Culture & Society

During the September 13 extended Cabinet session, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov informed about the publication of his new book on the Turkmen alabay dog. The new book by the head of state, which explores yet another side of the national historical and cultural heritage, is a wonderful gift to his fellow countrymen ahead of Neutrality Day. An enormous amount of research work has been usefully summarized in the new work, which is a welcome addition to the collection of books written by the head of state on what is a source of pride for the Turkmen nation. Historical experience and traditions form a secure foundation for growth and progress, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov notes. Not only does the book Türkmen Alabaýy’ tells about the origins and development of the well-known dog breed, one of the oldest breeds in the world, but also investigates a cultural phenomenon of the Turkmen alabay that takes its rightful place among the national symbols stretching back over the centuries, such as the Akhalteke horse, Turkmen carpet and Turkmen melon. The national treasures have lost none of their importance today, but have become even more meaningful, having absorbed the admiration of many generations, their gratitude to our ancestors for the painstaking work allowing them to leave behind these precious possessions. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov’s well-directed and vigorous efforts to widely popularize the Turkmen nation’s heritage have facilitated its continued promotion, making it more and more recognizable throughout the world. Türkmen Alabaýy’, which will be a substantial contribution to this extensive work, provides a wealth of fascinating details on the eponymous character of the colorful, richly-illustrated edition, as well as on the role the alabay dog has played in the Turkmen nation’s history, its folklore, literature, arts and philosophy. It was no coincidence that at the suggestion of the Turkmen leader the alabay dog had been chosen the official mascot of the triumphant 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat in 2017. As before, it remains the nation’s favorite pet and the epitome of true friendship, bravery and strength. Although these bold dogs may be fierce-looking, everyone, who knows them well, understands perfectly that they have a tender heart, totally appreciating good care, hidden behind that tough façade. Kind and friendly to children, alabay dogs will tolerate their antics. This allows them to become a true family member. The President points out that they have no equal as guard dogs (Turkmen cattle herders are well aware of this) and will do their very best to protect their owner and everything around him: his house, his relatives, and, most importantly, his children. The breed’s distinctive characteristics are dignity and self-reliance. Experienced specialists know that it is totally inappropriate to use punishment when training alabay dogs. First, it is necessary to earn their respect and then the dogs will follow their owner’s instructions obediently. It took thousands of years to develop these traits through selective breeding. The dog breed has several names: the Turkmen alabay, Central Asian shepherd and Turkmen wolf dog. According to different estimates of professional breeders, the breed’s origins are thought to date back 3,000-6,000 years ago. Images of the trustworthy canine companion of shepherds, found by archeologists in Turkmenistan, indicate to the ancient origins of alabay dogs. Terracotta figurines of dogs with cropped ears and tails were unearthed at the famous archeological sites such as Altyn Depe and Gonur Depe (2000 BC) at different times. No other nation in the world holds the dog in great reverence like Turkmens. This is evidenced by the grave site of an Alabay dog buried with ceremony discovered in Margiana, the fifth cradle of human civilization, where archeologists believe traces of proto-Zoroastrianism have been found. Described by many flattering epithets and regarded as sacred in the Avesta, the collection of sacred writings of Zoroastrianism, the dogs are considered only slightly less developed creatures on earth than humans. Dog burials found in necropolises in the country of Margush provide ample evidence. Archeologists explain these burials by the fact that alabay dogs were regarded as warriors’ and the people living in Margiana buried them with full honors like heroes. They also believed that the dogs would continue to protect the oasis and its inhabitants after death. One of the Parthian rhytons from Old Nisa depicts a huge alabay dog. Ashgabat’s museums also boast other dog sculptures, created at various artisanal centers and in different centuries. Among the recent finds unearthed at the medieval settlement of Dandanakan is a small faience statuette that features a realistic Turkmen alabay with its distinctive characteristics. Today, it is one of the most popular breeds in the world. Over the past years, Europe has seen a growing interest in the Central Asian shepherd as well. Largely through the efforts of dog breeders and thanks to the complete isolation of alabay dogs from other breeds, Turkmenistan has successfully preserved breed purity. Since ancient times, representatives of the breed have been used as herding dogs, as well as patrol and watch dogs making excellent guards. At present, the Central Asian shepherd ranks among the best guard dog breeds. Turkmen shepherds are remarkable for their gentleness and calmness. They are intelligent, fearless, independent, self-assured canines that fiercely protect their territory and show lightning reactions in the face of danger. The new book by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov is a mine of information on the Turkmen people’s national symbol, the alabay dog. It is filled with compelling stories, facts, legends, parables, and archival material. There is no doubt that the book will play an overriding role in promoting the breed and the Turkmen nation’s heritage in the world.