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Kalashnikov Concerned About Deaths Caused by His Weapon

FILE - Afghan National Police recruits study their notes on how to use a Kalashnikov rifle during a training session at the police academy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The designer of the iconic AK-47 assault rifle was worried before his death that he was personally guilty for the deaths caused by his weapon.

Mikhail Kalashnikov - designer of the legendary AK-47 - wrote to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, six months before his death to express his fears. Kalashnikov died in December at the age of 94.

The letter was reproduced Monday in the daily Russian newspaper Izvestia.

Kalashnikov wrote in the letter, "My spiritual pain is unbearable. I keep having the same unsolved question: if my rifle took away people's lives, then can it be that I... am guilty for people's deaths, even if they were enemies?"

Izvestia reported that the patriarch replied to the troubled designer, saying that whenever weapons are used to protect the Fatherland, the Church supports both the creators of the weapons and the soldiers who use them.

Kalashnikov wrote in his letter that he first went into a church at the age of 91 and was later baptized.

He designed the fabled AK-47 assault rifle in 1947 at the age of 20.

Kalashnikov - a son of Siberian peasants - never finished school and said that he conceived of the weapon while recovering from wounds during the 1941 Battle of Bryansk against Nazi forces.

The Kalashnikov rifle is known as a weapon of choice for guerrilla forces, terrorists and military groups around the world who applaud its sturdy construction and performance in adverse conditions.

The AK-47's name stands for Kalashnikov's Automatic and the year it went into production.

Kalashnikov has been praised by many Russian leaders over his career, and received the Hero of Russia award for the design. However, he never profited financially from the AK-47, which was never patented.