A former Soviet general credited with inventing what's known as the world's most popular firearm -- the Avtomat Kalashnikova, or AK-47 assault rifle -- died Monday at age 94, according to reports.
Mikhail Kalashnikov was born in Siberia, and claimed to be a "self-taught tinkerer," according to The New York Times. Viktor Chulkov, a spokesman for the Udmurtia republic where Kalashnikov lived, said the inventor died in a hospital in Izhevsk, the region's capital, CBS News reported.
Kalashnikov died Monday following a long illness, a spokeswoman at Kalashnikov Concern, a gun-making plant named after the general, told Bloomberg News in an interview.
Manufacturing of Kalashnikov's invention began in the late 1940s. The weapon was prolifically used by the Soviet Red Army, and later by armies and terrorist groups around the world. But despite taking pride in his creation and its role in Soviet history, Kalashnikov also regretted its use for other malicious purposes.
"This is a weapon of defense," he once said, according to the Times. "It is not a weapon for offense."
The AK-47 became ubiquitous on warfields because of its "low cost, ease of use, light weight and resistance to corrosion and jamming," according to Bloomberg. And Kalashnikov himself was treated as a hero by his home country for his contribution.
"What you've done has made Russian weapons one of our best national brands," Dmitry Medvedev, then Russia's president, said in 2009, according to Bloomberg. "Kalashnikov is one of the most famous Russian words."