“These are . . . for sale?” I ask the clerk.
“Oh, yes. But if you are flying, it is not possible to carry them.”
Oh, right. The whole thing about not carrying look-alike semiautomatic weapons on air-
planes. I nod in appreciation for the tip.
Marina quickly rushes us out of the museum, tossing our shower caps in a box before
going out the door. We jump in her car (more spacious now, as we dropped the psychologist
off for a meeting) and take a ten-minute drive to a museum that is very similar, though at-
tached to the gun factory itself.
We walk inside, and are directed to sit down in front of a glass case featuring different
versions of the Kalashnikov and also some very menacing-looking knives. We come to
learn that unfortunately Mikhail Kalashnikov is not available, but his seventy-year-old son,
Viktor—also a gun designer—has joined us.
He's a quiet man wearing a gray sweater under a black suit that all but swallows his
small frame—he's about as nonthreatening a guy you could find, but for the fact that he's
designed some of the world's most lethal weapons.
Sergei seems a bit nervous by the high-profile nature of the interview. “David, let's do
it this way. You ask questions. He answers. I translate. Okay?”
“Okay, your questions, please.”
Sergei is all business.
I ask about how his father came to invent such a weapon.
“In 1941 my dad was wounded in the war,” Viktor says. “In the hospital he spoke about
the kinds of armaments he saw on the battlefield. The kinds of guns the Germans had, and
the kinds of guns the Russians had.”
While serving as director of the weapons factory in Izhevsk after the war, he set out
to design an automatic rifle that could be produced en masse and match the automatic
weapons the Germans had been deploying. And so the Kalashnikov, as it's also known, was
born. The AK-47 has gone through many iterations and been used on battlefields and also
by gangsters and terrorists around the world.
“My father's slogan was to create a weapon that could protect the motherland,” Viktor
I ask if his father has any regrets, given how many people have been killed—including
countless numbers at the hands of criminals.
“Sure, it has been used by criminals. It is a reliable weapon. But I would like to em-
phasize, the constructor is not guilty in that—politicians are.” He says his father does tell
himself that a lot, because there are moments when he thinks about the impact of what he
invented. “Yes, Dad thinks about it and talks about it.”