eulogy for Mikhail Kalashnikov

ImgresStefany Anne Golberg at Misfit Press:

Among the displays of assault rifles at the Mikhail Kalashnikov Museum in Izhevsk is a small lawnmower Kalashnikov designed to push about the grounds of his summer cottage. It is said that Mikhail Kalashnikov loved to care for his grass. Kalashnikov gave the lawnmower the same sensible qualities he gave the gun that bears his name. The lawnmower is light, simple, cheap to construct and easy to hold—something a child could use.

Kalashnikov didn’t regret inventing the Kalashnikov rifle. “I invented it for the protection of the Motherland,” he said. Still, he once mused that he would like to have been known as a man who helped farmers and gardeners. “I wanted to invent an engine that could run forever,” Kalashnikov once said. “I could have developed a new train, had I stayed in the railway.” But this was not to be.

Mikhail Kalashnikov was born in the rural locality of Kurya, the 17th child of peasants. When Kalashnikov was still a boy, his family’s property was confiscated and they were deported to Western Siberia. The farming was hard there, but harder was the shame of being exiled from the Soviet workers’ paradise. Kalashnikov was a sickly child and though his studies didn’t take him past secondary school, the future inventor dreamed of being a poet. After finishing the seventh grade, young Kalashnikov gathered his poetry books and worked as a technician on the Turkestan-Siberian railway, until he was conscripted into the Red Army in 1938. He worked with tanks and, in his spare time, tinkered with small arms. In 1941, Kalashnikov was wounded in battle. There, in the hospital, suffering from war wounds and shellshock, Kalashnikov had his vision. “I decided to build a gun of my own which could stand up to the Germans,” he would later say.

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