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Q&A: Kalashnikov on the AK-47, war, and peace

On Nov. 10, Russia's Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the AK-47 assault rifle, will celebrate his 90th birthday. Metro speaks to him about his war, peace and his legacy.

On Nov. 10, Russia's Mikhail Kalashnikov will celebrate his 90th birthday. The legacy of the small-arms designer? The AK-47, the most popular assault rifle in the world. Metro World News met Kalashnikov in Izhevsk, the city where he has been working for many decades.

How do you feel about this celebration?
I’m happy that my assault rifle continues to live and develop. I couldn’t wish any more. So I will celebrate my 90th birthday as a happy man.

What is behind the popularity of the AK-47?
A soldier created a weapon for a soldier. I served as a private in the Soviet army and knew well all the troubles soldiers face during their life. I wanted to make my assault rifle not only effective but comfortable. When I improved its design, I always consulted with the experts. And soldiers told me what was nearly perfect and what I needed to make better. As a result, the AK-47 became simple and effective. The assault rifle works under any condition, can shoot after going underwater or falling to the ground. But remember that sometimes, making simple things is much more complicated than making something sophisticated.

Is there a school of Kalashnikov today?
I have followers and successors. My son took over me in weaponry. But he’s been very independent since the beginning of his career. And it’s great that I’m not irreplaceable. The industry can’t depend on a single man.

How long do you think your assault rifle will be popular for?
Every inventor wants his invention to live as long as it can. I think that the AK-47 will be useful for the army in the future. Many experts think that no one can beat this weapon in its class before 2025. But nothing should stay still — everything must develop.

Are you upset when you think that many countries produce millions of illegal copies of your assault rifle?
It’s a pity not only for me, but for the country and all small-arms specialists. The counterfeits harm the reputation of Russia. It began long ago, in the 1990s, not yesterday. But now the government pays much more attention to the problem trying to resolve it.

You’ve been criticized many times because your assault rifle is used in different conflicts around the world.
I can’t agree with that. I created this weapon to defend my own country. And this is the main goal for what it serves. But the fact that the AK-47 is used in many hot spots depends not on small-arms specialists but on politi­cians. Weapons don’t shoot. Men do. And I feel pain when people die. But if my weapon didn't exist, there would be something else instead.

If you could live in the West, you would be among the richest men.
Money can’t be a criteria for everything. The most preci­ous thing is when people come to me in different countries and say: "Your weapon saved my life." Why should I need all those millions? I’m happy with my life.

 
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