Ever since the end of World War 2, the AK-47, or popularly named Kalashnikov after its designer, has been a recurring phenomenon in international conflicts. The rifle is for many more than just an instrument of death, it is a symbol for their struggle against the Western world.
Cheap, easy to use, will not break down. The characteristics speak for themselves. It is widely used in Africa, Russia and the Middle East, by the military as well as regular citizens. It is regarded by Western countries as the symbol for rebels and terrorists. But one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.
Invented by a Russian, the Soviet Union widely supplied its allies with the guns during the Cold War. This gave them a huge advantage over the United States and their allies, who were not able to mass supply such a cheap weapon. With prices starting at 30 US dollar and a large supply on the black market, it was easily accessible. The AK-47 made, and still makes, a deep impact on the ideological proxy wars going on the African continent.
In the struggle for African independence, the AK-47 became the symbol for fighting against foreign occupation and imperialism. Some countries even glorify the gun in their coat of arms, while Mozambique even eternalized it in their national flag.
The gun played a central part in the popular movie Lord of War, showing the life of a Russian arms dealer. One monologue in particular typically summarizes the significance of the AK-47.
“It’ll shoot whether it’s covered in mud or filled with sand. It’s so easy, even a child can use it; and they do. The Soviets put the gun on a coin. Mozambique put it on their flag. Since the end of the Cold War, the Kalashnikov has become the Russian people’s greatest export. After that comes vodka, caviar, and suicidal novelists. One thing is for sure, no one was lining up to buy their cars.”