Siberian-born gun-maker sought guidance from Russia's top churchman.
'If my machine gun has taken lives of people, does it mean that it is me, Mikhail Kalashnikov, aged 93, the son of a peasant, an Orthodox Christian, who is guilty of the deaths of people, even if they are enemies?' Picture: Nashi Novosti TV, Barnaul
The world's greatest gun-maker Mikhail Kalashnikov suffered 'unbearable' pain over the lost lives caused by his weapons, according to a letter he signed eight months before his death in December. He sought urgent spiritual teaching from Orthodox patriarch Kirill on whether he was guilty in the eyes of God, suggests the letter published by leading newspaper Izvestia.
Kalashnikov died in December aged 93. The letter penned eight months earlier from the inventor of the AK-47 stated: 'The pain in my soul is unbearable, and there is one matter I cannot resolve. If my machine gun has taken lives of people, does it mean that it is me, Mikhail Kalashnikov, aged 93, the son of a peasant, an Orthodox Christian, who is guilty of the deaths of people, even if they are enemies?'
Yet during his life, Kalashnikov had given a very different answer when asked whether he could sleep at night knowing that his 100 million guns had caused the deaths of untold numbers.
'I am often asked, 'how do you sleep knowing how many people were killed from your machine gun?', he said. 'I always say back 'I sleep very well, thank you. It should be politicians who start wars that suffer from sleeping problems. My machine gun was made for defence. If it wasn't for war, I would have been making agricultural machinery - so it was Germans who forced me to invent it'.
However, in 2008 he admitted: 'It is painful for me to see when criminal elements of all kinds fire my weapon.'
Mikhail Kalashnikov pictured in the fields of his beloved Siberia. Picture: Altayskaya Pravda newspaper
In his April letter, he wrote: 'The longer I live, the more this question drills itself into my brain. And the more I wonder why the Lord allowed man to have the devilish desires of envy, greed and aggression.'
He signs it 'a slave of God, the designer Mikhail Kalashnikov'.
Kalashnikov's first gun designs came after he saw Red Army soldiers in World War Two bemoan their inadequate weapons. His inventions were both lethal and simple. He became a Soviet hero and received countless Communist honours. By the age of 91 he was baptised and had evidently discovered a religious faith in his twilight years.
'The Lord showed me the way in the afternoon of my life,' wrote the former Communist. 'When at the age of 91 I cross the threshold of a church, my soul felt as if it had been there before'.
The Russian Patriarch's press secretary, Cyril Alexander Volkov, said the leading churchman had received Kalashnikov's letter and replied.
'The Church has a very definite position: when weapons serve to protect the Fatherland, the Church supports both their creators and the soldiers who use them,' said Volkov. 'He designed this rifle to defend his country, not so terrorists could use it in Saudi Arabia.'
'The pain in my soul is unbearable, and there is one matter I cannot resolve'. Picture: Izvestia newspaper
Kalashnikov's daughter Elena admitted the letter was genuine but questioned whether it had been written with the assistance of a priest. 'I have been in charge of his letters in the recent years but I did not take part in this one,' she said, adding that her father had 'never spoken about his feelings" concerning religion and he had declined to cross himself when she gave him a small cross to wear around his neck.
'He said: 'No I just can't, my arm won't do it'. So he just used to touch his heart with a hand instead,' Elena said.
One of 19 children, he was born to a peasant family two years after the Bolshevik Revolution in Kurya, in the mountainous Altai region of southern Siberia.
He worked well into his 80s and died in hospital in Izhevsk, the capital of the Udmurtia republic where he lived. It was said of the AK-47 that it was not especially accurate but that its ruggedness and simplicity were exemplary performing in sandy or wet conditions that jam more sophisticated weapons such as the U.S. M-16.
'During the Vietnam war, American soldiers would throw away their M-16s to grab AK-47s and bullets for it from dead Vietnamese soldiers', boasted Kalashnikov in 2007 at a ceremony marking the rifle's 60th anniversary.
Its suitability for jungle and desert fighting made it nearly ideal for the Third World insurgents backed by the Soviet Union, and Moscow not only distributed the AK-47 widely but also licensed its production in some 30 other countries.
The gun's status among revolutionaries and national-liberation struggles is enshrined on the flag of Mozambique.
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