The legendary Kalashnikov turns 90

12 Nov 2009

 One of the symbols of its land, a myth and a legend. Mikhail Kalashnikov has been a hero for generations of Soviets and Russians. For a long period the world thought that this man didn’t even exist and it was an invention of communist propaganda. “It was the Germans who turned me into an arms designer,” he says.

“ If I hadn’t taken part in the war, I would probably have made technology to ease the tough work of the peasants.”

 Mr Kalashnikov started working on his rifle, driven to design by Soviet defeats in the early years of World War II at the hands of far better-armed German soldiers. From the start, he clearly identified his own principles of design: his submachine gun should be simple and reliable. It was only in 1947, after the failure of numerous prototypes, that Kalashnikov’s design was accepted in a competition organised by the defence procurement agency. “I created this weapon primarily to safeguard our fatherland,” he says.

 Although some 100 million Kalashnikovs have been produced during its 60 years of service, only roughly half of them are licenced output, meeting Russian quality standards. 30 foreign producers currently make them and 55 countries are using the Kalashnikov, a weapon put on the Guinness Book of Records for its popularity.

 The Izhmash machine-building plant was the first to launch mass production of the AK-47 rifle that spawned a whole new generation of small arms.


Read Tony Halpin  The Times  November 11th, 2009


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