Major-General Mikhail Kalashnikov
Mikhail Kalashnikov was born on November 10, 1919 in the village of Kurya, Altai Territory, to a peasant family. Mikhail was the seventeenth child of Timofel and Alexandra Kalashnikov. On finishing the 9th form of a secondary school, Kalashnikov went to work in the Matai depot as an apprentice and was subsequently a technical clerk in the employ of a Turkistan-Sibenan railway department.
In 1938, Kalashnikov was called up for military service, served in the Kiev special military district and graduated from a school of tank drivers. During his service, Kalashnikov showed his worth in invention. He devised an inertia revolution counter to register the number of actual shots from a tank gun, made a special appliance for the TT pistol to enhance fire effectiveness through tank turret slits and designed a tank running time metre.
In June I941, Mikhail Kalashnikov, as an inventor, was sent by military district commander of the Army General G.K. Zhukov to Leningrad to implement his recent invention. From the outset of the Great Patriotic War, senior sergeant Mikhail Kalashnikov fought against fascist invaders as a tank commander. In October 1941 he was seriously wounded in the violent battle of Bryansk. While in hospital, Kalashnikov conceived the idea of a submachine gun. Later, while on a six-month sick leave, he came to the Matai depot and, assisted by the depot personnel, realized his invention in the depot shops.
With the submachine gun he left for Alma-Ata. Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, Kaishingulov sent the inventor to the Ordzhonikidze Moscow Aviation Institute which had been evacuated to Alma-Ata. A second model of Kalashnikov's submachine gun was devised and made in the shops of the Institute’s aviation ordnance department. In June 1942 the model was sent for reference to the Dzerzhinsky Ordnance Academy located in Samarkand. A.A Blagonravov, an outstanding Soviet small arms specialist, displayed interest in senior sergeant Kalashnikov's submachine gun. Although the submachine gun was not recommended for service, the talent, efforts and original design approaches of the self-taught designer were highly appreciated.
In 1942, Kalashnikov was assigned to the Central Research Small Arms Range of the Main Ordnance Directorate of the Red Army. In 1944 Mikhail Kalashnikov devised a prototype of the self-loading carbine; its main assemblies were used as a basis for an assault rifle made in 1946. In 1947, Kalashnikov's updated assault rifle displayed high reliability and firing effectiveness during arduous competitive tests and was found best. In 1949, after modifications, the assault rifle, designated "Kalashnikov 7.62mm assault rifle, make 1947 (AK)," became operational in the Soviet Army and Mikhail Kalashnikov received the Stalin Prize First Class.
Since 1949 Mikhail Kalashnikov has been living and working in Izhevsk. He worked his way up from soldier, to General Designer of small arms in the Soviet Army.
Between 1950 and 1970, a series of unified small arms weapons developed by Kalashnikov - AKM, AKMS, AK-74, AKS-74, AK-74U, RPK, RPRS, RPK-74, RPKS-74, PK, PKS, PKM, PKSM, PKT, PKTM, PKB, PKMB - were adopted. The Soviet government highly praised Kalashnikov's contribution to the defence might of the country; he was twice honoured as Hero of Socialist Labor (1958 and 1976), won the Stalin Prize (1949) and granted Doctor's degree (1971) and promoted to the rank of Colonel (1969), awarded three Orders of Lenin, Order of the Red Banner of Labor, Order of the Patriotic War First Class, Order of the Red Star and many medals of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.
Since 1980 Mikhail Kalashnikov has been a citizen of honour in his native village of Kurya, where a bronze bust was set up, as he was twice awarded Hero of Socialist Labor. Since 1987 he has been an honourable citizen of Izhevsk. To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the great designer, Russia's President Boris Yeltsin himself invested Mikhail Kalashnikov with the Order "For Distinguished Services for the Motherland" Second Class and promoted him to Major-General.
The automatic weapons of the Kalashnikov system are widely used the world over. Since 1990, after the break-up of the USSR and Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Kalashnikov small arms have been extensively or partially operational in the armies, used by special-task forces or manufactured for export to the following countries: Albania, Azerbaijan, Algeria, Armenia, Angola, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Benin, Bulgaria, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Hungary, Vietnam, Gabon, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea - Bissau, Haiti, Gambia, Guyana, Honduras, Georgia, Djibouti, Egypt, Zaire, Zambia, Zimbabwe, North Yemen, South Yemen, Israel, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Italy, Kazakhstan, Cape Verde, China, Qatar, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, North Korea, Cuba, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lesotho, Lebanon, Lybia, Lithuania, Mauritania, Madagascar, Macedonia, Mali, Maldives, Malta, Morocco, Mozambique, Moldova, Namibia, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Romania, Swaziland, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slavonia, Syria, Somali, Sudan, Surinam, Sierra Leone, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Philippines, Finland, Croatia, Czech Republic, Sweden, Sri Lanka, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Ethiopia, South Africa and Yugoslavia. According to various sources, about 100 million Kalashnikov assault rifles of various modifications were manufactured by the middle of the 1990’s, both in Russia and abroad, including those made under license and pirate copies (for his invention made in the 1940s Kalashnikov has never held a patent).
Kalashnikov small arms are extremely popular throughout the world. Asserting that the AK assault rifle helped them gain sovereignty, some countries include its picture in their national emblems, while in other countries newborn boys are named "Kalash."
What is behind the unprecedented popularity of the Kalashnikov assault rifle and its modifications, as manifested in a heraldic symbol? Simple - Mikhail Kalashnikov has obtained an optimum combination of a number of features of the weapon, ensuring its high firing effectiveness and reliability. These include the short locking assembly, balanced bolt, unseating of the cartridge case after shot, preventing failure during extraction of fired cases, insensitivity to contamination and trouble-free operation in any climatic conditions.
Major-General Mikhail Kalashnikov has always maintained that he invented the AK-47 Kalashnikov rifle, not as a weapon for aggression and violence, but one by which he and his comrades could defend their Motherland from invasion and attack.