23 Dec 2013

AK-47 inventor Mikhail Kalashnikov dies aged 94

Mikhail Kalashnikov, the designer of the AK-47, the assault rifle that has killed more people than any other firearm in the world, dies at home in Russia.

Mikhail Kalashnikov (Getty)

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

The AK-47

A son of Siberian peasants who never finished school, Kalashnikov invented one of the Soviet Union’s best-known and most imitated products – a gun whose shots have been heard around the world for over half a century.

The rifle, which rarely jams even in adverse conditions, went into service in the Soviet armed forces in 1949.

Today, Kalashnikov rifles are still a mainstay of Russia’s armed forces and police.

The Kalashnikov (Getty)

Russia now produces Kalashnikovs of the so-called “100s series”; with the AK-47’s original 7.62 mm calibre, with the 5.45 mm calibre adopted for the AK-74 and even for NATO’s 5.56 mm cartridge.

‘A National brand’

At a lavish Kremlin ceremony on Kalashnikov’s 90th birthday in 2009, President Dmitry Medvedev bestowed upon him the highest state honour – the Hero of Russia gold star medal – and lauded him for creating “the national brand every Russian is proud of”.

But Kalashnikov said pride in his iconic invention was mixed with the pain of seeing it used by criminals and child soldiers.

The cheap and simple rifle was embraced by anti-western revolutionary movements and leftist leaders around the world, as well as gangsters, drug traffickers and militants and rebels of all stripes.