Mikhail Kalashnikov dies aged 94

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Photo: AP

Mikhail Kalashnikov has died.

Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the world’s most famous gun, has died.

While Kalashnikov designed a weapon that became synonymous with killing on a sometimes indiscriminate scale. He was seen in the Soviet Union as a national hero and symbol of Moscow’s proud military past.

A former soldier, inspired by the drawbacks of Russian weaponry in the Second World War he decided to invent a new assault rifle.

This process culminated in 1947 with the design of the AK-47.  

Over the course of his career he evolved the basic design into a weapons family.

Kalashnikov, who was in his 20s when he created the AK-47 just after World War Two, died in his home city of Izhevsk, near the Ural Mountains, where his gun is still made.

The 205-year-old Izmash plant remains one of the main producers of Russian weapons and is treasured as a national icon.

Lavished with honours including the prestigious Hero of Russia prize for designing the iconic rifle, Kalashnikov has said he had never intended for it to become the preferred weapon in conflicts around the world.

“I created a weapon to defend the fatherland’s borders. It’s not my fault that it was sometimes used where it shouldn’t have been. This is the fault of politicians,” he said during an award ceremony at the Kremlin to mark his 90th birthday.

AK-47’s name stands for “Kalashnikov’s Automatic” and the year it was designed, 1947. Also called the “Kalashnikov”, the rifle and its variants are the weapons of choice for dozens of armies and guerrilla groups around the world.

More than 100 million Kalashnikov rifles have been sold worldwide and they are wielded by fighters in such far-flung conflict zones as Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.

The Second World War veteran barely profited financially from the worldwide popularity of the weapon but did enjoy the acclaim that contrasted with his humble origins.

Born in a Siberian village as the 17th child of family on November 10, 1919, Kalashnikov had a tragic childhood during which his father was deported under Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in 1930.

Wounded during combat in 1941, Kalashnikov designed his rifle in 1947, driven by Soviet defeats in the early years of World War II at the hands of far better armed German soldiers.

Samuel L. Jackson has some high praise for the AK-47:

The History Channel documentary about the AK47:


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