Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Who is Mikhail Kalishnokov?

c. David Grim (taken 11/14/10)

I've never been all that interested in firearms. If I'm forced to take a position on something like the 2nd Amendment, I'll usually just state my belief that citizens should be allowed to arm themselves. But I do believe that government (both local and national) should retain the authority to regulate weapons. I'd rather that people keep their guns at home, and I am generally against concealed weapons of any type. If you have a good reason to carry a pistol, then you shouldn't have any resistance to making that fact obvious to everyone.

I'm certainly not in favor of folks toting around automatic rifles. The only valid reason to have an M-16 or an AK-47 is for purposes of armed struggle. So if you own one, then that must be what you are considering. Regardless it doesn't impress me. Any idiot can save up and acquire one on the black market. It doesn't make you special. I'm certainly no fetishist. And that's why I really had no idea what Mikhail Kalishnikov meant to the development of violence in the last century. I guess I might have made some connection to the military issue Soviet-era rifle if pressed. But maybe not.

Anyway, it turns out that this former Russian Army officer is actually still alive. He lives an unassuming life at the foot of the Urals. People from all over the world remember him, and try to contact him. In fact many parents have even named their children after his invention. I learned all of this in the book "Gomorrah" by Roberto Saviano. It tells the story of the Camorra, which is a loose association of clans, kind of like the Costra Nostra mafia in Sicily. But these organized crime outfits are situated in Naples, Italy on the mainland. Apparently they are completely ruthless, and are responsible for rampant international corruption and heinous violence.

In Saviano's book, he tells the story of a white collar Camorrista who has one great wish- to travel to the former Soviet Union and meet Kalishnikov. He gains entry and brings a gift of fancy Buffalo brand mozzarella cheese. They break bread together and sip vodka, and the visitor even gets a glimpse of the very first prototype of the AK-47. Reportedly Kalishnikov relishes the attention he receives. In fact he keeps a prominent collection of photographs of the little namesakes mentioned above. Throughout the world his fanatics are eager to make a connection with this "great man". Yet he comes off in the account as a banal functionary who was fortunate enough to do something of great import.

What Kalishnokov achieved is nothing short of atrocity. He developed a weapon that is portable, lightweight, and easy to clean and operate. It has democratized the business of killing, and thus led to uncountable deaths. His invention is the preferred tool of terrrorists, criminals, and bullies throughout the world. Additionally, a number of genocidal rampages owe their success to the AK-47. And none of this seems to phase the man himself. As Saviano measures him, he is the "man of the market: he does what he has to do to win, and the rest is none of his concern." Except unlike a "great Capitalist", he developed his product for a socialist nation, and thus has nothing to show for his achievement but refracted glory. And a tsunami of blood.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed the lesson in history, love the photo. Thanks for posting and making my day more interesting.