When I heard about Lieutenant-General Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov’s death at 94 more than a week ago, I was initially indifferent but as the day and week wore on and other news continued to flutter in, it became very clear to me how influential his invention has been to mankind, and by that I don’t necessarily mean it in the most positive of ways.
Interestingly, he may have taken sometime to reflect on that invention, probably felt some guilt about it, before deciding in the end to care less in making the declaration that he has “no regrets”. Ironically, the one whose invention has been responsible for cutting millions of lives in their prime got to live to a ripe old age.
By now I’m sure you know about the invention I’m talking about. The Avtomat Kalashnikova(Russian:Автомат Калашникова), also known as Kalashnikov, AK, or in Russian slang, Kalash debuted in 1945, but was accepted into service with some modifications by the Russian government and military authorities in 1947, hence the appellation AK-47. It wasn’t patented until 1997 by Izhmash (the Russian company that manufactures it), which makes only about 10% of worldwide stocks today, while most of what is passed around the world are counterfeits.
This weapon is a assault rifle, AR of choice amongst regular armies as well as irregular armies and guerilla fighters (definitely the weapon of choice of Islamist terrorists worldwide, particularly that iconic image of Osama Bin Ladin with the AR slung ‘pon his shoulder or praying beside it). It has found use for official and unofficial purposes. Preferred worldwide for its durability, ease of maintenance as well as been relatively inexpensive.
Over the years, variants of this assault rifle have been made, and merchandise have also become associated with the AK-47 brand, including and not exclusive to the Russian alcoholic drink, Vodka.
There’s hardly a place on earth where this assault rifle hadn’t impacted since it began to play a role in the way wars are fought. Because Mikhail Kalashnikov did not appear to have pursued personal gains (like other inventors and moulders of weapons, including those of mass destruction) but rather worked in the service of his motherland, one may be tempted to not place the blame for the absolute success of his killing machine at his doorstep. He had to do what he had to do at the point in time.
However, considering that the ease of procuring his invention appeared to have played significant roles in escalating wars, it isn’t out of place to want to pick his brain to know what and how he felt about his invention. Though he continually maintained that his weapon is a “weapon of defence”, and not a “weapon of offence”, the opposite appear to have been the case, generating his now popular comment of having “no regrets” whatsoever at the turn of events. He however was comfortable enough to put the blame on politicians for making his gun responsible for the most deaths by assault rifles with about a hundred million of them currently in circulation.
Alfred Nobel must have considered this in attempting to posthumously rehabilitate his memory. Though one cannot totally say he achieved that considering that once the lid over the lofty ideals of the Nobel Prizes and the organization around it are lifted, the fact that he invented the dynamite pops up, and lingers far longer than any other more life saving invention of his.
Mikhail Kalashnikov appeared to be comfortable in the path he chose, even going as far as criticizing counterfeiters and forgers of his famous invention. He didn’t spare countries like India where an attempt was made to make a similar assault rifle and call it AK-7.
Revolutionaries, Guerilla fighters, terrorists (some other person’s freedom fighter) even regular armies will have him to thank for aiding them achieve their objectives in the many scenarios that ensured that at every given time, there’s a conflict at hand, some place on earth. Gun runners too will remain ever grateful for consignments that was 100% sure to deliver on and even beyond expectations.
The Russians, in giving him a state funeral and burial, paid tribute to the man who made a product that couldn’t be rivaled by the West and anyone for that matter (atleast for now). Tales abound of American soldiers in the heat of war, abandoning their M16’s for captured enemy AK-47’s, and using same to maximum effects.
If we didn’t have to be warlike and disagreeable, maybe Mikhail Kalashnikov wouldn’t have achieved this level of popularity, by reason of his deadly invention, and that’s the truth of the whole matter.
Learning English – Words in the News – Kalashnikov inventor’s regret – http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/language/wordsinthenews/2014/01/140113_witn_kalashnikov.shtml