Turkmen dictator's golden statue back
Ashgabat - The notorious golden statue of Turkmenistan's late dictator Saparmurat Niyazov unexpectedly reappeared on Tuesday on a gigantic new monument, one year after it was dismantled from its previous site.
The golden statue that was the symbol of one of the world's most notorious personality cults has been placed on top of a gargantuan "Monument of Neutrality" standing 95m high on the outskirts of the capital Ashgabat, an AFP correspondent said.
The golden statue of Niyazov had previously sat on a 75m "Arch of Neutrality" in the centre of Ashgabat where it famously rotated to face the sun.
Its dismantling in August 2010 was seen as a major step by Niyazov's successor Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov towards softening the often bizarre personality cult of his predecessor.
The statue was placed on Monday on top of the new monument, which was built by a Turkish firm as part of a vast construction programme that Berdymukhamedov has made a centrepiece of his rule, witnesses told AFP.
Notably, the statue now simply looks on the city and does not rotate. It is also located in a usually deserted area at the end of the main road and 6km from the city centre.
Berdymukhamedov has started to dismantle his predecessor's legacy and promised reforms since coming to power in 2007, but critics argue that the changes have been cosmetic and he has started a personality cult of his own.
In his address to mark the 20th anniversary of Turkmenistan's independence from the Soviet Union, Berdymukhamedov did not once mention the name of his predecessor.
Yet Turkmenistan has maintained its reputation as one of the world's most isolated states alongside North Korea.