by Tony Iozzo
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
Izhevsk , RUSSIA – The Russian creator of the AK-47 assault rifle, Mikhail Kalashnikov, died on Monday, December 23rd at the age of 94.
Kalashnikov died in his hometown of Izhevsk near the Ural Mountains in Russia, where his gun is still manufactured. No cause of death has been released. Kalashnikov had been fitted with a pacemaker at a Moscow hospital in June and had been hospitalized in Izhevsk since November 17. Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed “deep sympathy” for Kalashnikov’s family.
Kalashnikov created the AK-47 while being treated in a hospital in Kazakhstan after he was severely wounded in a burning tank during World War II, while still in his 20’s. Five years later, his design was chosen by the Russian military. The “47” in AK-47 stands for the year 1947, the “A” is for “avtomat” (automatic rifle), and the “K” for Kalashnikov.
The rifle, which has killed more people than any other firearm in the world, is officially in service in 55 countries. Several national emblems feature it. However, approximately half of the world’s estimated 100 million AK-47’s are counterfeited copies that were produced without licenses.
Modern versions of the AK-47 are still used by Russia’s armed forces and police more than 60 years after the original rifle went into service in the military in 1949. However, Kalashnikov has stated that his pride in the rifle was mixed with pain in observing it being used by criminals and child soldiers. The AK-47 has also been used worldwide by gangsters, drug traffickers, militants and rebels in various countries.
“It is painful for me to see when criminal elements of all kinds fire from my weapon. I created this weapon primarily to defend the borders of our fatherland,” Kalashnikov stated in an address to a Russian arms conference in 2009.
Kalashnikov was born on November 10, 1919 into a large peasant family in the village of Kurya in the Altai region of southern Siberia during the Bolshevik Revolution. During Soviet times, he was twice honored as “Hero of Socialist Labor” and became a Stalin Prize and Lenin Prize laureate. Kalashnikov also was given the rank of colonel in 1969 and subsequently rose to become a two-star general during his time with the Red Army.
Though it is widely believed that Kalashnikov was wealthy from his design, he was not a rich man and lived in a modest Soviet-era apartment in Izhevsk, despite the Kremlin decorations.
For more information, please see:
Al Jazeera – Mikhail Kalashnikov, AK-47 Inventor, Dies at 94 – 23 December 2013
CNN – Mikhail Kalashnikov, Inventor of AK-47, Dies at 94 – 23 December 2013
New York Times – Mikhail Kalashnikov, Creator of AK-47, Dies at 94 – 23 December 2013
Reuters – Ak-47 Rifle Inventor Mikhail Kalashnikov Dies at 94 – 23 December 2013