When the average news consumer reads the word "Kalashnikov," what is the first thing that comes to mind?
That would, of course, be an image of the AK-47 -- one of the world's most famous combat weapons, used in countless wars and, yes, acts of terrorism.
But what if the creator of that famous weapon was a devout religious believer -- an Eastern Orthodox Christian, in this case -- who late in life expressed, in writing, a deep sense of shame and remorse about many of the deeds committed with the weapon bearing his name? Would this be an interesting angle to include in a New York Times feature story about his legacy and Russian rites to honor him (in this case with a large public monument)?
Of course, I think that the answer is "yes." However, I am an Eastern Orthodox layman, so I am a bit biased about things like that. This is the kind of information that I am talking about:
... Kalashnikov did not have a simple life. In his old age, he was deeply tortured by the knowledge that his rifle was used to do evil, even though he knew his weapons were also used to destroy evil and defend the Motherland.
In an attempt to find peace, like Nobel and Oppenheimer, this old weapons designer also turned his eyes to a quiet life in the hopes of seeing a silver lining. Seeking redemption, he wrote a letter to Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Church, saying:
“My soul ache is unbearable and has one irresolvable question: if my rifle took lives, does it mean that I, Mikhail Kalashnikov, aged 93, a peasant woman’s son, an Orthodox Christian in faith, am guilty of those people’s deaths, even if they were enemies?"
Though he was told, reportedly, that he was not condemned for this, his sadness continued.
With that in mind, it's interesting to note the role that religion played in this recent Times feature: "Giant Monument to Kalashnikov, Creator of AK-47, Is Unveiled in Moscow."
MOSCOW -- A towering monument to Lt. Gen. Mikhail T. Kalashnikov, designer of the AK-47, the Soviet rifle that has become the world’s most widespread assault weapon, was unveiled ... in the middle of one of central Moscow’s busiest thoroughfares.
The ceremony took place to the sounds of Russian military folk music, the Soviet anthem, Orthodox prayers and words about how his creation had ensured Russia’s safety and peace in the world.