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At Turkmenistan’s Weddings, Three’s Company

A wedding is usually a special day for two people in love. But in the land of The Protector, three’s the charm. 

Couples tying the knot in the famously overbearing state are now being forced to pose for their keepsake photo before a portrait of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the Chronicles of Turkmenistan reported this week. 

The website, run by Turkmen exiles in Vienna, says couples who want to register their marriage have to pay photographers at registry offices – known as Palaces of Happiness – for a photo album containing at least three photos of the newlyweds taken with a portrait of The Protector, as Berdymukhamedov likes to be known.

It is unknown whether the gimmick was dreamed up by registrars and photographers as a money-making scam or whether orders were received from on high to insert The Protector into every couple’s married life. But the report says the new requirement has appeared not only in the capital, Ashgabat, but also in other major towns.

Berdymukhamedov has slightly less of a reputation for eccentricity than his predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov, whose antics included building a giant golden statue of himself, which rotated with the sun, and renaming months after himself and his family. Yet Berdymukhamedov is no shrinking violet: Like his predecessor, who went by the title Turkmenbashi (“Head of the Turkmens”), all over the country The Protector has plastered photos of himself staring down upon his subjects. He even appears as a dashboard good-luck charm in taxicabs. 

Now newlyweds will have a permanent memento hovering over their wedding day, too.

At Turkmenistan’s Weddings, Three’s Company

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