Sunday, July 08, 2007


Russia marks AK-47's 60th birthday

Posted Sat Jul 7, 2007 8:39am AEST
Updated Sat Jul 7, 2007 9:30am AEST

Iconic weapon: AK-47 designer Mikhail Kalashnikov

Iconic weapon: AK-47 designer Mikhail Kalashnikov (Reuters: Sergei Karpukhin)

With his shock of white hair, brown sandals and hearing aid, the designer of the world's deadliest assault rifle took a philosophical outlook as he celebrated his invention's 60th anniversary on Friday.

"It was the Germans who turned me into an arms designer," Mikhail Kalashnikov, 87, said at celebrations in Moscow of the 60th anniversary of the creation of his AK-47 automatic rifle.

"If I hadn't taken part in the war, I would probably have made technology to ease the tough work of the peasants," said Mr Kalashnikov, who grew up in a peasant family in the remote Altai mountain region by the Mongolian border.

Instead, he created a rifle that has become an iconic brand, as symbolic of Russia as vodka and fur coats, and the weapon of choice of guerrillas and dozens of armies around the world.

Mr Kalashnikov started working on his rifle in 1947, driven to design by Soviet defeats in the early years of World War II at the hands of far better-armed German soldiers.

The Kalashnikov quickly became prized for its sturdy reliability in difficult field conditions. It can also be built relatively easily - "in any workshop," he said.

More than 100 million Kalashnikov rifles have now been sold worldwide.

At the start of celebrations on Friday in the Central Museum of the Armed Forces, Mr Kalashnikov was greeted by fireworks, cannon fire and a military band, as well as officials from Russia's arms export monopoly - Rosoboronexport.

The company is one of Russia's biggest foreign currency earners.

"I'm touched by all the attention I'm getting," Mr Kalashnikov said after being presented with a military standard bearing the phrase "Kalashnikov - The Pride, Honour and Glory of Russia."

The diminutive pensioner spoke animatedly with reporters about his rifle but also about topics ranging from drug use among young people to his friendship with Cuban President Fidel Castro.

In between meanderings on subjects such as his desire for a cedar tree in his garden, Mr Kalashnikov also called Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a top buyer of Russian arms who he has met, a "remarkable, active president."

The arms designer has humbler contacts too. "I get dozens of letters every day from around the world. They just write 'Kalashnikov, Russia' and the letters get to me. I try to reply to all of them," he said.

"They always tell me that I would be a multi-millionaire in the West. They always talk about money. Are there no other values? What about having a bronze bust of yourself in your home village?" he added.

Mr Kalashnikov won no royalties in the Communist system, while licensing agreements between the Soviet Union and its allies across the globe mean that almost 90 per cent of his rifles are now not produced in Russia.

Asked whether he felt any guilt at the deaths caused by his invention, Mr Kalashnikov said: "I sleep well at night. Politicians are responsible for not resolving their problems without resorting to arms."

As for the weapons he created, he refers to them as if they were his children and often goes to visit his "first-born" - the first model of the AK-47 - in a museum in Saint Petersburg.

He smiled: "An arms builder is attached to his designs like a mother to her children."



Dre said...

Dude, thats cool.

Christine said...


Sorry for the un-posting of poetry, I've been through a dryspell...a deathly dryspell...I will be posting some up quite soon though, so hold on to your seat.