the soul” that all school children were expected to learn by heart.
At the unveiling of the new statue, which Berdymukhamedov did not attend, parliament Speaker Akdja Nurberdieva said it was the result of “multiple suggestions from simple people, work collectives and public organizations,” in order “to mark his services to the homeland.”
I can’t be the only one thinking that the horse looks subtly off? Either Berdymukhamedov is Andre the Giant, or that horse is on temporary loan from a Thelwell cartoon.