A large statue of the inventor of the AK-47 assault rifle has been unveiled in a controversial ceremony in central Moscow.
The 30-foot monument in memory of Mikhail Kalashnikov depicts the Soviet war hero holding his infamous weapon.
The statue was blessed by a Russian Orthodox priest during an unveiling ceremony attended by the Mayor of Moscow, the Russian culture minister and a guard of honour from the Russian Defence Ministry.
Kalashnikov, who died in 2013 at the age of 94, invented the weapon in 1947 shortly after the end of the Second World War.
The “A” in the weapon’s name stands for “avtomat” or automatic rifle, the “K” for Kalashnikov and the number “47” for the year of its invention.
Later versions of the simple but effective weapon remain a mainstay of Russia’s armed forces 70 years after it was first introduced.
Today it is believed there are more than 100 million of the rifles in use worldwide.
The relatively cheap weapon continues to work in a range of terrains that cause problems for more advanced weaponry – making it a popular choice for armies, militants, jihadists and criminals around the world.
Today the weapon is said to be responsible for the deaths of 250,000 people every year.
Before his death Kalashnikov said that his pride in his invention was tempered by the pain of seeing it used by criminals and child soldiers in war-torn regions around the world.
“It is painful for me to see when criminal elements of all kinds fire from my weapon,” he said in 2009. “I created this weapon primarily to defend the borders of our fatherland.”
A monument to Russian firearm designer Mikhail Kalashnikov is unveiled during an official ceremony in Moscow, Russia, 19-09-2017. Image: AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin
The Guardian reports that a number of Moscow residents objected to the unveiling of the statue – with one man detained for attempting to display a banner reading “a creator of weapons is a creator of death.”
Dmitry Shabelnikov, a lawyer who lives in the area, told the newspaper that the statue, “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.”
“I’m not, in principle, against a statue of Kalashnikov. But it should not be erected here, now, and in this shape,” he said.
Russian Culture Minister, Vladimir Medinsk said the statue represented “Russia’s cultural brand” while the priest who blessed the monument insisted the weapon had been created to “defend his motherland.”
Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov was born into a large peasant family on November 10th 1919 - during the civil war that followed the Bolshevik Revolution.
In Soviet times he was twice honoured as “Hero of Socialist Labour” and became a Stalin Prize and Lenin Prize laureate.
He eventually rose to become a two-star general in the Red Army.
His invention never brought him the riches that might have been expected in the west, and he lived in modest Soviet-era surroundings in the city of Izhevsk, east of Moscow.