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Drive Any Car You Want, As Long As It's White

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has a penchant for white. (file photo)

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has a penchant for white. (file photo)

You can have whatever color car you want in Turkmenistan, as long as it is white.

The government has suspended imports of black, dark blue, and red automobiles, and are telling exporters to ship white cars instead, according to a customs' official who spoke to RFE/RL's Turkmen Service on condition of anonymity.

Existing cars may also be in line for a whitening treatment. A police officer told RFE/RL that police been ordered not to grant required yearly inspection certificates to those who drive cars with the banned colors, although a second police officer denied this.

Repainting a car costs between $800 and $1,000 in Turkmenistan, while the average monthly income is about $200 a month.

The color white has long been a feature of the carefully constructed personality cult of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. The former dentist has draped his capital Ashgabat in white marble, rides white stallions, and makes appearances dressed in white amid white carpets and white flower arrangements.

He likes white.

PHOTO GALLERY: Turkmenistan's 'White' Revolution

But authorities say the president's fondness for white is not necessarily the reason for the new rules -- it's that the country's subtropical desert climate wreaks havoc with dark paint, creating an eyesore unbecoming of the autocratic republic.

Calling himself the "protector," Berdymukhammedov, who has ruled Turkmenistan since 2006, has in the past frequently rewarded loyal government officials with fancy new cars. And he recently began using a convoy of white limousines to travel to public events.

But he also supports more energy-efficient means of transport.

He has been filmed bike-riding to encourage cycling (his white pants contrasting with the black garb of his cycling partners).

And his fondness for horses is well known -- although sometimes they (at least the golden, Akhal-Teke, variety don't take quite so well to him.

WATCH: President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov Falls Off His Horse

​-- RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, Glenn Kates

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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