Mikhail Kalashnikov, whose work as a weapons designer for the Soviet Union is immortalised in the name of the world’s most popular firearm, died on Monday at the age of 94.
Mr. Kalashnikov once aspired to design farm equipment. But even though his most famous invention the AK-47 assault rifle sowed havoc instead of crops, he often said he felt personally untroubled by his contribution to bloodshed.
“I sleep well. It’s the politicians who are to blame for failing to come to an agreement and resorting to violence,” he said in 2007.
Mr. Kalashnikov died in a hospital in Izhevsk, the capital of the Udmurtia republic where he lived, said Viktor Chulkov, a spokesman for the republic’s President.
The AK-47 “Avtomat Kalashnikov” and the year it went into production is the world’s most popular firearm, favoured by guerrillas, terrorists and the soldiers of many armies. An estimated 100 million guns are spread worldwide.
“During the Vietnam war, American soldiers would throw away their M-16s to grab AK-47s and bullets for it from dead Vietnamese soldiers,” Kalashnikov said in July 2007 at a ceremony marking the rifle’s 60th anniversary.
The gun’s status among revolutionaries and national liberation struggles is enshrined on the flag of Mozambique.
Mr. Kalashnikov, born into a peasant family in Siberia, began his working life as a railroad clerk. After he joined the Red Army in 1938, he began to show mechanical flair by inventing several modifications for Soviet tanks.
In 2007, President Vladimir Putin praised him, saying “The Kalashnikov rifle is a symbol of the creative genius of our people.”
Over his career, he was decorated with numerous honours, including the Hero of Socialist Labour and Order of Lenin and Stalin Prize. But because his invention was never patented, he didn’t get rich off royalties.
“At that time in our country patenting inventions wasn’t an issue. We worked for Socialist society, for the good of the people, which I never regret,” he once said.