Russia to Bury Kalashnikov in New 'Pantheon' of Heroes

Russia to Bury Kalashnikov in New 'Pantheon' of Heroes

Russia was Friday to bury Mikhail Kalashnikov, the designer of the iconic AK-47 assault rifle that was the favoured weapon of guerrillas worldwide, at a newly-opened cemetery for national heroes.

Kalashnikov, who died on Monday at the age of 94, was to receive a funeral with full state honours and be buried at the Federal Military Memorial Cemetery (FVMK) in Mytishchi outside Moscow, the defence ministry said.

His burial would be marked by a final salute of shots fired from the AK-47s that he designed, the ministry said in a statement.

The cemetery aims to be what Russian media describes as a “pantheon” for military heroes and also top statesmen. The cemetery was opened by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in June this year.

Initial reports after his death said that Kalashnikov was to be buried in the city of Izhevsk in the central Udmurtia region where he spent most of his working life.

However it appears officials decided he was a figure of such national significance he needed to be buried in the new cemetery and not in the provinces.

Kalashnikov’s coffin was on Thursday flown to Moscow from Izhevsk where some 60,000 people paid their last respects to him in two days of mourning.

Kalashnikov designed a weapon that became synonymous with killing on a sometimes indiscriminate scale. But he has been seen in the Soviet Union and modern Russia as a national hero and symbol of Moscow?s proud military tradition.

Despite the fame of his invention and being garlanded with national honours, Kalashnikov barely profited financially from his exploits and lived out his life modestly in Izhevsk.

Kalashnikov began designing the machine gun during six months leave after being wounded in 1941 in the early battles against Nazi forces in World War II that showed up the deficiencies in Soviet weaponry.

His superiors saw his talent and encouraged his work and in 1945 entered a prototype of the rifle into a competition. In 1947, the design was recommended for use in the Soviet army.

Kalashnikov is one of the first people to be given the honour of being buried in the new cemetery. Also buried there are the remains of an unknown soldier killed in battles outside Smolensk in 1941.

The weapons designer was showered with every possible major prize in the Soviet Union — Hero of Socialist Labour and winner of the Lenin and Stalin prizes. Modern Russia in 2009 gave him its highest honour — Hero of Russia.