Mikhail Kalashnikov, the man who invented AK-47 rifle, dead at 94

KalashnikovKalashnikov had been hospitalized for the past month with unspecified health problems. (Reuters)  

Mikhail Kalashnikov started out wanting to make farm equipment, but the harvest he reaped was one of blood as the designer of the AK-47 assault rifle, the world's most popular firearm.

It was the carnage of World War II, when Nazi Germany overran much of the Soviet Union, which altered his course and made his name as well-known for bloodshed as Smith, Wesson and Colt. The distinctive shape of the gun, often called "a Kalashnikov,'' appeared on revolutionary flags and adorns memorabilia.

Kalashnikov died Mondayat age 94 in a hospital in Izhevsk, the capital of the Udmurtia republic where he lived, said Viktor Chulkov, a spokesman for the republic's president. He did not give a cause of death. Kalashnikov had been hospitalized for the past month with unspecified health problems.  

Kaslashnikov 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 told The Associated Press in 2007.

The AK-47 Avtomat Kalashnikov and the year it went into production _ is the world's most popular firearm, favored by guerrillas, terrorists and the soldiers of many armies. An estimated 100 million guns are spread worldwide.

Though it isn't especially accurate, its ruggedness and simplicity are exemplary: it performs in sandy or wet conditions which jam more sophisticated weapons such as the U.S. M-16.

"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 weapon's suitability for jungle and desert fighting made it nearly ideal for the Third World insurgents backed by the Soviet Union, and Moscow not only distributed the AK-47 widely but also licensed its production in some 30 other countries.

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