Mikhail Kalashnikov, the designer of the iconic AK-47 assault rifle, wrote to the Russian Orthodox Church before his death, repenting he was personally guilty for huge casualties caused by the deadly weapon he created.
Kalashnikov, who died on December 23 at the age of 94, in May 2012 wrote a lengthy emotional letter to Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill, Izvestia, church officials said. Kalashnikov had previously refused to accept responsibility for those killed.
Kalashnikov had previously refused to accept responsibility for those killed, blaming the policies of other countries that acquired the weapon.
But in a letter, published in the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia, he wrote: “My spiritual pain is unbearable. I keep having the same unsolved question: if my rifle claimed people’s lives, then can it be that I… a Christian and an Orthodox believer, was to blame for their deaths?” he asked.
“The longer I live,” he continued, “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”.
The letter is typed on Kalashnikov’s personal writing paper, and is signed with a wavering hand by the man who describes himself as “a slave of God, the designer Mikhail Kalashnikov”.
The Kalashnikov, or AK-47, is one of the world’s most familiar and widely used weapons. Its comparative simplicity made it cheap to manufacture, as well as reliable and easy to maintain.
It is thought that more than 100 million Kalashnikov rifles have been sold worldwide.
It is unclear how much of it he wrote himself. Izvestia quotes Kalashnikov’s daughter, Elena, as saying she believes a priest helped her father compose the letter.
The press secretary for the Russian Patriarch, Cyril Alexander Volkov, told the paper the religious leader had received Kalashnikov’s letter and had written a reply.
“The Church has a very definite position: when weapons serve to protect the Fatherland, the Church supports both its creators and the soldiers who use it,” Volkov was quoted as saying.
“He designed this rifle to defend his country, not so terrorists could use it in Saudi Arabia.”
Kalashnikov received many Russian state honours, including the Order of Lenin and the Hero of Socialist Labour, but made little money from his gun.