Kalashnikov’s rifle, known in Poland as „kałach” it’s something more than weapon. It is an element of popculture, weapon eagerly chosen by computer players, as in virtual reality AK-47 is as efficient as in real combat. It is even used in national emblem. A fascinating story, full of myths and lies, is connected to that famous rifle, regarding it’s creation. Because is it true, that it was created by a man, after whom it was finally called?
Let’s start from the beginning. Firstly – an official version, used widely by USSR. According to that story, weapon was created spontaneously, as the idea occurred in mind of Mikhail Kalashnikov, passionate rifleman and autodidact. He was born as seventeenth child in peasant’s family. Although father was considered to be kulak and the family was relocated, boy managed to graduate and with help of false credentials he travelled deep into the country, finding his job. He had developed deep interest in weaponry and during his military service, he was known as an inventor type. During war (known as The Great Patriotic War) he was injured on the front. During his stay at hospital he decided to create a weapon both simple and always reliable. The weapon, that every soviet soldier would be able to handle and yet destructive for the enemy. This rifle was to be the result of such dream.
Enough for myths. How it really happen? Surely, Mikhail was fascinated with weaponry and had an inventor’s mind. However, the need for a new rifle was initiated by the country as early as in 30s. Soviet constructors were working, basing their inventions on German achievements and were looking for an ideal solution for a weapon with intermediate cartridge. In 1946, sergeant Kalashnikov was working on polygon connected with rifles and mortars – to no visible success. His ideas for such weapon were rejected twice. Then he started to work in the team with engineer Aleksandr Zajcev. Together, the invented project (some are saying that Zajcev had decisive role with his crucial adjustments) wins. And yet it is still presented everywhere as a work of one, great, soviet mind.
Propaganda forgets about Mikhail’s father and he becomes one of soviet known war heroes. Was it justified? He was surely talented and lacking formal education helped him think outside the box. Also, from the very beginning he made an assumption that weapon should be dedicated to common soldiers. And therefore he asked them about opinions, their words inspired him to created the simplest construction possible.
Mikhail Kalashnikov proved that the success of AK-47 was anything but accident, constructing and modificating it’s successors. He created an automated rifle, handheld and heavy repetitive rifle. He was also a constructor to PK/PKS 7.62 rifle.
What if the story was yet different? Recently, quite plausible, new version emerged, stating that the true creator of the weapon was captured Hugo Schmeisser. This German captive was in 1945, in USSR, he was in the same place, where Mikhail Kalashnikov was working with his team and his staying was in the same time, when the success of Russian autodidact arrived.
Kalshnikov himself was stating to be the original inventor of AK-47 till the end of his life. However, he was tormented by the fact, that weapon was created to support his motherland, while it is mostly used by terrorists.