AK-47 Inventor Dead at 94

Mikhail Kalashnikov invented the rifle while in his 20s
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 23, 2013 1:03 PM CST
AK-47 Inventor Dead at 94
In this Wednesday, Oct. 29, 1997 file photo Mikhail Kalashnikov shows a model of his world-famous AK-47 assault rifle at home in the Ural Mountain city of Izhevsk.   (AP Photo/Vladimir Vyatkin, File)

A man whose last name is all but certain to be remembered long after he has been forgotten has died at age 94. Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the AK-47 assault rifle, was hospitalized in mid-November, after weathering heart and intestinal problems; a cause of death will be released post-autopsy. In its obit, RT uses the header "Patriot, genius, villain?" Kalashnikov has long been revered as a hero in Russia (indeed, Putin has expressed "deep condolences," and a public funeral will be organized), a self-made man who didn't finish high school but manage to create the weapon known by his name in his twenties—one that has become the weapon of choice for terrorists and child soldiers.

Though initially pooh-poohed by the US as being inaccurate and poorly made, its ability to hold up in jungle and desert conditions became apparent in 1960s Vietnam, where Americans' M-16s were no match for the Vietcong's AK-47s, reports the New York Times. RT reports that he defended the rifle as having been invented "for the protection of the Motherland. I have no regrets and bear no responsibility for how politicians have used it." Still, on one occasion he expressed sadness at the knowledge that terrorists used his weapon. "I would prefer to have invented a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work—for example a lawnmower." Which, in fact, he did create ... only much, much less famously. (More Mikhail Kalashnikov stories.)

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