The frightening deathbed question from the inventor of the AK-47 rifle
Inventor of the Ak-47 asked one final question before he died...
It's a tough and emotional end for the inventor of the AK-47, the iconic assault rifle that is widely regarded as one of the best - and deadliest in the world. It has come to light that months before his death, Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the Soviet-era assault rifle that bears his name, wrote a letter to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church expressing regrets for his work.
The AK-47 is an amazing weapon, invented by a young man who had a knack for invention.
Mikhail Kalashnikov was born in 1919 to a farming family in rural Russia. His family was viewed unfavorably by the Soviet establishment and deported to Siberia where the young Kalashnikov was forced to hunt with his father's rifle to feed the family.
In addition to hunting, Kalashnikov was a tinkerer, always working with farm machinery.
In 1938, he was conscripted into the Red Army and gained recognition for tinkering with tanks and attempting to design an improved rifle. Although his initial design idea for a rifle was rejected, he was lauded for his efforts.
In 1941, following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, he was wounded in combat and sent to a hospital for recovery. During his time in the hospital, he began work on what would later become the AK-47. Kalashnikov envisioned a functional weapon that would work in a variety of conditions.
After his recovery, Kalashnikov was assigned to a scientific bureau in charge of developing weapons. In 1947, he produced his first AK-47 with the number representing the year of its design. In 1949, the rifle was adopted into Soviet service.
From there, the rest is history.
The rifle, like many other Soviet weapons, was exported and produced under license elsewhere. It was cheap and reliable. It was highly resistant to jamming and easy to maintain. In Vietnam, anecdotes emerged that American soldiers would scavenge the bodies of dead North Vietnamese soldiers for their AK-47s, which they would use in place of their American-issue rifles. Although the American rifles were more accurate, the reliability of the AK-47 was more highly valued in the mucky tropical conditions.
The AK-47 became an icon of revolution, a deliberate depiction pushed by Soviet ideologues and leaders who believed the revolution should be exported around the globe. The rifle was a practical symbol, cheap, ubiquitous, and reliable. The national flag of Mozambique has even adopted the AK-47 on its flag.
With its distinctive double barrel design and banana clip, an AK-47 and its many variants and derivatives are distinct among period rifles.
Mikhail Kalashnikov himself personally negotiated many contracts for weapons exports and licensing.
This is where the story takes a turn from one of engineering and political success to one of moral calamity because Kalashnikov remained personally involved in the weapon, it's subsequent development and export.
The AK-47 may possibly be one of the world's deadliest rifles ever with an astounding body count that still rises by the day.
With the lives of millions on his mind, the aging Kalashnikov wrote a letter last April to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, asking if the lives of those millions were upon his soul.
Until recently, Kalashnikov defended his work by deflecting any sense of responsibility. The AK-47 is a tool, and he could not be held responsible for how people used it. Yet, in his final months of life he began to have concerns.
"The pain in my soul is unbearable," he wrote. "I keep asking myself the same unsolvable question: If my assault rifle took people's lives, it means that I, Mikhail Kalashnikov, ... son of a farmer and Orthodox Christian am responsible for people's deaths."
"The longer I live, the more often that question gets into my brain, the deeper I go in my thoughts and guesses about why the Almighty allowed humans to have devilish desires of envy, greed and aggression. Everything changes, only a man and his thinking remain unchanged: he's just as greedy, evil, heartless and restless as before!"
The church replied with virtually the same response. Alexander Volkov, the spokesman for the Russian Patriarch replied, "If the weapon is used to defend the Motherland, the Church supports both its creators and the servicemen using it."
Yet this may not have comforted the dying Kalashnikov, who began visiting Church at the age of 91 in his working hometown of Izhevsk.
Kalashnikov's experience shows that we can rationalize all we like, but at some level, in a moral person, there is a sense of responsibility for what one does. Even if one's actions do not result in the direct death of another, even a distant connection can bring about profound feelings of guilt.
Kalashnikov killed no people himself, but his design remains eminently deadly to this day.
Pope Francis calls for your 'prayer and action'...
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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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