Mikhail Kalashnikov, the designer of the AK-47 assault rifle, reportedly wrote a regretful letter several months before his death asking the head of the Russian Orthodox Church if he was to blame for the deaths of those killed by the guns.
The Russian daily Izvestia reported Monday that Kalashnikov, who died last month at 94, wrote to Patriarch Kirill in April and told him he kept asking himself if he's responsible.
"The pain in my soul is unbearable. I keep asking myself the same unsolvable question: If my assault rifle took people's lives that means that I, Mikhail Kalashnikov, ... am responsible for people's deaths," he said in the letter.
"The longer I live, the more often that question gets into my brain, the deeper I go in my thoughts and guesses about why the Almighty allowed humans to have devilish desires of envy, greed and aggression," Kalashnikov continued.
Kalashnikov's daughter, Elena, was quoted by Izvestia as saying that a local priest could have helped her father write the letter, which was typed and carried his signature.
'I sleep well'
The letter contrasted sharply with past statements by Kalashnikov, who had repeatedly said in interviews and public speeches that he created the weapon to protect his country and couldn't be blamed for other people's action.
"I sleep well. It's the politicians who are to blame for failing to come to an agreement and resorting to violence," the designer told The Associated Press in 2007.
The church sought to comfort him with exactly the same argument. Izvestia quoted Kirill's spokesman Alexander Volkov as saying the Patriarch responded to Kalashnikov and praised him as a true patriot.
"If the weapon is used to defend the Motherland, the Church supports both its creators and the servicemen using it," the newspaper quoted Volkov as saying.
The AK-47 is the world's most popular firearm, favoured by guerrillas, terrorists and the soldiers of many armies. An estimated 100 million are spread around the world.