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Reports: Mikhail Kalashnikov, Inventor Of AK-47, Dies

Mikhail Kalashnikov, with his AK-47, in 2002.
Jens Meyer
Mikhail Kalashnikov, with his AK-47, in 2002.

Mikhail Kalashnikov, whose name will forever be connected to one of the world's most popular and deadly weapons, has died, according to news reports from Russia.

Officials there tell news outlets including RT and RIA Novosti that the 94-year-old inventor of the AK-47 rifle died Monday at a hospital in the Udmurt republic. He had been "suffering from heart-related problems in recent years [and] had been in intensive care in Izhevsk," RT adds.

As NPR's Corey Flintoff tells our Newscast Desk, because it is "simple, rugged and easy to maintain, the AK 47 became the weapon of choice for armies in developing countries." It also became popular with terrorists.

Kalashnikov, Corey adds, "said he designed the gun only for the protection of his fatherland, and that it was the fault of politicians if the weapon was misused. There are estimated to be more than 100 million of them around the world, at least half of them knock-offs of the Russian original."

RT adds that "on a few occasions, when in a more reflective mood, the usually forceful Kalashnikov wondered what might have been. 'I'm proud of my invention, but I'm sad that it is used by terrorists,' he said once. 'I would prefer to have invented a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work — for example a lawnmower.' "

The AK-47, All Things Considered noted in 2012, was designed in 1945 and was "the first gun to bridge the gap between submachine guns and long, heavy rifles. It was a simple, reliable, lightweight weapon that almost anyone could use. And once it was put into mass production, it was available to almost everyone."

Journalist C.J. Chivers traced the weapon's migration around the world in his book The Gun.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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