Russian creator of the AK-47, used to kill an estimated 250,000 people a year, celebrated in controversial ceremony
A statue of Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of the AK-47 assault rifle, has been unveiled in central Moscow in a controversial ceremony that merged military pomp with religious ritual.
The nine-metre (30ft) monument depicts Kalashnikov clutching his eponymous automatic weapon. Tuesday’s event was attended by high-ranking Russian officials including Vladimir Medinsky, the culture minister, and Petr Biryukov, Moscow’s deputy mayor.
“This is Russia’s cultural brand,” said Medinsky, before a Russian Orthodox priest blessed the statue.
“He created this weapon to defend his motherland,” said Father Konstantin, shrugging off suggestions that it was inappropriate to sprinkle holy water on a statue of a weapons designer. Some members of the crowd crossed themselves as the priest blessed the monument.
A guard of honour from the Russian defence ministry stood to attention throughout the ceremony, which also featured second world war-era military songs.
“Our weapon is a holy weapon,’ Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, the former spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, wrote on Facebook.
Kalashnikov, a tank commander, created the AK-47 after hearing Soviet soldiers complain about the quality of their weapons. The first model was produced in 1947, earning Kalashnikov the Stalin prize and the Order of the Red Star.
Today, there are reported to be more than 100m Kalashnikov rifles in use worldwide. The weapon, which is favoured by both armies and militants, is said to be responsible for 250,000 deaths annually. An AK-47 appears on the flags of Mozambique and Hezbollah, as well as on the coats of arms of Zimbabwe and East Timor.
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The unveiling of the statue in the central Garden Ring neighbourhood took place despite the objections of some Muscovites, including nearby residents. A protester was detained by police as he attempted to unfurl a banner that read “a creator of weapons is a creator of death”.
A man is detained by police as he holds a sign reading, ‘a creator of weapons is a creator of death’.
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A man is detained by police as he holds a sign reading ‘a creator of weapons is a creator of death’. Photograph: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters
The statue of Kalashnikov, “in one of the busiest and commonly used streets in the city, reaffirms the image of Russia as a militaristic and neo-imperialistic country that feels it is surrounded by enemies,” said Dmitry Shabelnikov, a lawyer who lives in the area.
“I’m not, in principle, against a statue of Kalashnikov. But it should not be erected here, now, and in this shape.”
A second sculpture behind the Kalashnikov monument depicts the Archangel Mikhail slaying a dragon with a spear. Salavat Shcherbakov, the artist responsible for both works, said the spear symbolises an AK-47.
“This represents the victory of good over the forces of evil,” said Shcherbakov, who also created a controversial 17-metre statue of Prince Vladimir the Great that was erected opposite the Kremlin in November.