Kalashnikov inventor laments proliferation
From the associated press, we have a weekend email interview with Mikhail Timofeevich Kalashnikov (Михаил Тимофеевич Калашников), designer of the AK-47. There is probably no weapon that has a more storied, dramatic, and influential history than the Kalashnikov assault rifle. Whether this is a black history or a golden one depends largely upon which side of the dividing line you reside. In this short interview, Kalashnikov restates something that he has said in the past: He is proud of his design and its achievements but laments its wide-spread use.
"Whenever I look at TV and I see the weapon I invented to defend my motherland in the hands of these bin Ladens I ask myself the same question: How did it get into their hands?" the 86-year-old Russian gun maker said.The reasons for his weapons proliferation are multiple. Beyond just the fact that it is extremely simple, durable, and reliable - the AK-47 and its manufacturing was distributed widely by the former Soviet Union. This is a decision that has repeatedly come back to haunt the former CCCP and Russia, in Afghanistan and most recently in Chechnya. Lastly, it is worth noting that like many former Soviet Union designers, Mikhail Kalashnikov has never gained real financial benefit from his design or expertise. He continues to work for Izhmash (Ижмаш) producing updated versions of his original rifle. His personal awards are multiple, including the Stalin Prize (First Class) for his rifle design in 1949, the year it was official adopted as the standard issue rifle for the Soviet Army; Hero of Socialist Labor (1958 and 1976); The Lenin Prize (1964); Order of the Red Banner of Labor; and Order of the Red Star. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Engineering in 1971.
"I didn't put it in the hands of bandits and terrorists and it's not my fault that it has mushroomed uncontrollably across the globe. Can I be blamed that they consider it the most reliable weapon?"
"We sold the weapons to some countries for a symbolic price or even for nothing, with the aim of assisting national liberation struggles. Of course, this meant the Kalashnikov became available around the world,"
And additional 2001 interview with Mikhail Kalashnikov is quoted below. I felt several of his points expanded upon the more recent AP news articles.
“I was in the hospital, and a soldier in the bed beside me asked: ‘Why do our soldiers have only one rifle for two or three of our men, when the Germans have automatics?’ So I designed one. I was a soldier, and I created a machine gun for a soldier. It was called an Avtomat Kalashnikova, the automatic weapon of Kalashnikov - AK - and it carried the date of its first manufacture, 1947.”
The AK-47 became the symbol of revolution—Palestinian, Angolan, Vietnamese, Algerian, Afghan, Hezbollah, the battle rifle of the Warsaw Pact. And, of course, I asked old Mikhail Kalashnikov how he could justify all this blood, all those corpses torn to bits by his invention. He had been asked before.
“You see, maybe all these feelings come about because one side wants to liberate itself with arms. But in my opinion, it is the good that prevails. You may live to see the day when good prevails—it will be after I am dead. But the time will come when my weapons will be no more used or necessary.”
“When I met the Mozambique minister of defense, he presented me with his country’s national banner, which carries the image of a Kalashnikov submachine gun. And he told me that when all the liberation soldiers went home to their villages, they named their sons ‘Kalash.’ I think this is an honor, not just a military success. It’s a success in life when people are named after me, after Mikhail Kalashnikov.”
“My aim was to create armaments to protect the borders of my motherland. It is not my fault that the Kalashnikov became very well-known in the world; that it was used in many troubled places. I think the policies of these countries are to blame, not the designers. Man is born to protect his family, his children, his wife."