Man of war
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Mikhail Kalashnikov, who was 94 when he died on Dec. 23, was the Russian military man who designed the ubiquitous automatic weapon that bears his name, the most popular rifle in the wars of the latter half of the 20th century. A former Soviet tank gunner, Kalashnikov created the prototype in a competition to design a new Soviet infantry rifle in the last days of World War II. The AK-47 was a lightweight weapon that was easy to use and maintain. The Soviet military first brought it out during the brutal crackdown on the 1956 Hungarian uprising. As C.J. Chivers, author of a book on the gun’s history, writes, the AK-47 was “repression’s chosen weapon, the rifle of the occupier and police state.”
But soon it was also the chief instrument of a new era of global conflict.