Hundreds of soldiers attended the funeral of Mikhail Kalashnikov today to pay their final respects to the designer of the assault rifle that has killed more people than any other firearm in the world. English for children Mytischi, who created the AK-47 more than 60 years ago, died in hospital on Monday at the age of 94. Mytishchi outside Moscow, the defence ministry said. Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Soviet commanders and current servicemen were among the mourners at the funeral.
Kalashnikov died in hospital his home city of Izhevsk, near the Ural Mountains – where his gun is still made. He had been ill for some time and had been in intensive care since November 17. Deadly icon: Mikhail Kalashnikov with the weapon that made his fortune – and won him praise and condemnation. Honoured: He met President Vladimir Putin just three months ago. But the rifle and its variants soon became the weapons of choice for dozens of armies and guerrilla groups around the world.
Specifically engineered to work in the harsh conditions in which Soviet troops operated, it became one of the most successful weapons ever produced and turned its inventor into one of the most lauded men in the Soviet Union. Cheap, efficient and easily mass-produced, the gun soon became synonymous with killing on a sometimes indiscriminate scale. It was taken up by militants as far afield as Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, Liberia, Sudan, Zaire and Gaza, to name a few. Osama Bin Laden was infamously pictured clutching the deadly weapon. Kalashnikov in one of the palaces of Saddam Hussein, left.
Iraqi policemen hold AK-47s during a police parade in the capital Baghdad 2003. The AK-47’s story truly began in 1942, when Soviet soldiers siezed new-style automatic rifles from German troops. Unlike traditional or semi-automatic rifles, they could fire a whole magazine of bullets simply by holding down the trigger, because the recoil from each shot ejected the previous cartridge. Entrenched in the conflict of the Second World War, the Soviets set to work straight away on copying the Nazis’ designs. But their first versions were clunky, weighing more than 5kg without bullets, and the task of creating a new design fell to Mikhail Kalashnikov, who had created an unsuccessful gun prototype earlier in the war. His design mashed together the best elements of previous weapons and won a competition in 1946, going into full production the next year. Accuracy was not its strongest point but it endured for its simplicity and reliability in even the harshest of conditions – built, as it was, in the wilds of Siberia.
It was not patented – opening the door for millions of ‘pirate’ versions – because of the culture which existed in the Communist state. All ideas were property of the government, not one individual person, and pride came from helping the great Soviet army. There are an estimated 100 million Kalashnikovs, one for every 70 people in the world. The gun is in official service in 55 countries and adorns the flag of Mozambique.