Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov (Russian: Михаи́л Тимофе́евич Кала́шников, IPA: [kɐˈlaʂnʲɪkəf]; 10 November 1919 – 23 December 2013) was a Russian lieutenant general, inventor, military engineer, writer, and small arms designer. He is most famous for developing the AK-47 assault rifle and its improvements, the AKM and AK-74, as well as the PK machine gun and RPK light machine gun.
Михаил Тимофеевич Калашников
Kalashnikov at the Kremlin,
Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov
10 November 1919
|Died||23 December 2013 (aged 94)|
|Known for||Designer of the AK-47, AK-74 and RPK|
|Spouse(s)||Ekaterina Viktorovna Kalashnikova (née Moiseyeva; 1921–1977; her death)|
|Children||4, including Victor|
Kalashnikov was, according to himself, a self-taught tinkerer who combined innate mechanical skills with the study of weaponry to design arms that achieved battlefield ubiquity. Even though Kalashnikov felt sorrow at the weapons' uncontrolled distribution, he took pride in his inventions and in their reputation for reliability, emphasizing that his rifle is "a weapon of defense" and "not a weapon for offense".
Kalashnikov was born in Kurya, Altai Governorate, Russian SFSR, now Altai Krai, Russia, as the seventeenth child of the 19 children of Aleksandra Frolovna Kalashnikova (née Kaverina) and Timofey Aleksandrovich Kalashnikov, who were peasants. In 1930, his father and most of his family had their properties confiscated and were deported as kulaks to the village of Nizhnyaya Mokhovaya, Tomsk Oblast. In his youth, Mikhail suffered from various illnesses and was on the verge of death at age six. He was attracted to all kinds of machinery, but also wrote poetry, dreaming of becoming a poet. He went on to write six books and continued to write poetry all of his life. After deportation to Tomsk Oblast, his family had to combine farming with hunting, and thus Mikhail frequently used his father's rifle in his teens. Kalashnikov continued hunting into his 90s.
After completing seventh grade, Mikhail, with his stepfather's permission, left his family and returned to Kurya, hitchhiking for nearly 1,000 km. In Kurya, he found a job in mechanics at a tractor station. A party organizer embedded within the factory noticed the man's dexterity and issued him a directive (napravlenie) to work at a nearby weapons design bureau, where he was employed as a tester of fitted stocks in rifles. In 1938, he was conscripted into the Red Army. Because of his small size and engineering skills he was assigned as a tank mechanic, and later became a tank commander. While training, he made his first inventions, which concerned not only tanks, but also small weapons, and was personally awarded a wrist watch by Georgy Zhukov. Kalashnikov served on the T-34s of the 24th Tank Regiment, 108th Tank Division stationed in Stryi before the regiment retreated after the Battle of Brody in June 1941. He was wounded in combat in the Battle of Bryansk in October 1941 and hospitalised until April 1942. In the last few months of being in hospital, he overheard some fellow soldiers bemoaning their current rifles, which were plagued with reliability issues, such as jamming. As he continued to overhear the complaints that the Soviet soldiers had, as soon as he was discharged, he went to work on what would become the famous AK-47 assault rifle.
Seeing the drawbacks of the standard infantry weapons at the time, he decided to construct a new rifle for the Soviet military. During this time Kalashnikov began designing a submachine gun. Although his first submachine gun design was not accepted into service, his talent as a designer was noticed. From 1942 onwards, Kalashnikov was assigned to the Central Scientific-developmental Firing Range for Rifle Firearms of the Chief Artillery Directorate of the Red Army.
In 1944, he designed a gas-operated carbine for the new 7.62×39mm cartridge. This weapon, influenced by the M1 Garand rifle, lost out to the new Simonov carbine which would be eventually adopted as the SKS; but it became a basis for his entry in an assault rifle competition in 1946.
His winning entry, the "Mikhtim" (so named by taking the first letters of his name and patronymic, Mikhail Timofeyevich) became the prototype for the development of a family of prototype rifles. This process culminated in 1947, when he designed the AK-47 (standing for Avtomat Kalashnikova model 1947). In 1949, the AK-47 became the standard issue assault rifle of the Soviet Army and went on to become Kalashnikov's most famous invention. While developing his first assault rifles, Kalashnikov competed with two much more experienced weapon designers, Vasily Degtyaryov and Georgy Shpagin, who both accepted the superiority of the AK-47. Kalashnikov named Alexandr Zaitsev and Vladimir Deikin as his major collaborators during those years.
Over the course of his career, he evolved the basic design into a weapons family. The AKM (Russian: Автомат Кала́шникова Модернизированный, lit. 'Kalashnikov modernized assault rifle'), first brought into service in 1959, was lighter and cheaper to manufacture owing to the use of a stamped steel receiver (in place of the AK-47's milled steel receiver) and contained detail improvements such as a re-shaped stock and muzzle compensator. From the AKM he developed a squad automatic weapon variant, known as the RPK (Russian: Ручной пулемет Кала́шникова, lit. 'Kalashnikov light machine gun').
He also developed the general-purpose PK machine gun (Russian: Пулемет Кала́шникова, lit. 'Kalashnikov machine gun'), which used the more powerful 7.62×54R cartridge of the Mosin–Nagant rifle. It is cartridge belt-fed, not magazine-fed, as it is intended to provide heavy sustained fire from a tripod mount, or be used as a light, bipod-mounted weapon. The common characteristics of all these weapons are simple design, ruggedness and ease of maintenance in all operating conditions.
Approximately 100 million AK-47 assault rifles had been produced by 2009, and about half of them are counterfeit, manufactured at a rate of about a million per year. Izhmash, the official manufacturer of AK-47 in Russia, did not patent the weapon until 1997, and in 2006 accounted for only 10% of the world's production. This arm became famous due to its reliability in the most extreme climatic conditions, functioning as perfectly in the desert as in the tundra. It is in official use by the militaries of 55 nations, and has been so influential in military struggle that it has been used on national flags. Prominent examples include the flags of Mozambique and Hezbollah, as well as the East Timorese and Zimbabwean coats of arms.
Kalashnikov himself claimed he was always motivated by service to his country rather than money, and made no direct profit from weapon production. He did however own 30% of a German company Marken Marketing International (MMI) run by his grandson Igor. The company revamps trademarks and produces merchandise carrying the Kalashnikov name, such as vodka, umbrellas and knives. One of the items is a knife named for the AK-74.
During a visit to the United States in the early 2000s, Kalashnikov was invited to tour a Virginia holding site for the forthcoming American Wartime Museum. The former tanker Kalashnikov became visibly moved at the sight of his old tank in action, painted with his name in Cyrillic.
After a prolonged illness, Kalashnikov was hospitalized on 17 November 2013, in an Udmurtian medical facility in Izhevsk, the capital of Udmurtia and where he lived. He died 23 December 2013, at age 94 from gastric hemorrhage. In January 2014, a letter that Kalashnikov wrote six months before his death to the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, was published by the Russian daily newspaper Izvestia. In the letter, he stated that he was suffering "spiritual pain" about whether he was responsible for the deaths caused by the weapons he created. Translated from the published letter he states, "I keep having the same unsolved question: if my rifle claimed people's lives, then can it be that I... a Christian and an Orthodox believer, was to blame for their deaths?"
The patriarch wrote back, thanked Kalashnikov, and said that he "was an example of patriotism and a correct attitude toward the country". Kirill added about the design responsibility for the deaths by the rifle, "the church has a well-defined position when the weapon is defense of the Motherland, the Church supports its creators and the military, which use it."
He became one of the first people buried in the Federal Military Memorial Cemetery.
Kalashnikov's father, Timofey Aleksandrovich Kalashnikov (1883–1930), was a peasant. He completed two grades of parochial school and could read and write. In 1901, he married Aleksandra Frolovna Kaverina (1884–1957), who was illiterate throughout her life. They had 19 children, but only eight survived to adult age; Kalashnikov was born 17th, and was close to death at age six.
In 1930, the government labeled Timofey Aleksandrovich a kulak, confiscated his property, and deported him to Siberia, along with most of the family. The eldest three siblings, daughters Agasha (b. 1905) and Anna and son Victor, were already married by 1930, and remained in Kuriya. After her husband's death in 1930, Aleksandra Frolovna married Efrem Kosach, a widower who had three children of his own.
Mikhail Kalashnikov married twice, the first time to Ekaterina Danilovna Astakhova of Altai Krai. He married the second time to Ekaterina Viktorovna Moiseyeva (1921–1977). She was an engineer and did much technical drawing work for her husband. They had four children: daughters Nelli (b. 1942), Elena (b. 1948) and Natalya (1953–1983), and a son Victor (1942–2018). Victor also became a prominent small arms designer.
During his career, Kalashnikov designed about 150 models of small weapons. The most famous of them are:
Awards and tributeEdit
Incorporates information from the corresponding article in the Russian Wikipedia
- Recipients of the Order of St. Andrew
- In 1998, he was awarded an Order of Saint Andrew the Protoclete
- On his 90th birthday on 10 November 2009, Kalashnikov was named a "Hero of the Russian Federation" and presented with a medal by President Dmitry Medvedev who lauded him for creating "the brand every Russian is proud of"
- In 2012, Izhevsk State Technical University was named after Kalashnikov
- On 7 November 2014 a statue of Kalashnikov was unveiled at the Russian 102nd Military Base in Gyumri, Armenia. Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan attended the opening ceremony.
- On 19 September 2017 a 9 metres (30 ft) monument of Kalashnikov was unveiled in Garden Ring, central Moscow. A protester, later detained by police, attempted to unfurl a banner reading "a creator of weapons is a creator of death".
- Hero of the Russian Federation (2009)
- Order of St. Andrew (2008)
- Order For Merit to the Fatherland, Second Class (1994)
- Order of Military Merit (Russia) (2004)
- State Prize of the Russian Federation in the field of design (1997)
- Award of the President of the Russian Federation in the field of education (2003)
- All-Russian Literary Prize of Suvorov (2009)
- Honorary diplomas
- Diploma of the Government of the Russian Federation (1997, 1999)
- Jubilee Medal "50 Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945"
- Medal "Symbol of Science" (2007)
- Gold Medal of Zhukov
- Medal "For outstanding contribution to the development of the collection business in Russia"
- Gratitude of the President of the Russian Federation (1997,1999,2002,2007)
- Hero of Socialist Labour (1958, 1976)
- Order of Lenin (1958, 1969, 1976)
- Order of the October Revolution (1974)
- Order of the Red Star (1949)
- Order of the Patriotic War, 1st Class (1985)
- Order of the Red Banner of Labour (1957)
- Order of Friendship of Peoples (1982)
- Medal "Hammer and Sickle" (1958,1976)
- Medal "For Victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War of 1941–1945"
- Medal "Twenty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945"
- Medal "In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin"
- Jubilee Medal "Thirty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945"
- Jubilee Medal "Forty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945"
- Medal "For Distinction in Guarding the State Border of the USSR"
- Medal "Veteran of Labor" on behalf of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR
- Jubilee Medal "30 years of the Soviet Army and Navy"
- Jubilee Medal "40 years of the Armed Forces of the USSR"
- Jubilee Medal "50 Years of the Armed Forces of the USSR"
- Jubilee Medal "60 Years of the Armed Forces of the USSR"
- Jubilee Medal "70 years of the Armed Forces of the USSR"
- Medal "In Commemoration of the 800th anniversary of Moscow"
- Order of Honour of Belarus (1999)
- Order of Friendship, First Class (2003)
- the home of Mikhail Kalashnikov in the village he set Courier lifetime bronze bust (1980)
- the name of the designer named projected prospect in Izhevsk (1994)
- "Honorary Citizen of the Altai Territory" (1997)
- Ministry of Economy of Russia award – The sign "of small arms designer Mikhail Kalashnikov" (1997)
- Union of scientific and engineering organizations and the Government of Udmurtia established an award named after Mikhail Kalashnikov (1999)
- Diamond company "Alrosa" extracted 29 December 1995 gem diamonds weighing 50.74 carats given the name "designer Mikhail Kalashnikov" (14.5 x 15, 0h15, 5 mm, quality Stones Black) (1999)
- Mikhail Kalashnikov Cadet School in Votkinsk (2002)
- Award in his name at the School of Weapon Skills of Izhevsk (2002)
- Izhevsk State Cultural Institution "Museum of Mikhail Kalashnikov"
- "Honorary Engineer of Kazakhstan" (Kazakhstan; 2004)
- Gift from President Hugo Chávez, the highest award of the Republic – a copy of the famous sword of Simon Bolivar, which is a relic of Venezuela and the copy is equal to the highest award of the country (2009)
- The name of Mikhail Kalashnikov was given to the military department of the Mining Institute in St. Petersburg (2009)
- Izhevsk State Technical University was awarded the name of Mikhail Kalashnikov (2012)
- German knife company Boker has dedicated a series to him (2013)
- The companies that make Kalashnikov rifles, Izhmash and Izhevsk Mechanical Plant were merged and formally renamed Kalashnikov Concern. (2013)
- "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." 
- "Blame the Nazi Germans for making me become a gun designer ... I always wanted to construct agriculture machinery."
- "When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed' ... So this has been my lifetime motto – I have been creating weapons to defend the borders of my fatherland, to be simple and reliable."
- "I'm proud of my invention, but I'm sad that it is used by terrorists ... I would prefer to have invented a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work — for example a lawn mower."
- "I created a weapon to defend the borders of my motherland. It's not my fault that it's being used where it shouldn't be. The politicians are more to blame for this."
- "I sleep well. It's the politicians who are to blame for failing to come to an agreement and resorting to violence."
- "Archived copy" Калашников Михаил Тимофеевич (in Russian). Great Soviet Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 8 January 2014. Retrieved 20 January 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Работаю по призванию. Отечественные архивы (in Russian) (1). 2004. Archived from the original on 20 December 2012. Contains an autobiography and a copy of the resume submitted with Kalashnikov's application to the Soviet Communist Party
- "Биография М.Т.Калашникова". Kalashnikov.name. Archived from the original on 20 March 2012. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
- Chivers, C. J. (23 December 2013). "Mikhail Kalashnikov, Creator of AK-47, Dies at 94". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 December 2013.
- "Калашников Михаил Тимофеевич". www.warheroes.ru. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
- "The AK-47 Kalashnikov Museum". Kalashnikov-weapons-museum.ak47-guide.com. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
- Alexandr Osipovich (10 November 2009). "Gun inventor, 'happy man' Kalashnikov turns 90". Archived from the original on 8 November 2011. Retrieved 20 November 2009.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
- "Poet at heart: Kalashnikov inventory turns 90 in a hail of praise". The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia). 12 November 2009. Retrieved 16 December 2009.
- "Kalashnikov 'wanted to be poet and more'". BBC World News 74. 10 November 2009. Retrieved 11 November 2009.
- Compare Kalashnikov and Dmitry Medvedev in File:Kalashnikov Medvedev.jpg. Medvedev is ca. 1.60 m (5 ft 3 in). Watt, Nick; Mucha, Jenna (5 July 2008). "World's Leaders Don't Stand So Tall". ABC News.
- Connolly, Kate (30 July 2002). "Kalashnikov: 'I wish I'd made a lawnmower'". The Guardian.
- "AK-47 Inventor Doesn't Lose Sleep Over Havoc Wrought With His Invention". The Associated Press via Fox News. 6 July 2007.
- "Interview of Mikhail Kalashnikov". Guns of the World (Interview). History Channel. 15 December 2009.
- Bolotin, D.N. (1995). Soviet Small-Arms and Ammunition. Finnish Arms Museum Foundation. pp. 69–70, 115. ISBN 9519718419.
- Kalashnikov, Mikhail (June 1983). "How and Why I Produced My Submachine Gun". Sputnik: A Digest of the Soviet Press. Moscow: Novosti Press Agency: 70–75.
- Alexandrov, Georgy (10 November 2009). Михаил Калашников: "Всё нужное – просто" (in Russian). Argumenty i Facty.
- Solovyov, Dmitry (26 October 2009). "Kalashnikov, 90, decries "criminal" use of rifle". Reuters. Retrieved 20 November 2009.
- "Father of the AK-47 receives Russia's top honor". RIA Novosti. 10 November 2009. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
- "Care for a Kalashnikov Umbrella?". The Moscow Times. 21 February 2003. Archived from the original on 10 June 2014.
- "Coming soon – the Kalashnikov brolly?". BBC. 17 February 2003.
- Connolly, Kate (17 February 2003). "Kalashnikov lends his name to an umbrella". The Telegraph.
- Keating, Susan Katz (23 December 2013). "Mikhail Kalashnikov, Dead at 94, Once Visited the Tank Farm in Virginia". Susan Katz Keating blog. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
- Скончался легендарный конструктор стрелкового оружия Михаил Калашников (in Russian). RIA Novosti. 23 December 2013. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
- Alpert, Lukas I.; Miller, Stephen (23 December 2013). "Designer of the Popular Kalashnikov Rifle Dies". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
- "Mikhail Kalashnikov, designer of AK-47 rifle, dead at 94". The Star. 23 December 2013.
- Heintz, Jim (23 December 2013). "Rifle designer Mikhail Kalashnikov dead at 94". Associated Press. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
- Telman, Denis (13 January 2014). "Before his death, wrote a letter of repentance Kalashnikov patriarch". Izvestia.
- BBC News – Kalashnikov 'feared he was to blame' for AK-47 rifle deaths. Bbc.co.uk (13 January 2014). Retrieved on 18 April 2014.
- "Kalashnikov 'feared he was to blame' for AK-47 rifle deaths". BBC. 13 January 2014.
- Andrea Drusch. "10 things about Kalashnikov". POLITICO. Retrieved 28 December 2020.
- Калашников Михаил Тимофеевич (in Russian). weaponplace.ru.
- "Концерн "Калашников" отсудил бренд АК-47 у родственников конструктора — Meduza". Retrieved 19 September 2017.
- ПОЛОЖЕНИЕ О НАГРУДНОМ ЗНАКЕ "МЕДАЛЬ ИМЕНИ КОНСТРУКТОРА СТРЕЛКОВОГО ОРУЖИЯ М.Т. КАЛАШНИКОВА (in Russian). The Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade. 27 June 2008.
- "Orthodox Christians honour memory of Saint Apostle Andrew the First-called". Pravda. 13 December 2001. Retrieved 13 December 2013.
- Теперь ИжГТУ носит имя М. Т. Калашникова (in Russian). istu.ru. 21 February 2012.
- "На российской военной базе в Армении открыт памятник выдающемуся оружейнику Михаилу Калашникову". mil.ru. Russian Ministry of Defence. 7 November 2014.
- Գյումրիում բացվել է Միխայիլ Կալաշնիկովի արձանը (in Armenian). RFE/RL Armenian Service. 7 November 2014.
- "A monument to Kalashnikov". The Economist. 21 September 2017.
- Bennetts, Marc (19 September 2017). "30ft-high statue of Mikhail Kalashnikov unveiled in Moscow". Retrieved 19 September 2017 – via www.theguardian.com.
- Smith, Matthew (12 August 2013) Izhmash formally renamed Kalashnikov. IHS Jane's Defence Weekly
- Fisk, Robert (22 April 2001) An interview with Mikhail Kalashnikov, The Independent, London, England.
- AK-47 inventor Mikhail Kalashnikov dead at 94 – Militarytimes.com, 23 December 2013
- Forge, John (January–February 2007). "No Consolation For Kalashnikov". Philosophy Now (59). Retrieved 24 January 2007.
- Ружье. Оружие и амуниция double/special issue of 1997/5-6 has a fairly complete inventory of Kalashnikov's designs. Issues 1 and 2 of the same magazine from 1999 have articles on Kalashnikov's 1st sub-machine gun (1942)  and respectively his first rifle (1944–45) .
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mikhail Kalashnikov.|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Mikhail Kalashnikov|
- M.T. Kalashnikov Museum and Exhibition Small Arms Complex
- 'I sleep soundly' – Interview with and article on Mikhail Kalashnikov at the age of 83, from The Guardian newspaper.
- Mikhail Kalashnikov backs weapons control
- BBC NEWS Profile: Mikhail Kalashnikov
- Free illustrated virtual guided tour of the Museum of Mikhail Kalashnikov
- The life of Mikhail Kalashnikov (in Russian)
- Mikhail Kalashnikov with Elena Joly: The Gun that Changed the World
- 7,62 мм ручной пулемет М.Т. Калашникова. 1944 г. Kalashikov model 1944 light machine gun—his 2nd design.
- The Economist: Obituary 11 January 2014 Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov, weapons inventor, died on 23 December, aged 94