Mikhail Kalashnikov, who designed the assault rifle that has killed more people than any other firearm in the world, died Monday at the age of 94.
Kalashnikov, who was in his 20s when he created the AK-47 just after World War II, died in his home city of Izhevsk, near the Ural Mountains, where his gun is still made, a spokesman for the province's president said.
He did not give a cause of death. Kalashnikov had been hospitalized for the past month with unspecified health problems.
Kalashnikov once aspired to design farm equipment, but even though his most famous invention helped sow havoc instead of crops, he often said he felt untroubled by his contribution to bloodshed.
"I sleep well. It's the politicians who are to blame for failing to come to an agreement and resorting to violence," he said in 2007.
Cheap, accurate and easy to maintain by someone with no military training, the AK-47 became the world's most popular firearm among guerrilla fighters and the soldiers of many armies, with an estimated 100 million guns spread worldwide. The gun's status among revolutionaries and national-liberation struggles is even enshrined on the flags of Mozambique and Hezbollah.
Kalashnikov, born into a peasant family in Siberia, began his working life as a railroad clerk. After he joined the Red Army in 1938, he began to show mechanical flair by inventing several modifications for Soviet tanks.
The moment that set his course was in the 1941 battle of Bryansk, against Nazi forces, when a shell hit his tank. Recovering from wounds in the hospital, Kalashnikov brooded about the superior automatic rifles he saw the Nazis deploy. Five years and several revisions later, he had the AK-47.
"Blame the Nazi Germans for making me become a gun designer," said Kalashnikov. "I always wanted to construct agricultural machinery."
He continued working into his late 80s as chief designer for Izmash, the company that first built the AK-47. He also traveled the world helping Russia negotiate new arms deals and wrote several books on his life, about arms and about youth education.
Over his career, he was decorated with numerous honors, including the Hero of Socialist Labor and the Order of Lenin. In 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Kalashnikov by calling his rifle “a symbol of the creative genius of our people."
But because his invention was never patented, Kalashnikov didn't get rich off royalties.
"We worked for socialist society, for the good of the people, which I never regret," he once said.
Al Jazeera with wire services