He was a sergeant in the Russian army and he had to be removed out injured from a burning tank in the second world-war, complaining bitterly like his fellow soldiers about the poor quality of Russian weapons at that time, in comparison to that of the enemy German forces.
Mikhail Kalashnikov, along with others, was then given the responsibility to design a weapon to defend the father land. He worked hard, putting in all the experience gained at the world war front. What came out of the trials and tribulations of the design team was to become the biggest single killer weapon of mankind. It is officially in service in 55 countries and adorns several national emblems. Yes, I am talking about "Assault Kalashnikov", popularly known as the "AK-47". Created in 1947, it’s hallmark is reliability and simple design. And that’s why, it is the most sought after one-to-one combat warfare instrument. Millions of the counterfeit versions of Kalashnikovs are also used as the weapon of choice by militias, rebels as well as gangsters and drug traffickers.
Attempts have been made over the years to provide with a better assault weapon but, none has been able to succeed so far. During the cold war period also, it beat its nearest rival, the US made M-16 rifle, hands down. Had this invention been done in west, it would have certainly made him multi-millionaire but, in communist USSR then, it gave him the national recognition only and the status of ‘Soviet Hero.’
Today, he lives in a modest Soviet-era apartment in the town of Izhevsk, east of Moscow. In 1990, Kalashnikov had met Eugene Stoner – the American designer of M-16 rifle. After meeting, Kalashnikov said his rich American colleague was flying his own plane, while the Russian could hardly afford a flight to Moscow even in government owned airline!
In November 2009, the Russian premier Medvedev decorated Kalashnikov on his 90th birthday with the title of ‘Hero Of Russia’ – the highest honorary national title in a glittering ceremony at Kremlin. Medvedev told, "In our country, such phenomena do not happen every day, I mean not only the Kalashnikov rifle but, also the national brand created by you, which makes every Russian proud, makes him feel he is part of history and inspires him to work for the future. you must not regret that you served our country, and the love of the whole nation is the assessment of your work."
When being reminded of the countless death his weapon has brought so far, Kalashnikov, in his trembling voice, said at the Kremlin ceremony, "this is not my fault that this weapon is not used where it should, … this is the fault of politicians, not designers. I made it to defend the borders of the fatherland."
Whatever may the outcome be of the debate on the need and use of the AK-47 rifle – in ethical or non-ethical war fields, one thing is sure as far as global recognition goes, Mikhail Kalashnikov’s name would be right up there with Death and Haemorrhoids, if those were actual people’s names – as pain in arse of mankind … for having created the weapon, the brand to die for!