Turkmenistan's eccentric dictator built a self-glorifying $12m phallic marble monstrosity called the "Neutrality Monument"

Punctuating the skyline of Ashgabat, Turkmenistan's capital, is an architectural monstrosity that defies convention — the Neutrality Monument. This massive 95-meter grotesquely phallic arch, cloaked in gleaming white marble, was the brainchild of the country's eccentric former president, Saparmurat Niyazov, during his megalomaniacal reign in the 1990s.

Niyazov, who led Turkmenistan as an authoritarian dictatorship for 15 years, had a flair for the grandiose. His Neutrality Monument was built to commemorate Turkmenistan's official stance of permanent neutrality that was recognized by the United Nations in 1995. It instead epitomizes Niyazov's boundless vanity and tyrannical excesses.

The monument features three figures — a man, woman, and child — holding aloft the arch, representing the Turkish people's separation from evil. But the real showstopper was the 12-meter tall solid gold statue of Niyazov himself revolving at the top to always face the sun. Its $12 million cost was justified as a "sign of sustainable development," and not a sign of delirious self-aggrandizement funded by siphoning off the impoverished nation's resources.

After Niyazov's death in 2006, his preening golden visage was unceremoniously removed from its rotating perch atop the arch by his successor, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow. However, the towering 75-meter marble monolith endures as an eccentric relic of the former dictator's cult of personality.

Here are some fun facts about Niyazov, courtesy of Wikipedia:

  • He renamed the months and days of the week in Turkmenistan after himself, his relatives, and his book the Ruhnama. For example, September was renamed "Ruhnama" after his autobiography.
  • He made it mandatory to read his autobiography in schools, universities, government offices, and even as part of the driving test.
  • He also abolished the Turkmen word for bread and replaced it with Gurbansoltan, his mother's name.
  • He banned news reporters and presenters from wearing makeup on television, allegedly because he found it difficult to distinguish male anchors from female anchors.
  • Niyazov banished dogs from the capital Ashgabat because of their "unappealing odour"
  • He banned car radios because he considered them to be "useless"

Previously: Turkmenistan wants to extinguish the fiery Darvaza Crater, known as The Gates of Hell