Father of Kalashnikov assault rifles celebrates 90th birthday

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  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

    Jun 4, 2005
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    The Times

    November 10, 2009
    Father of Kalashnikov assault rifles celebrates 90th birthday

    Tony Halpin in Moscow

    The inventor of an assault rifle favoured by armies, guerrilla fighters and terrorists worldwide, his name is warfare’s most popular brand.

    Mikhail Kalashnikov showed himself to be as hardy as the legendary AK47 yesterday by celebrating his 90th birthday with a declaration that he would carry on working as a military designer.

    He said he had few regrets about his life and legacy as creator of arguably the deadliest weapon in history.

    “Age is not significant. I have plenty of life left in me. But still, this is a special date and needs to be celebrated,” Mr Kalashnikov said before leaving his home city of Izhevsk, 800 miles (1,300 kilometres) east of Moscow, to receive an award from President Medvedev at the Kremlin.

    State television broadcast tributes to Mr Kalashnikov, including one from the International Space Station. Cosmonaut Maxim Surayev said: “Your name, like that of the first cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, became a symbol of our country in the 20th century.”

    Mr Kalashnikov said he still goes to work at 8.30am four days a week as chief designer at the Izhmash arms factory — where he developed his rifle after being wounded in combat when the Soviet Red Army fought the Nazi invasion in 1941.

    He first sketched his ideas while recovering in hospital, desperate to improve the army’s chances against the better-equipped Germans.

    His design was not perfected until 1947 — the Avtomat Kalashnikova 47.

    The rifle proved so sturdy and reliable that it became standard issue in the Soviet Army within two years, and one of the Soviet Union’s most successful exports as the Kremlin backed regimes and revolutionary movements around the world.

    More than 100 million have been sold globally, though both its inventor and Izhmash complain that up to 80 per cent have been illegal copies manufactured in former Communist countries. The company estimates piracy has cost Russia $2 billion in lost sales.

    At least 50 armies and countless guerrilla groups still use the rifle, while its shape forms part of the flags of Mozambique and the militant Hizbullah movement. President Chavez of Venezuela bought 100,000 in 2006 to replace the American weapons used by his military.

    The inventor expressed unease about the popularity of his rifle with terrorists at a UN conference on small arms trafficking. He told delegates: “I regret to admit that many victims resulted from the usage of the assault rifle designed by me. I was at war myself and defended my country during World War Two and I know the pain of losing friends in combat. But what can be compared with the tragedy of the death of innocent people killed by terrorists?”

    Despite his fame, Mr Kalashnikov did not personally profit from his invention because he could not patent his design in the Soviet era, and lost an attempt to claim copyright in 1991. He has supplemented his state pension by endorsing products in Russia, where he is seen as a hero.

    “In my 90 years, I feel a happy man,” he told Rossiiskaya Gazeta, a Government newspaper. “As with any person, there are things to regret ... But I can say one thing: I would not live my life again differently if I had the chance.”

    He said the Stalin Medal he received for inventing the rifle was the most precious of his many state awards, despite his own father falling victim to the dictator’s purges in 1930 when he was deported from the family’s home village in Siberia.

    Igor Sevastyanov, deputy director of Russia’s state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, called Mr Kalashnikov the “world patriarch of small arms”. His name is clearly still a best seller: Mr Sevastyanov said Russia had just signed a contract to sell half a million rifles based on the AK47 to a North African state.
  2. diddyriddick

    diddyriddick Active Member

    May 29, 2009
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    Very cool! I met him at a gun show in Dallas years ago.

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