- (Photo: Reuters/Alexander Demianchuk/Files)
Mikhail Kalashnikov, the world-famous weapons constructor who built the AK-47, expressed his guilt over his invention in a letter to the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church half a year before his death in December.
"My soul aches, it is unbearable, I face the same unsolvable question: if my gun killed people, then I, Mikhailo Kalashnikov, ninety three years old, a peasant's son, a Christian and Orthodox believer, is guilty in people's death, even if they were enemies," read Kalashnikov's letter to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and Russia, which was published in the Russian-language Izvestia paper on Monday, and translated by Interfax.
The assault rifle, which has been in service since 1949 in the Soviet Union, has become a widely-used gun throughout the world, with a Washington Post article noting some estimates claim that over 100 million such rifles have been produced.
In the past, Kalashnikov has said that he was "proud" of his invention, but would have rather designed something else.
"I'm proud of my invention, but I'm sad that it is used by terrorists," he once said on a visit to Germany, The Guardian reported in 2012. "I would prefer to have invented a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work – for example a lawnmower."
In his letter to Patriarch Kirill, Kalashnikov also shared his thoughts on the current state of Russia and the future of the Orthodox Church.
"Yes, the number of churches and monasteries grow in our country, but the evil does not decrease! The good and the bad live as neighbors, fight and, what is the most terrific, submit to one another in people's souls – that is what I discovered in the dawn of my earthily life," the weapons constructor wrote.
"It is similar to the eternal engine which I wanted to invent in my early years. Light and shadow, good and evil are the opposites of the whole thing and they can't live without each other? Is it possible that the Lord set this order?"
Protodeacon Alexander Volkov of the patriarchal press-service apparently shared with Izvestia that the Orthodox Church leader did indeed receive Kalashnikov's letter and wrote him a reply.
"This letter was very appropriate at the time of attacks against the church. The Patriarch thanked the legendary constructor for his attention and position and answered that Mikhail Timofeyevich was an example of patriotism and right attitude to the country," Volkov said.
He offered that when it comes to defending the country, the church stands behind the weapon inventors and those who use them.
"He invented this gun to defend his country, not for the Saudi Arabian terrorists," Volkov added.
Kalashnikov has received numerous recognitions and honors through his life, including the Hero of Socialist Labor and Order of Lenin and Stalin Prize. He continued working well into his late 80s as chief designer of the Izmash company that first built the AK-47, The Associated Press added.