Into the Weird, Opulent World of Turkmenistan’s Dentist-DJ Dictator – VICE

With the title of Protector, Turkmenistan’s president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow is all about big, bombastic gestures that let you know he’s in charge. Most recently he ordered a 20-foot gold statue of his favorite dog – a local Alabay breed – erected in the capital Ashgabat. 

“Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow is a megalomaniac,” political scientist Luca Anceschi, also a senior lecturer in Central Asian studies at the University of Glasgow told VICE World News. “This is a guy who wants to be seen as an untouchable demigod.”

He added that the prime minister’s propaganda factory constantly churns out myths to brainwash the wider population, while wider-scale corruption funds and benefits the country’s elite in a web of patronage. In 2015, Berdimuhamedow immortalized himself in gold on horseback, holding a dove on top of a column of white marble. His officials insisted that statues are built in response to overwhelming public demand.

“My main goal is to serve the people and the Motherland,” Berdimuhamedow said. “And so, I will listen to the opinion of the people and do as they choose.” 

It might scream crazy dictator to some, but to experts like Anceschi it’s also a testament to a growing personality cult. Berdimuhamedow sits at the top of an authoritarian regime that leaves no room for freedom or dissent.

A video from 2015 that shows the