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Mikhail Kalashnikov, designer of AK-47, 1919-2013

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"Mikhail Kalashnikov: "I created a weapon to defend the fatherland's borders"

RIP to one of the greatest inventor in the history of mankind .


Mikhail Kalashnikov, designer of AK-47, 1919-2013

By John Kampfner

Mikhail Kalashnikov, the father of the world's most popular assault rifle, is handed an AK-74©Getty

Mikhail Kalashnikov, who has died at the age of 94, invented the most ubiquitous weapon in modern warfare. At least 75m of the AK-47 assault rifles that bear his name have spread around the world since the second world war. Yet the Soviet state, though awarding him the Stalin Prize when he was 30, paid no royalties and he long lived on a modest pension in the once closed town of Izhevsk, near the Ural Mountains that straddle Europe and Asia.

As the country opened up in the 1980s, his first trips to the west led him to resent the luxury and stardom often proffered to lesser counterparts elsewhere. It was only later that the Russian leadership, veering once again towards authoritarianism after a brief flirtation with liberal democracy, began publicly to laud one of its most impressive engineers.



At Kalashnikov’s 75th birthday celebration in 1994, President Boris Yeltsin conferred on him the Order of St Vladimir, Russia’s highest award. In 2009, on reaching 90, he was named a “Hero of the Russian Federation” by President Dmitry Medvedev.

Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov was born on November 10 1919 into humble surroundings in western Siberia. After basic secondary schooling he became a technician on the Turkestan-Siberian railway. When war came he was drafted as a tank mechanic to the front near Bryansk in the west of Russia. Within months he was injured and it was in hospital that he became obsessed by his dream.

“I decided to build a gun of my own which could stand up to the Germans. It was a bit of a crazy escapade, I suppose. I didn’t have any specialist education and I couldn’t even draw,” he said. His first designs attracted little attention, but on release from hospital he went back to his engine workshop in Siberia to try to make a prototype.

It was not long before he was on his way to Alma Ata, the capital of Kazakhstan, with his first model in his hand. On arrival he was arrested for carrying unauthorised firearms, but the police released him when he told them of his dream project.

Kalashnikov went straight to the Communist party for advice and was sent to several provincial institutes. After a determined battle with the bureaucrats, he finally made it to Moscow. But the diminutive sergeant was scorned by the top brass, including generals such as Vasily Degtyaryov, the Soviet Union’s most prominent weapons designer of the time.

Kalashnikov was so shy that he signed his sketches “MikhTim”, the first syllables of his first names. But he persevered, and was transferred to Izhevsk to supervise production. So secretive were the tests of the rifle that photographs were forbidden and cartridge cases had to be picked up after firing. By the mid-50s the AK-47 – literally, the Automatic Kalashnikov made in 1947 – was standard issue to the Soviet armed forces.

In the 1960s he emerged from the obscurity of Izhevsk when he was made a member of the Supreme Soviet, Moscow’s rubber-stamp parliament. Even in the early 1980s, he was ordered not to reply to a letter from an American academic for fear of inadvertently disclosing information.

In 1990, on his first visit to the old cold war enemy, he was introduced in Washington to Eugene Stoner, designer of the M-16, the closest thing to an American equivalent of the AK-47, which was first issued to US troops in 1961. Kalashnikov’s clothes were shabby. The few dollars in his pocket had been given by his factory and by the American institute sponsoring the trip. He later recalled: “Stoner has his own aircraft I can’t even afford my own plane ticket.”

Kalashnikov’s personal life was fraught with tragedy. He met his wife Yekaterina at an army testing range near Moscow. She was a graphic artist and helped him put his designs on paper. They married in 1943 and had four children. Yekaterina died in 1977 and his youngest daughter Natalia moved in to keep him company, only to die in a car crash six years later.

His hearing failing him, he later lived alone, though with a driver and a country dacha by the lake as perks. Yelena, another daughter, helped both at home and on his trips abroad, usually as part of a Russian delegation to an arms fair, by smoothing the path with her passable English. An avid shot, he also worked on designs for hunting rifles. With his son Viktor and a group of friends he would go hunting for elk in the snow.

His reflections were tinged with sadness that his rifle had become the tool of choice for terrorist groups from the former Soviet republics to Africa and Northern Ireland. “I wanted my invention to serve peace,” he once said. “I didn’t want it to make war easier . . . If the politicians had worked as hard as we did, the guns would never have got into the wrong hands.

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That rifle liberated many colonies from the hands of imperialism, in other words, the kalash balanced the art of war, the poor african could easily the former superior technology of the west. The Kalash is a magnificent invention, you could bury it and fire it without a problem 10 years later.


A picture tells more then a thousands words Below is a viatnamese female FNL soldier holding the gun to a 2 meter tall american soldier.




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