Turkmenistan is the gold standard when it comes to dictatorial stereotypes. The small central Asian country’s previous leader built a giant rotating gold statue of himself in the center of its capital, renamed months of the year after his family members, and changed his own name to Turkmenbashi—”father of all Turkmen.”
After he died in 2006, current president Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov relocated the statue to the city’s edge, and later created a giant monument of himself, astride a horse. He has also enforced various idiosyncratic tastes on citizens, including abolishing black cars in favor of white ones, his favorite color.
In 2015, his administration banned the import of black cars; customs officials at the time reportedly (link in Russian) couldn’t explain why, other than that white “brings good luck.” In Nov. 2017, many officials were ordered to only have white cars. Now, ordinary residents in the capital Ashgabat will have to repaint their black cars in white or silver, or face fines, Radio Free Europe’s Turkmenistan service reports.
The repaint job can cost anywhere between $1,000 and around $3,000, according to reports. That’s a serious sum in the country, which is blessed with natural resources but where few citizens are wealthy. Turkmen government sources told Radio Free Europe that the decision to change cars’ colors was linked to Berdymukhamedov’s love of the color white.