Before inventing the world’s much desired assault rifle, the AK-47, ‘AK’ for Automat Kalashnikova, ’47’ for 1947, the date of its first manufacture, Mikhail Kalashnikov was a Russian soldier who got wounded in the Battle of Bryansk in 1941 when a German shell smashed into his tank and drove part of the vehicle’s armor into his body.
While recuperating, another wounded soldier beside him asked: ‘Why do our soldiers have only one rifle for two or three of our men when the Germans have automatics?’
It made him ponder – indeed, why, and, thus, the AK-47 creation to protect every Russian soldier.
Alas, it resulted not only to benefit Russian soldiers, but the assault rifle was so efficient in its performance that it was not only purchased and/or duplicated by other nations for their own military use, but also acquired by militants and terrorists for evil purposes.
It was for this reason that Kalashnikov, before his death in December 2013 at age 94, is said to have written the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in repentance, saying: “My spiritual pain is unbearable. I keep having the same unsolved question: if my rifle took away people’s lives, then can it be that I … am guilty for people’s deaths, even if they were enemies?”
“The longer I live, the more this question drills itself into my mind and the more I wonder why the Lord allowed man to have the devilish desires of envy, greed and aggression.
“Why did he allow thoughts of killing brothers and the evil to burst out of humankind?”
The letter, typed on Kalashnikov’s personal writing paper, was signed: “a slave of God, the designer Mikhail Kalashnikov.”
Kalashnikov, who was an atheist throughout his adult life until embracing the Orthodox faith of his peasant parents at age 91, had previously rejected the notion that he bore responsibility for the death of many by an AK-47, a weapon of choice for guerrillas, terrorists and kidnappers as well as standing armies, with the signature banana-shaped magazines.
Even after six decades the model and its variants remain the most widely used and popular assault rifles in the world because of their durability, low production cost, availability, and ease of use. More AK-type rifles have been produced than all other assault rifles combined.
Historians claim the AK-47 changed the nature of combat, as the weapon is relatively light, has few moving parts, remains operable even in sand, mud and humidity and is equally functional in the jungle as on urban streets.