The Slatest

In Letter Before Death, Kalashnikov Haunted by Deaths From His Invention of AK-47

An Iraqi policeman holds his AK-47 assault rifle after voting in provincial elections in central Baghdad.

Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images

Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of the Kalashnikov rifle, better known as the AK-47, died at the age of 94 last month, but not without regrets about the impact of the assault rifle that carries his name. In a 2012 letter published in a pro-Kremlin newspaper on Monday, Kalashnikov wrote to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, expressing anguish and remorse about the impact of his invention.

Here’s an excerpt of the letter from the BBC:

“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.”

Kalashnikov had long refused to take responsibility for the deaths caused by his rifles, of which there are more than 100 million worldwide. The AK-47’s popularity grew because it is relatively easy and inexpensive to produce and maintain. According to the BBC, the soul-searching letter is typed on Kalashnikov’s personal stationary and written with a “wavering hand” signed “a slave of God, the designer Mikhail Kalashnikov.” It’s unclear, however, exactly how much of the letter Kalashnikov wrote himself, the BBC notes. Kalashnikov’s daughter told the Russian paper that published the letter she believed a priest may have assisted in the writing of the letter.