Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
FILE- In this Wednesday, Oct. 29, 1997 file photo Mikhail Kalashnikov shows a model of his world-famous AK-47 assault rifle at home in the Ural Mountain city of Izhevsk, 1000 km (625 miles) east of Moscow, Russia. Kalashnikov, whose work as a weapons designer for the Soviet Union is immortalized in the name of the world’s most popular firearm, died Monday at the age of 94 in a hospital of the city of Izhevsk where he lived. The AK-47 has been favored by guerrillas, terrorists and the soldiers of many armies. An estimated 100 million guns are spread worldwide. (AP Photo/Vladimir Vyatkin, File)
AK-47 designer Mikhail Kalashnikov dead at 94
First Published Dec 23 2013 10:36 am • Last Updated Dec 23 2013 01:23 pm

Moscow • Mikhail Kalashnikov, whose work as a weapons designer for the Soviet Union is immortalized in the name of the world’s most popular firearm, died Monday at the age of 94.

Kalashnikov once aspired to design farm equipment. But even though his most famous invention — the AK-47 assault rifle — sowed havoc instead of crops, he often said he felt personally untroubled by his contribution to bloodshed.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"I sleep well. It’s the politicians who are to blame for failing to come to an agreement and resorting to violence," he said in 2007.

Kalashnikov died in a hospital in Izhevsk, the capital of the Udmurtia republic where he lived, said Viktor Chulkov, a spokesman for the republic’s president. He did not give a cause of death. Kalashnikov had been hospitalized for the past month with unspecified health problems.

The AK-47 — "Avtomat Kalashnikov" and the year it went into production — is the world’s most popular firearm, favored by guerrillas, terrorists and the soldiers of many armies. An estimated 100 million guns are spread worldwide.

Though it isn’t especially accurate, its ruggedness and simplicity are exemplary: it performs in sandy or wet conditions that jam more sophisticated weapons such as the U.S. M-16.

"During the Vietnam war, American soldiers would throw away their M-16s to grab AK-47s and bullets for it from dead Vietnamese soldiers," Kalashnikov said in July 2007 at a ceremony marking the rifle’s 60th anniversary.

The weapon’s suitability for jungle and desert fighting made it nearly ideal for the Third World insurgents backed by the Soviet Union, and Moscow not only distributed the AK-47 widely but also licensed its production in some 30 other countries.

The gun’s status among revolutionaries and national-liberation struggles is enshrined on the flag of Mozambique.

Kalashnikov, born into a peasant family in Siberia, began his working life as a railroad clerk. After he joined the Red Army in 1938, he began to show mechanical flair by inventing several modifications for Soviet tanks.


story continues below
story continues below

The moment that firmly set his course was in the 1941 battle of Bryansk against Nazi forces, when a shell hit his tank. Recovering from wounds in the hospital, Kalashnikov brooded about the superior automatic rifles he’d seen the Nazis deploy; his rough ideas and revisions bore fruit five years later.

"Blame the Nazi Germans for making me become a gun designer," said Kalashnikov. "I always wanted to construct agricultural machinery."

In 2007, President Vladimir Putin praised him, saying "The Kalashnikov rifle is a symbol of the creative genius of our people."

Over his career, he was decorated with numerous honors, including the Hero of Socialist Labor and Order of Lenin and Stalin Prize. But because his invention was never patented, he didn’t get rich off royalties.

"At that time in our country patenting inventions wasn’t an issue. We worked for Socialist society, for the good of the people, which I never regret," he once said.

Kalashnikov continued working into his late 80s as chief designer of the Izmash company that first built the AK-47. He also traveled the world helping Russia negotiate new arms deals, and he wrote books on his life, about arms and about youth education.

"After the collapse of the great and mighty Soviet Union so much crap has been imposed on us, especially on the younger generation," he said. "I wrote six books to help them find their way in life."

He said he was proud of his bronze bust installed in his native village of Kurya in the Siberian region of Altai. He said newlyweds bring flowers to the bust. "They whisper ‘Uncle Misha, wish us happiness and healthy kids,’" he said. "What other gun designer can boast of that?"



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.