Cradling the latest model of his "creative genius" in Moscow onFriday, the inventor of the AK-47 told reporters at the 60th anniversary of the world's most famous assault rifle that his conscience is clear.
"People ask, 'How can you sleep? Your weapon has killed so many people,'" 87-year-old Mikhail Kalashnikov said. "And I say, 'I sleep sound. It's the politicians who are to blame that they can't agree peacefully and resolve their problems without using arms.'"
Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the aging weapons designer as an icon of Russian ingenuity.
"The Kalashnikov rifle is a symbol of the creative genius of our people," Putin said in a statement read to Kalashnikov at the ceremony in the Central Russian Army Museum.
Since its creation, the AK-47 — an acronym describing "Avtomat Kalashnikova," or "Kalashnikov's automatic weapon" — has been embraced as a weapon of choice for Iraqi insurgents, gangsters and troops around the world. The "47" refers to 1947, when the first models went into productionand were used to equipSoviet soldiers.
According to AK-47 lore, Kalashnikov conceived of the design while lying wounded in a hospital ward near the end of the Second World War. He drafted plans in a child's notebook to make a lightweight gun that was also powerful and simple to fire.
Kalashnikov acknowledged that seeing his creation in the hands of criminals and gangsters around the world saddens him, but he said he originally concocted the AK-47 to support a worthy cause.
"I always worked to defend my fatherland from foreigners. Let all my rifles and machine guns only serve the defence of the fatherland," he said Friday.
Aside from the accolades he received in Russia for his invention, Kalashnikov received little else for the rifle. He reportedly lives on a pension in the town of Izkevsk, where the AK-47s are manufactured.