Mikhail Kalashnikov Biography
Died At Age: 94
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Also Known As: Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov
Born Country: Russia
Born in: Kurya, Russia
Famous as: Inventor of AK-47 Assault Rifle
Spouse/Ex-: Ekaterina Kalashnikova (m. ?–1977)
father: Timofey Aleksandrovich Kalashnikov
mother: Aleksandra Frolovna Kalashnikova
children: Elena Krasnovskaya, Natalia Kalashnikova, Nelli Kalashnikova, Victor Kalashnikov
Mikhail Kalashnikov was a Russian general, small arms designer and a writer. He is known for his invention of the AK-47 assault rifle. During his lifetime, he created over 150 small weapon models. He was a sickly child, and circumstances led him to dropping out of school to become a tractor mechanic. He joined the ‘Red Army’ and rose through the ranks to become a tank commander. While convalescing in the hospital from battle wounds, he overheard a soldier complain about the inferior quality of Soviet rifles. That inspired him to design a new rifle for the Soviet military, and after many efforts, he succeeded in creating the legendary AK-47. Its simplicity and sturdiness made it a weapon of choice for militaries of 55 nations as well as terrorists. AK-47 was not patented until much late and he did not make much profit from it, though his family owned the trademark until quite recently. In his later years, he was deeply saddened by the misuse of his invention. A recipient of numerous awards, he also wrote several books. He died in Russia from a prolonged illness.
- Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov was born on November 10, 1919, in Kurya, Russia, to Aleksandra and Timofey Kalashnikov. He was 17th of a family of 19 children.
- In 1930, his family lost their property to the Soviet collectivization process and was displaced to a village in the Siberian Tomsk Oblast region. His father passed away during their first winter there and his mother remarried soon after.
- His family of peasants had to supplement their income by hunting, and he learnt to use a rifle at an early age. He also liked machinery and poetry.
- He was a sickly child, suffering from several ailments, and almost died when he was six.
- He dropped out of school after the seventh grade and hitchhiked back to Kurya to take up a job as a tractor mechanic, where he developed a taste for engineering.
- In 1938, Mikhail Kalashnikov signed up with the ‘Red Army’, where his engineering experience and small stature got him the job of a tank mechanic, and later, he became a tank commander.
- He tinkered about with machinery, inventing small weapons during training, which caught the attention of his superiors.
- From 1941-42, he was hospitalised due to injuries sustained in the ‘Battle of Bryansk’. In the hospital, he overheard a soldier complain about the drawbacks of Soviet rifles. He decided right then to create a new rifle for the Soviet army.
- With the help of a few friends, he designed a submachine gun, and even though army superiors rejected it, his talent did not go unnoticed.
- In 1943, he was hired by ‘Izhevsk Machine-Building Plant’ as a gun designer and began working on creating automatic weapons.
- In 1944, he created a gas-operated carbine for a new cartridge.
- In 1946, he entered his new creation ‘Mikhtim’ in an assault rifle competition, but lost to a competitor.
- In 1947, he succeeded in perfecting his assault rifle design and the AK-47 was born. AK-47 meant ‘Avtomat Kalashnikova’ - automatic weapon of Kalashnikov - and the year of its creation, 1947.
- In 1949, he permanently moved to Izhevsk, Udmurtia, after the Soviet Army adopted the AK-47 as a standard issue assault rifle.
- From 1949-63, he continued to work on modernized and improved variants of the AK-47, most notable among them being the AKM, RPK Kalashnikov, and PK.
- Due to their sturdy build, simplicity of design, ease of use and low maintenance in any condition, they became the weapon of choice for armed forces and guerilla armies - from frozen Siberia to the hot deserts of Africa. He and his gun soon attained legendary status.
- In 1971, he attained the degree of ‘Doctor of Technical Sciences’ and became a member of 16 educational institutions.
- Since the official manufacturer of AK-47, ‘Izhmash’, had not patented the weapon until 1997, counterfeit copies of the AK-47 were made and sold all over the world, sometimes for as little as $15. ‘Izhmash’-manufactured AK-47s made up only 10% of the nearly 100 million sold each year.
- Mikhail claimed that he made no profit from gun production, and had created AK-47 to serve his country. But it is believed that he pocketed 30% of the profits from his grandson’s German company ‘Marken Marketing International’ that designed Kalashnikov-branded merchandise like knives, vodka, umbrellas, etc.
- In 2006, shocked to see his guns in the hands of bandits and children, he backed the UN ‘Control Arms campaign’ to halt the illicit distribution of small arms. He even stated that he could not be blamed for the gun’s uncontrolled spread across the globe.
- Until 2016, his family owned the title to the ‘AK-47’ trademark, but lost it to the ‘Kalashnikov Concern’ (formerly ‘Izhmash’) in a lawsuit.
- As the AK-47 and its black market variants began to be used in terrorist attacks across the world, Mikhail began to question the creation of his invention towards the end of his life.
- Mikhail Kalashnikov was a member of the ‘Russian Authors Union’ and wrote many books during his lifetime.
- In 1992, his first book ‘The Arms Designer Notes’ was published.
- In 1997, his personal memoirs ‘From A Stranger’s Doorstep To The Kremlin Gates - A Word From The AK Man’ were published.
- In 2006, he co-authored the book ‘The Gun that Changed the World’ that was also his autobiography.
- In 1949, he won the prestigious ‘Stalin Prize’, ‘USSR State Prize’ and ‘Order of the Red Star’, all awarded by the Soviet Union for the creation of AK-47.
- In 1964, he was awarded one of the most prestigious awards of the Soviet Union, ‘Lenin Prize’.
- In 1999, he received his first foreign decoration, ‘Order of Honour of Belarus’.
- In 2004, a museum named after him ‘The Kalashnikov Museum’ was established in Izhevsk, Russia.
- In 2008, he received the ‘Order of St. Andrew’, the highest order of the Russian Federation.
- In 2009, he was decorated with the ‘Hero of the Russian Federation’, the highest honourary title of the Russian Federation.
- In 2014, the Russian post issued a stamp in his honour.
- In 2017, a 30-foot-tall bronze statue of him was unveiled in Moscow.
- Mikhail Kalashnikov was married to Ekaterina Moiseyeva, who was an engineer and did many technical drawings for him. He had four children: son, Victor, and daughters, Nelli, Elena and Natalia.
- He was a gifted poet and his pre-war poems were published in a Kiev newspaper. He also enjoyed hunting well into his 90s.
- In November 2013, he was hospitalised for a prolonged illness and passed away on December 23, 2013 from gastric haemorrhage.
- He was buried at the ‘Federal Military Memorial Cemetery.’
- He stated in an interview that he was proud of his invention, but would have preferred to invent something that helped people, like a lawn mower.
- His famous invention is seen on the flags of Mozambique and Hezbollah, along with the coat of arms of Zimbabwe and East Timor.
- He blamed the Nazi Germans for making him a gun designer, and insisted that he created the gun to defend his country, and it was not his fault that it was being misused.
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