Turkmenistan honours dogs and horses during 30th independence parade
Turkmenistan has marked 30 years of independence since the fall of the Soviet Union with a parade led by the dictatorial president on horseback along with a flotilla of warships in the Caspian Sea and praise for Turkmen dogs.
The military showcase in Ashgabat featured President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov saluting the parade from an open-top car and then from a prized, grey Akhal-Teke horse.
All foreign spectators were subjected to coronavirus testing and were kept apart but no one taking part in the parade wore a face mask.
Turkmenistan has reported no Covid-19 cases – a claim which has been greeted with scepticism internationally – but has made vaccination compulsory for all over-18s.
Human rights groups say the gas-rich Central Asian state is one of the world’s most repressive nations. About 2 million people have reportedly left since 2008, despite bans on foreign travel for the under-40s.
The independence day parade included civil servants demonstrating the achievements of their departments and Alabai sheepdogs alongside displays of military hardware.
Tanks, armoured-personnel carriers, self-propelled artillery and unmanned drones were all on display.
An air show included combat helicopters and fighter jets that flew above Ashgabat as a giant screen broadcast the naval display at the Caspian Sea.
Gas-rich Turkmenistan has a long herding tradition revolving around prized breeds of horses and dogs.
Berdymukhamedov, who has ruled the country of 6 million since 2006, has introduced an April public holiday in honour of the Alabai sheepdog and Turkmenistan’s Akhal-Teke horses, the Neutral Turkmenistan newspaper reported.
He inaugurated a 15-metre golden statue of a dog in Ashgabat last year.
Berdymukhamedov is not the country’s first eccentric leader.
Turkmenistan’s first leader Sapurmurat Niyazov banned opera and foreign ballet in 2001 in order to “protect” Turkmen culture.
He also banned gold teeth, circuses, recorded music at weddings and men from using car radios.
He outlawed lip-syncing at public concerts and dogs from Ashgabat, because of their “unappealing odour”. He also purportedly banned beards and makeup for television presenters. Niyazov told people to chew on bones and banned the Turkmen word for bread and renamed it gurbansoltan, after his mother.
The parade in Ashgabat to mark 30 years of post-Soviet independence. Marking Turkmenistan is one of the world’s more eccentric countries. Picture credit: YouTube