Soviet and Russian designer of small arms. Doctor of Technical Sciences (1971), Lieutenant General (1999), creator of the world-famous Kalashnikov assault rifle (AK).
Hero of the Russian Federation (2009), twice Hero of Socialist Labor (1958, 1976), laureate of the Stalin Prize l degree (1949), the Lenin Prize (1964) and the State Prize of the Russian Federation (1997). Cavalier of the three Orders of Lenin (1958, 1969, 1976) and the Order of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called (1998) .
Member of the Union of Writers and the Union of Designers of Russia. Deputy of the Council of the Union of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR 3-4 (1950-1958) and 7-11 (1966-1989) convocations.
Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov (born 10 November 1919) is a Russian small arms designer, most famous for developing the AK-47, AKM, and AK-74 assault rifles.
Kalashnikov was born in Kurya, Kuryinsky District, Altai Krai, Russia. His father was deported in 1930, that is, most of his family was deprived of property and deported to Siberia, to the village of Nizhnyaya Mokhovaya, Tomsk Oblast. In his youth, Mikhail suffered from various illnesses and was on the verge of death at age six. He was attracted to all kinds of machinery, but also wore poetry, dreaming of becoming a poet. He went on to write six books and has continued to write poetry all of his life. Kalashnikov's parents were peasants, but after deportation to Siberia had to combine farming with hunting and thus Mikhail frequently used his father's rifle in his teens. He has since continued hunting through the 90s.
Mikhail Kalashnikov in 1949.
After completing seventh grade, Kalashnikov, with his stepfather's permission, left his family and returned to Kurya, hitchhiking for nearly 1000 km. In Kurya he found a job in mechanics at a tractor station and developed a passion for weaponry. In 1938, he was conscripted into the Red Army. Because of his small size and engineering skills he was assigned as a tank mechanic, and later became a tank commander. While training, he made his first inventions, which concerned not only tanks but also small weapons, adn was personally awarded a wrist watch by Georgy Zhukov. Kalashnokov served on the T-34s of the 24th Tank Regiment, 108th Tank Division, stationed in Stryi before the regiment retreated after the Battle of Bryansk in October 1941 and hospitalized until April 1942. While in the hospital, he overheard some fellow soldiers complaining about the Soviet rifles of the time.
Seeing the drawbacks of the standard infantry weapons at the time, he decided to construct a new rifle for the Soviet military. During this time Kalashnikov began designing a new submachine gun. Although his first submachine gun design was not accepted into service, his talent as a designer was noticed. From 1942 onwards Kalashnikov was assigned to the Central Scientific developmental Firing Range for Rifle Firearms of the Chief Artillery Directorate of the Red Army.
In 1944, he designed a gas-operated carbine for the new 7.62x39mm cartridge. This weapon, influenced by the M1 Garand rifle, lost out to the new Simonov carbine which would be eventually adopted as the SKS; but it became a basis for his entry in an assault rifle competition in 1946.
Kalashnikov's first rifle.
His winning entry, the "Mikhtim" (so named by taking the first letters of his name and patronymic, Mikhail Timofeyevich) became the prototype for the development of a family of prototype rifles. The process culminated in 1947, when he designed the AK-47. In 1949, the AK-47 became the standard issue assault rifle of the Soviet Army and went on to become Kalashnikov's most famous invention. While developing his first assault rifles, Kalashnikov competed with two much more experienced weapon designers, Vasily Degtyaryov and Georgy Shpagin, who both accepted the superiority of the AK-47. Kalashnikov named Alexandr Zaitsev and Vladimir Deikin as his major collaborators during those years.
Mounument to Kalashnikov in Izhevsk.
Since 1949, Mikhail Kalashnikov has lived and worked in Izhevsk, Udmurtia. He holds a degree of Doctor of Technical Sciences (1971) and is a member of 16 academies.
After WWII, as Gemeral Designer of small arms for the Soviet Army, his design subordinates included the Germans Hugo Schmeisser, designer of the StG 44, and Werner Gruner (of MG42 fame) who was a pioneer in sheet metal embossing technology in the 1950s. Schmeisser and Gruner, as well as many other German military engineers, were relocated to the Soviet Union as part of German war reparations.
Over the course of his career he evolved the basic design into a weapons family. The AKM first appeared in 1963, was lighter and cheaper to manufacture owing to the use of a stamped steel receiver 9in place of the AK-47's milled steel receiver), and contained detail improvements such as a re-shaped stock and muzzle compensator. From the AKM he developed a squad automatic weapon variant, known as the RPK, and also the PK, which used the more powerful 7.62x54mmR cartridge of the Mosin Nagant rifle. The PK series is a general-purpose machine gun. It is cartridge belt-fed, not magazine fed, as it is intended to provide heavy sustained fire from a tripod mount, or be used as a light, bipod-mounted weapon. The common characteristics of all these weapons are simple design, ruggedness and ease of maintenance in all operating conditions.
Approximately 100 million AK-47 assault rifles have been produced by 2009, and about half of them are counterfeit, manufactured at a rate of about a million per year. Izhmash, the official manufacturer of the AK-47 in Russia, has patented the weapon only in 1997, and in 2006 accounted for only 10% of the world's production. Kalashnikov himself claims he has always been motivated by service to his country rather than money and has no direct profit from weapon production. He does however own 30% of a German company Marken Marketing International (MMI) run by his grandson Igor. The company revamps trademarks and produces merchandise carrying the Kalashnikov name, such as vodka, umbrellas and knives. One of the items is a knife named for the AK-74.
Kalashnikov's father, Timofey Aleksandrovich Kalashnikov (1883-1930), was a peasant. He completed two grades of parochial school and could read and write. In 1930, he was named a kulak, deprived of property and deported to Siberia, where he died shortly thereafter. In 1901 he married Aleksandra Frolovna Kaverina (1884-1957), who was illiterate through her life. They had 19 children, but only 8 survived to the adult age; Kalashnikov was born 17th, and was close to death at age six. The eldest three offsprings, daughters Agasha (b. 1905) adn Anna and son Victor were already married by 1930, and remained in Kurya when the rest of the family was deported to Siberia. After the death of Timofey Aleksandrovich in 1930, Aleksandra Frolovna remarried Efrem Kosach, a widower who had three children of his own.
Mikhail Kalashnikov married Ekaterina Viktorovna Kalashnikova (1921-1977). She was an engineer and did much technical drawing work for her husband. They had four children, daughters Nelli (b. 1942), Elena (b. 1948), and Natalya (1953-1983), and a son Victor (b. 1942). Victor also became a prominent small arms designer.
During his career, Kalashnikov designed about 150 models of small weapons. The most famous of them are:
AK-74 / AKS-74U / AK-74M
AK-101 / AK-102
AK-103 / AK-104
RPK / RPK-74
PK / PKM
"Русский самородок". Документальный фильм к 100-летию Михаила Калашникова
November 11, 2019
Mikhail Kalashnikov obituary
December 23, 2013
The Life of Mikhail Kalashnikov | Биография Михаила Калашникова (ENGLISH | АНГЛИЙСКИЙ)
June 5, 2021