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[image from AP]

He was a jovial man, fond of literature and poetry.  He was a peaceful man by nature, but became forever associated with war.  He was a natural tinkerer who as a child obsessively disassembled and reassembled anything mechanical.  Born Nov 10, 1919 to a middle-wealth "Kulak" agricultural family (a group specifically targeted by Stalin as "enemies of the people") he would be deported to Siberia with his family and see his father worked to an early death.  And yet this experience never soured him to either Soviet Communism or to Comrade Stalin.

He served in the Great Patriotic War (WW2) as a tank maintainer and later commander, but his real passion was firearms and while recuperating from a battlefield injury he overheard the constant complaints the soldiers had for their weapons.

After the war he set out to create the perfect weapon for the Russian soldier: simple, reliable, and powerful, and he suceeded beyond anyone's expectations. The construction was simple, easy to assemble (and copy), and infinitely durable. Loose machinery tollerances cost it some accuracy, but made it capable of continued operations despite fouling by dirt, mud, sand, or ice. You could literally toss it out the back of an airplane into a swamp and expect it to still function after a simple wipedown.  Its 7.62x54R mm ammunition was the perfect tactical middle ground between long rifle rounds and shorter pistol/SMG rounds. While not the first "assault rifle" (the German Sturmgewehr 44 preceeded it by a few years and may have helped influence its design) it is perhaps the most famous.

The weapon, completed in 1947, became known as "Avtomat Kalashnikov 47" or AK-47 and it would reshape the world.

[image from wikimedia]

To steal a line from The Economist, "[t]he weapon is so simple that even a child can use it. Alas, many do".

The perfect weapon for guerilla warriors, the elegantly simple and reliable weapon proved to be a force multiplier in even untrained hands. Even the smallest and most isolated political or ethnic group could mount a serious challange to even first rate armies. In postcolonial Africa and Asia it would become the weapon of revolution, redrawing borders around the world in blood and lead. It continues to do so even today.

Kalashnikov grew to experience regret for the amount of carnage his weapon set loose on the world, living to see even his own Soviet brothers fall victim to its deadly simplicity in Afghanistan. Yet he never lost his love for the weapon itself nor ever lost his sense of pride at the accomplishment.

Kalashnikov died on Dec 23rd, age 94.

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Tags: Diesel Icons, obituary

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Comment by Sean Driscoll on February 15, 2014 at 4:43pm

When I think of just his date of death, it's sad that he never made it to what would have been his last Christmas, or even Christmas Eve, for that matter.

Comment by Loke Klingsor on February 3, 2014 at 12:12pm

@Cap'n Tony: "As the continued Russian and Chinese sponsorship of Syria and North Korea shows, that attitude lives on and is creating as big of a risk to them as it is to their geopolitcial rivals." ...and not to forget the US empire as the biggest hindrance to fair trade, open markets and democratic developments worldwide. If someone is sponsoring murderous dictatorships revolutionaries on a large scale today, you must mention the Yanks.

Comment by Loke Klingsor on February 3, 2014 at 12:07pm
Comment by Cap'n Tony on January 27, 2014 at 9:32am

Sadly peace and trade are far more profitable than war and conquest, but shortsightedness is as endemic as ever. Mercantilist monopolies from the Age of Discovery brought in lots of money to a small group in the short term, but doing open trade with those same people in the modern age has proven a much better economic plan for all sides. Unfortunately, the largest issue is more basic: keeping "those other people" out of something. Much of the cold war sponsorship of murderous dictatorships and revolutionaries was built on keeping "the other guys" from having geopolitical influence in an area as part of a larger strategic game. As the continued Russian and Chinese sponsorship of Syria and North Korea shows, that attitude lives on and is creating as big of a risk to them as it is to their geopolitical rivals. 

Comment by Loke Klingsor on January 26, 2014 at 12:00pm

you're absolutely right. our world is still built on the business one can make with war, as we live in a time of newly expanding empires (US, China). history repeated.

Comment by Cap'n Tony on January 26, 2014 at 8:25am

I certainly agree and it was certainly not my intention to hold him personally responsible. The AK-47 is an amazing work of engineering.  The real villains in my mind are not just those who pulled the trigger, but those who supplied the weapons by the millions in a fit of short-sighted global politics. And the Soviets were not alone in that shortsightedness as the proliferation of genocide and terrorism in the post-cold war era attests.

Comment by Loke Klingsor on January 24, 2014 at 9:50am

to design weapons is one thing...another to pull the trigger. I would not hold Kalashnikow as a man responsible for the post-colonial wars unleashed after WWII. If there would not have been the AK-47, the war lords would have get their equipment from other sources. It's always a man killing another man, not the gun in his hand. The weapon "only" multiplies and simplifies the killing. But the intend to kill must have been in his head before.

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