AK-47 inventor: I don’t lose sleep

AP ^ | June 6th, 2007 | By MANSUR MIROVALEV, Associated Press Writer

Posted on 07/06/2007 5:24:48 PM EDT by Eurotwit

MOSCOW – Sixty years after the AK-47 went into production, Mikhail Kalashnikov says he does not stay awake at night worrying about the bloodshed wrought by the world’s most popular assault rifle.

“I sleep well. It’s the politicians who are to blame for failing to come to an agreement and resorting to violence,” Kalashnikov said Friday at a ceremony marking the birth of the rifle, whose initials stand for “Avtomat Kalashnikov.”

It was before he started designing the gun that he slept badly, worried about the superior weapons that Nazi soldiers were using with grisly effectiveness against the Red Army in World War II. He saw them at close range himself, while fighting on the front lines.

While hospitalized with wounds after a Nazi shell hit his tank in the 1941 battle of Bryansk, Kalashnikov decided to design an automatic rifle combining the best features of the American M1 and the German StG44.

“Blame the Nazi Germans for making me become a gun designer,” said Kalashnikov, frail but sharp at age 87. “I always wanted to construct agriculture machinery.”

Since production began, more than 100 million AK-47s have been made — either at the home factory in the central Russian city of Izhevsk, under license in dozens of other countries, or illegally. Sergei Chemezov, director of the Russian arms export monopoly Rosoboronexport, said nearly a million a year are produced without license.

The AK-47 has been a mainstay in wars, coups, terrorist attacks, robberies and other mayhem. Its popularity comes from being rugged and easy to maintain, though its accuracy is not high.

It proved ideal and extremely reliable for warfare in jungle or desert — easily assembled and able to keep firing in sandy or wet conditions that would jam a U.S-made 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,” he said. “I hear American soldiers in Iraq use it quite often.”

The simplicity and reliability of the AK-47 made it a favorite of rebel movements worldwide — it even features on the Mozambique flag. Keen to support anti-colonial movements in Asia and Africa, the Soviets proliferated the rifle, sometimes for free, to pro-Soviet regimes or insurgents.

In 2005, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who styles himself as a leader of the fighting against imperialism, ordered 100,000 for his army.

“The Kalashnikov rifle is a symbol of the creative genius of our people,” President Vladimir Putin said in a statement read to Kalashnikov at the ceremony in the Central Russian Army Museum.

“It’s a huge and splendid celebration,” said Nikolai Shvets of Rosoboronexport. “For another 20 years, the AK-47 will remain unsurpassed by any other automatic rifle in the world.”

Kalashnikov is still active and prolific — he tours the world as a Rosoboronexport consultant helping strike new arms deals, and has written several 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 is 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?”

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One Response to Kalashnikov

  1. gunnyg says:

    Weapon of choice for children, rebels and soldiers

    Last Updated: 12:01am BST 28/06/2007


    Lewis Jones reviews AK47: the Story of the People’s Gun by Michael Hodges

    At the beginning of Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), in which Sylvester Stallone takes on the entire North Vietnamese army with an AK47, an American colleague regards the weapon with scepticism: “A beat-to-shit AK? Every 12-year-old in ‘Nam’s got one of those.” Rambo looks pleased, slowly nods his meaty head, and laboriously masticates his reply: “Exactly.”

    Unlike practically everything else in the film, Rambo’s choice of gun is historically accurate. American soldiers in Vietnam were equipped with the M16 rifle, invented by Eugene Stoner, which tended to malfunction if it was even sneezed on. When they came across the Chinese AKs of the fallen Viet Cong, they discovered that they still worked, even if they had been lying in the rain for weeks, so at every opportunity they abandoned their modern capitalist gun for a 25-year-old socialist one.

    Michael Hodges’s breezy history describes how a Soviet antique became the world’s favourite gun. The A stands for “automatic”, the K for “Kalashnikov”, and the 47 for the year of its invention. Mikhail Kalashnikov was born in 1919, the second son of a family of Siberian kulaks who were persecuted under Stalin’s first Five Year Plan. During the German invasion of Russia in 1941, he was a tank sergeant, wounded in a battle with Panzers. The next winter he began work on a prototype, and five years later won a national competition for a new automatic rifle.

    Promoted to the rank of general, and proclaimed a Hero of Socialist Labour, Kalashnikov was honoured by Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Yeltsin and Putin, collecting the Order of the Red Star, the Stalin Prize First Class, and three Orders of Lenin. He is still alive, subsisting on a modest pension in Izhevsk, and though proud of his invention he describes it as a golem, an imp with a life of its own.

    All Soviet schoolchildren were taught to strip an AK in under a minute – it has only eight moving parts – and the gun was deployed throughout the Evil Empire, most notably in Afghanistan and Chechnya. In both places it proved a double-edged sword, appropriated by the locals and turned on their aggressors, as it has been elsewhere.

    In Vietnam it became an emblem of resistance, winning victory for peasants in pyjamas and sandals against the world’s greatest military machine; according to Viet Cong propaganda, a soldier named Phan actually shot down a B52 with one. In 1972, it became an emblem of terrorism, when it was used by the Palestinian Black September gang to attack Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games. And in Ramallah today it is emblematic of both, so ubiquitous that one observer said she wouldn’t be surprised to see a dog armed with one.

    In 1982, the Israelis gave the Kalashnikovs they had captured from Palestinians to the CIA, which shipped them via Pakistan to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan to fight the Russians. Osama bin Laden’s first AK was a Palestinian gun supplied by the Israelis and given to him by the Americans.

    Africa was sent millions of AKs by Russia, China and North Korea. In Mozambique and Angola, sons were named Kalash in its honour, and when Mozambique achieved independence, its flag featured a book, a ploughshare and a Kalashnikov.

    After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the US military neglected to guard the arms dumps and the entire stock of the Iraqi Army’s AKs was stolen, available soon afterwards on the street at less than $100 each, and universally prized as “a flamboyant symbol of masculinity”.

    In 2004, a Russian rock star launched an MP3 player modelled on an AK magazine, which when attached to an AK47 plays music into headphones. “This is our bit for world peace,” he explained. The same year Vladimir Putin sent George W Bush a bottle of Russian vodka in the shape of a Kalashnikov, which might have seemed a peculiar present for a teetotaller who has never fought on a battlefield, but was no doubt meant as a timely reminder that, for all its popularity in America – with gun clubs (as a “sporting” weapon, its firing rate of 650 rounds per minute making it just the thing for quail or elk), disaffected students and the enterprising gangs of Detroit and New Orleans – the AK was invented in Russia rather than Hollywood.

    Hodges pursues his subject with commendable energy and bravery – on patrol with Alpha Company in Baghdad he comes under AK fire – but his prose tends to over-excitement and cliché, and one sometimes wonders about the reliability of his reporting. He writes, for example, about drinking coffee in an Arab café with a view of Edgware Road Tube station. I don’t know about Baghdad, but I live across the road from that station, and there’s no such place.

    Information appearing on telegraph.co.uk is the copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited and must not be reproduced in any medium without licence. For the full copyright statement see Copyright

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