Dozens of cadets and youngsters from Russia’s Youth Army have been getting up close and personal with perhaps the world’s most iconic firearm as their country prepares to mark the centenary of the birth of Mikhail Kalashnikov, maker of the legendary rifle.
At Victory Museum in western Moscow, visitors including the young cadets are invited to assemble Kalashnikovs and pose for selfies at the exhibition dedicated to the famous automatic weapon. Russia will next month celebrate the life of Kalashnikov, designer of the AK-47, with a number of events, including the museum display and a biopic.
Kalashnikov, who died in 2013 at the age of 94, is seen in Russia as a national hero and symbol of the country’s proud military past.
His AK-47 has become a weapon of choice for both guerrillas and governments the world over.
It is also a staple of early military education in Russia.
Maxim, a young cadet, said he learned to put together and take apart an AK rifle at school.
“At first your fingers hurt, but then it’s quite easy,” he said.
The exhibition was put together by the Kalashnikov museum in Izhevsk, an industrial town in the Ural mountains, where the inventor worked at the Izhmash weapons factory until his retirement.
Alexander Yermakov, the museum’s deputy director, said he hoped the inventor’s story would inspire “the next generation of Kalashnikovs”.
Heaped with prizes
Kalashnikov was showered with every possible major prize in the Soviet Union, and the Kremlin in 2009 gave him the highest honour — Hero of Russia.
In 2017, authorities unveiled a monument to Kalashnikov holding his weapon in central Moscow.
Born in a Siberian village on November 10, 1919, Kalashnikov had a tragic childhood during which his father was deported as a “kulak” (prosperous peasant) in 1930.
Wounded during a bloody battle with Nazi forces in 1941, Kalashnikov was given a leave during which he thought up the first versions of the rifle.
In 1945, a prototype was entered into a competition and the design was eventually recommended for use in the Soviet army.
It quickly became prized for its simplicity, cheapness and sturdy reliability.
AK-47’s name stands for “Kalashnikov’s Automatic” and the year its final version was designed, 1947.