As countries throughout the world rethink monuments to notable figures from the past, asking whether they reflect current values, the president of Turkmenistan, one of the world’s most repressive regimes, has erected a monument to a figure that stands for independence, courage, and self-confidence—if you go by the American Kennel Club’s description, anyway: the Central Asian Shepherd, known locally as the Alabay.
President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedovn has placed a 19-foot-tall gold sculpture of the dog on a 30-foot pedestal at the center of a traffic circle on Magtumguly Avenue. The monument is part of the latest phase of urban development in the nation’s capital, Ashgabat, a city with a population of 1 million, which includes construction of new high-rises and a shopping and entertainment center. Shepherds frolic on a video screen wrapped around the circular base of the sculpture.
The monument pays tribute to the animal’s “exemplary courage and cordial heart,” according to the state news agency, which posted the unveiling of the statue, in a traffic circle in the nation’s capital of Ashgabat, on its YouTube channel. The dog is reportedly a favorite of the president, who last year, “released a book about the breed, including a poem he reportedly wrote during a cabinet meeting,” according to the .
According to the American Kennel Club, the Central Asian Shepherd is are among the oldest dogs in existence, with evidence suggesting the breed goes back more than five millennia.
The streets of the capital city are “lined with marble and filled with golden statues,” according to a report from Business Insider, though, according to Human Rights Watch, Turkmenistan ranks as “one of the world’s most isolated and oppressively governed countries.”