The man behind the favorite assault rifle of Somali pirates and third-world rebels alike has passed away at the ripe age of 94. Arms designer Mikhail Kalashnikov died today in the republic of Udmurtia. As eulogized by Pravda.ru:
“It’s difficult and hard to realize that Mikhail Kalashnikov is no longer with us. One of the most brilliant, talented and progressive Russian patriots, who gave his entire life to serving the Fatherland has passed away,” President of Udmurtia Alexander Volkov expressed his condolences.
…Kalashnikov is the designer of a system of automatic small arms that has been recognized as the world’s best for half a century already. “I will be the first one to shake hands with the one who makes a better automatic rifle,” Mikhail Kalashnikov said more than 30 years ago.
Kalashnikov rifle is used in more than 100 countries; it is included on the list of most outstanding inventions of the 20th century. The name of Mikhail Kalashnikov was used to name the new concern that united Izhmash and Izhevsky Mechanical Works under one brand.
…The world-famous gunsmith wrote several autobiographical books. He continued to work at the factory as the chief designer up to his old age. Mikhail Kalashnikov is the only person to be awarded with the title of Hero of Russia and twice Hero of Socialist Labor simultaneously.
And from RIA Novosti:
Mikhail Kalashnikov, the 94-year-old inventor of the world’s most popular firearm, the AK-47, died Monday in a Russian hospital, a local government official said.
…During his convalescence stay in Kazakhstan in 1941, he quickly produced a prototype version of his assault rifle at a local train depot workshop. Fine-tuning the experimental model took five years, and in 1946 it successfully passed the last of a series of firing tests.
“I was told that when Stalin was shown the AK-47 for the first time, he took it in his hand and didn’t put it down while walking around his Kremlin office for the rest of the day,” Kalashnikov wrote in his memoirs.
The AK-47 went into mass production in February 1947. In 1949, the weapon was adopted by the Soviet Army and Kalashnikov, then 30, was awarded the Stalin Prize. It was one of many awards he was to be given, including three Orders of Lenin and the Hero of Socialist Labor.
An estimated 100 million AK-47s have been built worldwide since then, according to the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategic and Technologies, or CAST. In comparison, about 7 million M-16 assault rifles have been made. The M-16 is the Kalashnikov’s main Western rival.
More than a dozen modifications have been developed for the AK-47, including one with a curved barrel allowing tank crews to shoot around corners. That particular modification, however, never went into mass production.
The rugged, reliable and easy-to-use AK-47 is still favored by an assortment of armed forces, guerrilla groups, terrorists and even common thugs in at least 55 countries.
Mozambique put the gun on its national flag in 1975 when the FRELIMO Mozambique Liberation Front came to power after an 11-year independence war with Portugal, while Lebanon-based Hezbollah Islamic radicals regard the gun as a symbol of their struggle against the “infidels.”
President Vladimir Putin expressed his “deep condolences,” according to Russia Today:
As the rifles, inextricably linked forever to their creator by name, were more and more commonly seen in the hands of terrorists, radicals and child soldiers, the inventor was often forced to defend himself to journalists.
He was forever asked if he regretted engineering the weapon that probably killed more than any other in the last fifty years, though nine out of ten AKs are not produced in Izhevsk, and perhaps as many as half are manufactured illegally.
“I invented it for the protection of the Motherland. I have no regrets and bear no responsibility for how politicians have used it,” he told them.
On a few occasions, when in a more reflective mood, the usually forceful Kalashnikov wondered what might have been.
“I’m proud of my invention, but I’m sad that it is used by terrorists,” he said once.
“I would prefer to have invented a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work – for example a lawnmower.”