Lt. Gen. Mikhail T. Kalashnikov, the inventor of the AK-47, holding a prototype of his famous assault rifle in 2007. The arms designer credited by the Soviet Union with creating the AK-47, the first in a series of rifles and machine guns that would indelibly associate his name with modern war and become the most abundant firearms ever made, died on Monday in Izhevsk, the capital of the Udmurtia republic, where he lived. He was 94. Picture by Dima Korotayev/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images
Mikhail Kalashnikov, Creator of AK-47, Dies at 94
The inventor of the iconic AK-47 assault rifle, Mikhail Kalashnikov, has died at the age of 94. His ingenuity earned him widespread admiration, but his legacy became more controversial when his weapons were used in some of the world’s bloodiest conflicts.
“It is difficult and sad to realize that Mikhail Kalashnikov is no longer with us. We have lost one of the most talented, memorable and committed patriots of Russia, who served his country throughout his life,” said the statement from the press secretary of the Udmurtia administration Viktor Chulkov.
Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed “deep condolences” over the death of the engineer. Picture below: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (C) and Mikhail Kalashnikov (R), the Russian inventor of the globally popular AK-47 assault rifle, talk during a visit to IZHMASH Izhevsk Mechanical Works, a weapons manufacturer, in Russia’s city of Izhevsk, 1,126 km (700 miles) from Moscow May 25, 2010.(Reuters / Alexei Nikolsky)
Kalashnikov who continued working well into his nineties, had been suffering from heart and intestinal problems, and on November 17 was admitted been in intensive care in Izhevsk – where the plant that produces the eponymous rifles is located. The official cause of death will be revealed following a mandatory autopsy.
A public funeral will be organized by the regional administration, in consultation with surviving relatives, though no date has been named so far.
Patriot, genius, villain?
For most of his life, Kalashnikov was feted as a straightforward hero.
The self-taught peasant turned tank mechanic who never finished high school, but achieved a remarkable and lasting feat of engineering while still in his twenties.
But 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.”