Pete WillowsJanuary 8, 2011Word count: about 1100
Of uncommon character: the AK-47
C. J. Chivers.
The Gun: The AK-47 and the Evolution of War
Tantor Media. MP3 - UnabridgedCD edition. 19 hours. October 2010. $34.99 ISBN: 978-1-4001-6914-6.Mikhail Kalashnikov was a sergeant in the Red Army when his design team won Stalin’scontest to develop a new machine gun. The acronym, AK-47, stands for
,‘the automatic by Kalashnikov’ – the year was 1947.The AK-47, with its distinctive banana-shaped magazine, sloping muzzle sight, gas tubeabove the barrel, and pistol grip, adorns the flag of Mozambique. One man’s terrorist, is another man’s freedom fighter, is another man’s jihadist, is another man’s warlord. The gun knows nodifference. When bin Laden placed a Kalashnikov rifle next to himself as a companion for photographs, he did so with purpose—he chose the AK-74su, which was the 1974 model used bySoviet paratroopers in their Afghan war, and would have indicated bin Laden had played asignificantly more engaging role than he did in that conflict by acquiring the weapon on the battlefield. Such are the semiotics of modern conventional weaponry.Mikhail Kalashnikov, sired from robust peasant stock, was born into near penury on thesteppes of central Russia in 1919. His father was branded a
and the family sent to live inSiberia when Kalashnikov was a boy, as part of Stalin’s collectivization. It was a lean, hard and bitter youth for Kalashnikov. He later fought in World War II, defending his homeland againstGermany’s advance on the Russian Front, in what Stalin called “The Great Patriotic War.”