Millennium Post

Death and that killing machine

When Mikhail Kalashnikov won a weapon design contest in the early 1940s, the then Soviet Union immediately sent the Avtomat Kalashnikov-47, an automatic rifle, crude but easy to use, to full scale industrial production. In the decades that followed, the gun travelled all over the world after being mass manufactured by the Eastern bloc countries in their factories, which added to the arsenal of almost every insurgency and military instability since then. Whether it’s Afghanistan or South Sudan, Syria or Columbia, the AK-47 has been a staple killing machine, a standard operative of the guerilla fighters of Africa or Latin America and Taliban militants of Asia. But did this Soviet soldier-turned-arms innovator, who was born in 1919 to a peasant family in the Bolshevik Russia, have any idea what his prize-winning design would lead to, what ugly and bloody legacy it would create for itself? Perhaps not. Mikhail Kalashnikov, who died on 23 December aged 94, has certainly written his name with blood and bullets in the gory pages of history, enlisted for an eternal stint in popular culture as the man behind this death dealer. The weapon of mass extermination, the AK-47 rifles, was perhaps the result of a thwarted poetic dream, who knows since the man with the golden gun, as it were, and the brain behind a number of Cold War tanks and other ammunition, had also harboured the ambition of becoming a poet. The journey from trying to be a latter-day Pushkin to becoming the licencer of kills is a strange, long and sublime one, wedging man forever with this machine gun, living with the burden of both history and future. Since the early 1950s, when the automatic Kalashnikovs became a standard weapon for Soviet and Warsaw Pact countries, until the late 1960s, when Russia stopped manufacturing them, the world was already flooded with these bullet-wielding deadly weapons, playing the lead role in paramilitary insurgencies everywhere.
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