Mikhail Kalashnikov

Mikhail Kalashnikov

Mikhail Kalashnikov at the Kremlin, December 2009
Native name Михаил Тимофеевич Калашников
Born Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov
(1919-11-10)November 10, 1919
Kurya, Altai Krai, Russian SFSR
Died December 23, 2013(2013-12-23) (aged 94)
Izhevsk, Udmurtia, Russia
Cause of death Gastric hemorrhage
Nationality Russian
  • Small arms designer
  • Russian lieutenant general
Known for Designer of the AK-47 and AK-74
Religion Russian Orthodox
Spouse(s) Ekaterina Viktorovna Kalashnikova (née Moiseyeva; 1921–1977; her death)
  • Victor (son; b. 1942)
  • Nelli (daughter; b. 1942)
  • Elena (daughter; b. 1948)
  • Natalya (daughter; 1953–83)
  • Aleksandra Frolovna Kalashnikova (née Kaverina)
  • Timofey Aleksandrovich Kalashnikov

Lieutenant-General Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov (Russian: Михаи́л Тимофе́евич Кала́шников; 10 November 1919 – 23 December 2013) was a Russian general, inventor, military engineer, writer and small arms designer. He is most famous for developing the AK-47 assault rifle and its improvements, the AKM and AK-74, as well as the PK machine gun.[1]

Kalashnikov was, according to himself, a self-taught tinkerer who combined innate mechanical skills with the study of weaponry to design arms that achieved battlefield ubiquity.[4] Even though Kalashnikov felt sorrow at the weapons' uncontrolled distribution, he took pride in his inventions and in their reputation for reliability, emphasizing that his rifle is "a weapon of defense" and "not a weapon for offense".[4]

Early life

Kalashnikov was born in Kurya, Altai Governorate, Russian SFSR,[1] now Altai Krai, Russia, to Aleksandra Frolovna Kalashnikova (née Kaverina) and Timofey Aleksandrovich Kalashnikov. In 1930, his father and most of his family were deprived of property and deported to the village of Nizhnyaya Mokhovaya, Tomsk Oblast.[5][6] In his youth, Mikhail suffered from various illnesses and was on the verge of death at age six.[3] He was attracted to all kinds of machinery,[5] but also wrote poetry, dreaming of becoming a poet.[7] He went on to write six books and continued to write poetry all of his life.[6][8] Kalashnikov's parents were peasants, but, after deportation to Tomsk Oblast, had to combine farming with hunting, and thus Mikhail frequently used his father's rifle in his teens. Kalashnikov continued hunting into his 90s.[3]

After completing seventh grade, Mikhail, with his stepfather's permission, left his family and returned to Kurya, hitchhiking for nearly 1,000 km. In Kurya he found a job in mechanics at a tractor station and developed a passion for weaponry. In 1938, he was conscripted into the Red Army. Because of his small size[9] and engineering skills he was assigned as a tank mechanic, and later became a tank commander. While training, he made his first inventions, which concerned not only tanks, but also small weapons, and was personally awarded a wrist watch by Georgy Zhukov.[3] Kalashnikov served on the T-34s of the 24th Tank Regiment, 108th Tank Division[2] stationed in Stryi[3] before the regiment retreated after the Battle of Brody in June 1941. He was wounded in combat in the Battle of Bryansk in October 1941[3] and hospitalised until April 1942.[2]in the last few months of being in hospital, he overheard some fellow soldiers complaining about the Soviet rifles at the time and this is when he came up with the idea of making a new rifle which later became the AK47.[10]

Kalashnikov's first submachine gun

Seeing the drawbacks of the standard infantry weapons at the time, he decided to construct a new rifle for the Soviet military. During this time Kalashnikov began designing a submachine gun.[11] Although his first submachine gun design was not accepted into service, his talent as a designer was noticed.[3] From 1942 onwards Kalashnikov was assigned to the Central Scientific-developmental Firing Range for Rifle Firearms of the Chief Artillery Directorate of the Red Army.[12]

In 1944, he designed a gas-operated carbine for the new 7.62×39mm cartridge. This weapon, influenced by the M1 Garand rifle, lost out to the new Simonov carbine which would be eventually adopted as the SKS; but it became a basis for his entry in an assault rifle competition in 1946.[13]

A Type 2 AK-47, the first machined receiver variation

His winning entry, the "Mikhtim" (so named by taking the first letters of his name and patronymic, Mikhail Timofeyevich) became the prototype for the development of a family of prototype rifles.[14] This process culminated in 1947, when he designed the AK-47 (standing for Avtomat Kalashnikova model 1947). In 1949, the AK-47 became the standard issue assault rifle of the Soviet Army and went on to become Kalashnikov's most famous invention.[15] While developing his first assault rifles, Kalashnikov competed with two much more experienced weapon designers, Vasily Degtyaryov and Georgy Shpagin, who both accepted the superiority of the AK-47. Kalashnikov named Alexandr Zaitsev and Vladimir Deikin as his major collaborators during those years.[3]

Later career

From 1949, Mikhail Kalashnikov lived and worked in Izhevsk, Udmurtia. He held a degree of Doctor of Technical Sciences (1971)[1][2] and was a member of 16 academies.[16]

Over the course of his career, he evolved the basic design into a weapons family. The AKM (Russian: Автомат Кала́шникова Модернизированный – Kalashnikov modernized assault rifle) first appeared in 1963, was lighter and cheaper to manufacture owing to the use of a stamped steel receiver (in place of the AK-47's milled steel receiver), and contained detail improvements such as a re-shaped stock and muzzle compensator. From the AKM he developed a squad automatic weapon variant, known as the RPK (Russian: Ручной пулемет Кала́шникова – Kalashnikov light machine gun).

He also developed the general-purpose PK machine gun (Russian: Пулемет Кала́шникова – Kalashnikov machine gun), which used the more powerful 7.62×54R cartridge of the Mosin–Nagant rifle. It is cartridge belt-fed, not magazine-fed, as it is intended to provide heavy sustained fire from a tripod mount, or be used as a light, bipod-mounted weapon. The common characteristics of all these weapons are simple design, ruggedness and ease of maintenance in all operating conditions.

Approximately 100 million AK-47 assault rifles had been produced by 2009,[8] and about half of them are counterfeit, manufactured at a rate of about a million per year.[11][17] Izhmash, the official manufacturer of AK-47 in Russia, did not patent the weapon until 1997, and in 2006 accounted for only 10% of the world's production.[7] Kalashnikov himself claimed he was always motivated by service to his country rather than money,[6] and made no direct profit from weapon production.[18] He did however own 30% of a German company Marken Marketing International (MMI) run by his grandson Igor.[19] The company revamps trademarks and produces merchandise carrying the Kalashnikov name, such as vodka,[8] umbrellas and knives.[20][21] One of the items is a knife named for the AK-74.[19] This arm is so famous due to its reliability in the most extreme climatic conditions, it works perfectly well in desert as in the snow. It is the official weapon of the armies of 55 countries, furthermore, it appears in the embleme of some States, from Africa specially because it helped to their decolonization, as for example Mozambique.

During a visit to the United States in the early 2000s, Kalashnikov was invited to tour a Virginia holding site for the forthcoming American Wartime Museum. The former tanker Kalashnikov became visibly moved at the sight of his old tank in action, painted with his name in Cyrillic.[22]

On 17 November 2013, Kalashnikov was hospitalized in an Udmurtian medical facility.[23] He died on 23 December 2013 at a hospital after a prolonged illness.[24][25][26]


Kalashnikov died 23 December 2013, at age 94 in a hospital in Izhevsk, the capital of Udmurtia and where he lived, from gastric hemorrhage. In January 2014 a letter that Kalashnikov wrote six months before his death to the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, was published by the Russian daily newspaper Izvestia.[27] In the letter he stated that he was suffering "spiritual pain" about whether he was responsible for the deaths caused by the weapons he created.[28] Translated from the published letter he states, "My heartache unbearable same insoluble question: if my rifle deprive people of life, and therefore I, Mikhail Kalashnikov, ninety-three years old, the son of a peasant, and Orthodox Christian according to his faith, responsible for the death of people, let even an enemy?"[27]

The patriarch wrote back, thanked Kalashnikov, and said that he "was an example of patriotism and a correct attitude toward the country". Kirill added about the design responsibility for the deaths by the rifle, "the church has a well-defined position when the weapon is defense of the Motherland, the Church supports its creators and the military, which use it."[27]

He became one of the first people buried in the Federal Military Memorial Cemetery.


Kalashnikov's father, Timofey Aleksandrovich Kalashnikov (1883–1930), was a peasant. He completed two grades of parochial school and could read and write. In 1901 he married Aleksandra Frolovna Kaverina (1884–1957), who was illiterate throughout her life. They had 19 children, but only eight survived to adult age; Kalashnikov was born 17th,[15] and was close to death at age six.

In 1930, the government labeled Timofey Aleksandrovich a kulak, confiscated his property, and deported him to Siberia, along with most of the family. The eldest three siblings, daughters Agasha (b. 1905) and Anna and son Victor, were already married by 1930, and remained in Kuriya. After her husband's death in 1930, Aleksandra Frolovna married Efrem Kosach, a widower who had three children of his own.[3][5]

Mikhail Kalashnikov married twice, the first time to Ekaterina Danilovna Astakhova of Altai Krai. He married the second time to Ekaterina Viktorovna Moiseyeva (1921–1977).[4][29] She was an engineer and did much technical drawing work for her husband. They had four children: daughters Nelli (b. 1942), Elena (b. 1948) and Natalya (1953–1983), and a son Victor (b. 1942).[3][29] Victor also became a prominent small arms designer.

The title to the AK-47 trademark belonged to Mikhail Kalashnikov's family until 4 April 2016, when the Kalashnikov Concern won a lawsuit to invalidate the registration of the trademark.[30]

Weapon designs

The Russian Medal of Small Arms Maker was introduced in 2008 and named after Kalashnikov.[31]

During his career, Kalashnikov designed about 150 models of small weapons.[16] The most famous of them are:

Awards and tribute

Mikhail Kalashnikov on a 2014 stamp of the Russian Post.

Incorporates information from the corresponding article in the Russian Wikipedia

Russian Federation

Honorary diplomas



Foreign decorations

Other honours



  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Калашников Михаил Тимофеевич (in Russian). Great Soviet Encyclopedia.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Работаю по призванию. Отечественные архивы (in Russian) (1). 2004. Contains an autobiography and a copy of the resume submitted with Kalashnikov's application to the Soviet Communist Party
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 "Биография М.Т.Калашникова". Kalashnikov.name. Archived from the original on 20 March 2012. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
  4. 1 2 3 Chivers, C. J. (23 December 2013). "Mikhail Kalashnikov, Creator of AK-47, Dies at 94". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 December 2013.
  5. 1 2 3 "The AK-47 Kalashnikov Museum". Kalashnikov-weapons-museum.ak47-guide.com. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Alexandr Osipovich (10 November 2009). "Gun inventor, 'happy man' Kalashnikov turns 90". AFP via Google.com. Archived from the original on 8 November 2011. Retrieved 20 November 2009.
  7. 1 2 3 "Poet at heart: Kalashnikov inventory turns 90 in a hail of praise". The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia). 12 November 2009. Retrieved 16 December 2009.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 "Kalashnikov 'wanted to be poet and more'". BBC World News 74. 10 November 2009. Retrieved 11 November 2009.
  9. Compare Kalashnikov and Dmitry Medvedev in File:Kalashnikov Medvedev.jpg. Medvedev is ca. 1.60 m (5 ft 3 in). Watt, Nick; Mucha, Jenna (5 July 2008). "World's Leaders Don't Stand So Tall". ABC News.
  10. 1 2 Connolly, Kate (30 July 2002). "Kalashnikov: 'I wish I'd made a lawnmower'". The Guardian.
  11. 1 2 3 "AK-47 Inventor Doesn't Lose Sleep Over Havoc Wrought With His Invention". The Associated Press via Fox News. 6 July 2007.
  12. "Interview of Mikhail Kalashnikov". Guns of the World (Interview). History Channel. 15 December 2009.
  13. Bolotin, D.N. (1995). Soviet Small-Arms and Ammunition. Finnish Arms Museum Foundation. pp. 69–70, 115. ISBN 9519718419.
  14. Kalashnikov, Mikhail (June 1983). "How and Why I Produced My Submachine Gun". Sputnik: A Digest of Soviet Press. Moscow: Novosti Press Agency: 70–75.
  15. 1 2 3 "AK-47 inventor Mikhail Kalashnikov in intensive care". Russia: RT. 22 December 2012. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
  16. 1 2 Alexandrov, Georgy (10 November 2009). Михаил Калашников: "Всё нужное – просто" (in Russian). Argumenty i Facty.
  17. 1 2 Solovyov, Dmitry (26 October 2009). "Kalashnikov, 90, decries "criminal" use of rifle". Reuters. Retrieved 20 November 2009.
  18. 1 2 3 4 "Father of the AK-47 receives Russia's top honor". RIA Novosti. 10 November 2009. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
  19. 1 2 "Care for a Kalashnikov Umbrella?". The Moscow Times. 21 February 2003.
  20. "Coming soon – the Kalashnikov brolly?". BBC. 17 February 2003.
  21. Connolly, Kate (17 February 2003). "Kalashnikov lends his name to an umbrella". The Telegraph.
  22. Keating, Susan Katz (23 December 2013). "Mikhail Kalashnikov, Dead at 94, Once Visited the Tank Farm in Virginia". Susan Katz Keating blog. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
  23. Скончался легендарный конструктор стрелкового оружия Михаил Калашников (in Russian). RIA Novosti. 23 December 2013. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  24. Alpert, Lukas I.; Miller, Stephen (23 December 2013). "Designer of the Popular Kalashnikov Rifle Dies". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  25. "Mikhail Kalashnikov, designer of AK-47 rifle, dead at 94". The Star. 23 December 2013.
  26. Heintz, Jim (23 December 2013). "Rifle designer Mikhail Kalashnikov dead at 94". Associated Press. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
  27. 1 2 3 Telman, Denis (13 January 2014). "Before his death, wrote a letter of repentance Kalashnikov patriarch". Izvestia.
  28. BBC News - Kalashnikov 'feared he was to blame' for AK-47 rifle deaths. Bbc.co.uk (13 January 2014). Retrieved on 18 April 2014.
  29. 1 2 Калашников Михаил Тимофеевич (in Russian). weaponplace.ru.
  30. https://meduza.io/news/2016/04/04/kontsern-kalashnikov-otsudil-brend-ak-47-u-rodstvennikov-konstruktora
  31. ПОЛОЖЕНИЕ О НАГРУДНОМ ЗНАКЕ "МЕДАЛЬ ИМЕНИ КОНСТРУКТОРА СТРЕЛКОВОГО ОРУЖИЯ М.Т. КАЛАШНИКОВА (in Russian). The Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade. 27 June 2008.
  32. "Orthodox Christians honour memory of Saint Apostle Andrew the First-called". Pravda. 13 December 2001. Retrieved 13 December 2013.
  33. Теперь ИжГТУ носит имя М. Т. Калашникова (in Russian). istu.ru. 21 February 2012.
  34. "На российской военной базе в Армении открыт памятник выдающемуся оружейнику Михаилу Калашникову". mil.ru. Russian Ministry of Defence. 7 November 2014.
  35. Գյումրիում բացվել է Միխայիլ Կալաշնիկովի արձանը (in Armenian). RFE/RL Armenian Service. 7 November 2014.
  36. http://www.janes.com/article/25839/izhmash-formally-renamed-kalashnikov
  37. An interview with Mikhail Kalashnikov, Robert Fisk, The Independent (centrist), London, England. April 22, 2001. http://www.worldpress.org/cover5.htm
  38. AK-47 inventor Mikhail Kalashnikov dead at 94 – Militarytimes.com, 23 December 2013

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