Page last updated at 18:29 GMT, Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Kalashnikov 'wanted to be poet'

President Dimitry Medvedev hands Mikhail Kalashnikov the prestigious Hero of Russia award

The inventor of arguably the world's most infamous machine-gun wanted to be a poet in his youth, he has revealed.

Russian celebrities and politicians have been paying tribute to Mikhail Kalashnikov, who turned 90 on Tuesday, at a Kremlin reception.

Mr Kalashnikov is the inventor of the AK-47 assault rifle, beloved of guerrillas around the world.

At the ceremony, President Dimitry Medvedev handed Mr Kalashnikov the prestigious Hero of Russia award.

Accepting the award, he fired off a brief patriotic poem he wrote.

'Bad poet'

Mr Kalashnikov is the author of six books, as well being an amateur poet.

"I wrote poetry in my youth, and people thought I would become a poet. But I didn't become one," he told reporters.

"There are many bad poets out there without me. I went along a different path," he said.

Belarus special forces
Over 100 million AK-47s are believed to be in circulation

President Medvedev led the accolades saying the AK-47 assault rifle is "a national brand which evokes pride in each citizen".

He was also lauded from space in a specially recorded greeting from Russian cosmonauts on the International Space Station.

Mr Kalashnikov designed the weapon after being wounded fighting the Nazis during World War II.

His weapon can withstand the rugged demands of the battlefield better than any other, he said, but it was not his fault it had become so popular with insurgents and gangsters.

Over 100 million are believed to be in circulation.

"I created a weapon to defend the fatherland's borders. It's not my fault that it was sometimes used where it shouldn't have been. This is the fault of politicians," he said.

Mr Kalashnikov was born to a poor peasant family in Russia's southern Altai region in 1919.

In recent years he has attempted to diversify the Kalashnikov brand - most famously with Kalashnikov vodka in 2004.

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