Mikhail Kalashnikov


Mikhail Kalashnikov portrait

News: the Russian designer of the AK-47 assault rifle Mikhail Kalashnikov has died aged 94.

A general in the Russian army and the designer of the widely used weapon that bears his name, Kalashnikov died in hospital yesterday after a long illness.

The AK-47, abbreviated from Avtomat Kalashnikova 1947, is a selective-fire, gas-operated assault rifle and one of the first to have been mass produced.

Kalashnikov and his team developed the gun at the end of the Second World War to function reliably in harsh conditions. Its success was put down to the simple design, compact size and cheap manufacturing cost.

AK-47 assault rifle
AK-47 assault rifle

The firearm was adopted as the standard issue assault rifle of the Soviet Army in 1949 and was later disseminated worldwide, undergoing a series of modifications until the present day.

Kalashnikov continued working as chief designer at the firm that first built the AK-47 in Izhevsk, Russia, into his late 80s.

He received many state honours and was twice lauded with the honorary title Hero of Socialist Labour by the Soviet Union.

The AK-47 was added to the collection at London's Design Museum in December 2011.

  • This will be remembered as one of the greatest weapon designs of all time.

  • nitsan

    If you ask me, we should not honour anyone who designs weapons, especially not a “successful” one.

    • architecthis

      Good thing no one asked you

    • Should we remove all the flint-stone tools and early weapons exhibited in ancient history museums then?

    • mario fernandez

      It is still a great design, unfortunately.

    • Colonel Pancake

      Does this self-righteous oath include Albert Einstein for his help designing the gaseous diffusion method used in creating the atomic bomb?

    • Reno

      Nitsan grow up…funny how designers consider themselves open minded yet only when convenient. Do you have any idea how many lives the AK-47 model has saved? I’ll give you a hint, far more than it has killed.

    • Hppy_rbt

      The Eames brothers were designing airframes and hull parts for British bomber airplanes in WWII. So what? It’s more complicated than black or white comparison, you know.

    • cranky positivist

      Weapon save lives because of designers,
      weapon take lives because of politicians.

    • internauas

      Me too, I don’t understand when these kinds of people, who helped to kill millions (among which were and my family members) are honoured in such a way…

    • Alan

      It’s a fair comment, but also a moralistic one, because the AK-47 fulfils many important requirements of a well-designed object. It was innovative, visually bold, reliable/durable/functional (reflected in its design), and it has become an important and controversial icon. It is inscribed in the flags of certain young nations and has been symbolic throughout the various revolutionary phases of our world. And, in support of its good design, it has been copied endlessly, even knocked-off like cheap iPods, by many different countries and industries.

    • As long as political and propaganda leaders are honoured, I think it is only fair to honour the designers of their tools.

  • winterberg

    Eine absolut geschmacklose Erinnerung am Heiligabend – an absolutely vulgar memory to Christmas Eve!

  • Petar

    Design originates in German STG 44 made a bit earlier. I also don’t see a purpose in celebrating distructive tools or their designers.

  • Texas Bob

    Dezeen… what’s next? Celebrating William Mills for inventing the hand grenade? Or the design of land mines? Please draw a line and reconsider before you publish. Do we really want to pick and admire the “best” tool for killing?

  • SCAQTony

    Though proud of his design I don’t think any of us can comprehend the amount of concentrated hell that design rendered. If there was a hell, he would have a front row seat.

    A bigger topic is the moral responsibility designers and content creators have towards humanity.

  • Pipo

    A world without weapons would be yet more devastating. Why does no one ask how many lives weapons have saved in the history of the world.

  • Vicente Fictício Cruz

    It’s very ironic that a dude that designed a stupid weapon that was used to kill thousands died at 94!

  • santa

    What is this? A man who gets honoured for building one of the deadliest things on earth? By the way, who is the design genius behind the ‘little boy’ bomb (Hiroshima)? Nice smooth edges there, right?

  • mikele

    Weird but there is a high degree of aesthetic value in war (killing) related objects and machines.

  • onreact

    Isn’t it ironic that someone responsible for millions of violent deaths lives to become almost 100 while his victims usually die at a young age?

    The AK47 is the weapon of choice for warlords and child soldiers all over Africa and wherever poverty and death prevail. It’s the deadliest weapon there is statistically, responsible for more killings that nuclear weapons.

    I wonder why Dezeen fails to add any significant critical note to this “designer”. Maybe it’s time to remove you from my subscriptions and stop sharing your design news.

  • Alejandro

    It’s horrible to celebrate the life or death of a man who created a weapon to kill people. I cannot understand why Dezeen did this.

  • David Singh Luque

    He designed the weapon, many others pulled the trigger.

    • Seb H

      Put another way: I didn’t shoot the elephant, but I love my ivory collection.

      • Ds

        The point is that weapons are tools. The people holding the gun that makes the final choice allows the object to fulfil its purpose. In a trial for murder, you cant blame the gun for having the intent to kill or the designer for enabling someone to kill by creating a tool for that. Also I love my ivory collection and my pet cat that I often caress while sitting on a baby seal leather chair with my robot arm. Muahaha.

  • Hypnotic

    But when people like JayZ, little Wane etc. rap about it, it sounds so cool. We all sing along and even act like thugs for a few fun seconds. Hypocrites.

  • Perezuliy481grand

    Most of the people commenting against the design of this weapon ironically also support dictators ie. Fidel Castro or Mao who kill by the millions yet are still perceived as good. Funny how the support for terror and brutality doesn’t transfer.

  • system-d

    Nobody remembers that Kalashnikov designed his weapon to protect USSR from Western aggression.

  • Alex

    This man was mainly designing guns for hunting purposes long time before being engaged with the army.

    Mihail Kalashnikov announced that if he knew how many would die from his weapon he would have never invented it.

    Absolute genius. I used this weapon during the obligatory (at that time) army service in Bulgaria for 1 year. Amazing function, assembly/disassemble happens for seconds !

    Sadly yes: it kills, but don’t associate his name with someone who makes war.

  • Seb H

    “Eames brothers”?!

  • Seb H

    Your comment could well be one from the National Rifle Association!