AK-47 rifle inventor Mikhail Kalashnikov dies at 94

Mon Dec 23, 2013 2:24pm EST
 
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By Dmitry Solovyov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Mikhail Kalashnikov, the Russian designer of the AK-47 assault rifle which has killed more people than any other firearm in the world, died on Monday aged 94, officials said.

Kalashnikov, who was in his 20s when he created the AK-47, died in his home city of Izhevsk near the Ural Mountains, where his gun is still made, a spokesman for the Udmurtia province's president said on state television.

No cause of death was given. Kalashnikov was fitted with a pacemaker at a Moscow hospital in June and had been in hospital in Izhevsk since November 17, state media reported.

Sombre music accompanied tributes that led evening news reports on state TV, and President Vladimir Putin expressed "deep sympathy" for Kalashnikov's loved ones.

A son of Siberian peasants who never finished school, Kalashnikov invented one of the Soviet Union's best-known and most imitated products.

Shortly after fighting in World War Two, he created the AK-47, whose number stands for the year 1947. The "A" is for "avtomat" - automatic rifle - and the "K" for Kalashnikov.

Later versions of the AK-47 are still a mainstay of Russia's armed forces and police more than 60 years after the original rifle went into service in the military in 1949.

At a Kremlin ceremony on Kalashnikov's 90th birthday, then-President Dmitry Medvedev bestowed upon him the highest state honor - the Hero of Russia gold star medal - and lauded him for creating "the national brand every Russian is proud of".   Continued...

 
Mikhail Kalashnikov, the Russian inventor of the globally popular AK-47 assault rifle, looks on during festivities to celebrate his 90th birthday at the Kremlin in Moscow in this November 10, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Natalia Kolesnikova/Files