AK-47 history footnotes. For AK history buffs only.
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    AK-47 history footnotes. For AK history buffs only.

    Fellow AK buffs. I found this interesting letter on one of the Russian websites. I offer here my translation of the original article. I don't agree with the MTK-bashing sentiment expressed by the author in the beginning, but here it is:

    Some time back we have celebrated M.T. Kalashnikovs 90-th birthday. Congratulations and best wishes were sent to him from everywhere, he was honored with titles and be-decked with medals. He moonlights by advertizing firearm catalogs and alcoholic beverages. But no-one remembers those who were creating the famed avtomat with him...
    Former manager (1975-1992) of the experimental plant “Armatura” (Kovrov) A. Volgin has assembled some documents from the period of AK-47 creation. Let us read these and give some recognition to those who helped M.T.K. create his icon.

    1. Letter addressed to:
    Kovrov, Ivanovsk Oblast, Post Box ? 27 (October 1946)
    Director Fomin, Military Rep Evstrapov
    Per the coordinated decision of Armaments Ministry and USV GAU (Department of Modern Armaments (?), Central Artillery Derectorate) an inventor-designer Kalashnikov, whose project was awarded a monetary prize of 7 K Rubles, is assigned to your factory. Per this project, plant ? 2 is directed to produce experimental prototypes in accordance with Soviet of Ministers Directive of June 10, 1946 and per agreement with USV GAU, projecting the submittal of the test samples for the comparative testing at NIPSMBO (Test and Research Proofing-grounds of Moscow Military District) in December of 1946. To accomplish this work in such a short time, I request Your directive to provide every possible assistance to Designer Kalashnikov by assigning the experienced draftsmen-designers and a manufacturing process engineer to develop the production blueprints. Due to the urgency in the development of the avtomat’s design, I request take every possible step in expediting these efforts.
    Commander, Directorate of the Engineering and Technology Service, Major General Dubovitsky.
    Note:
    M.T. Kalashnikov’s project that received the monetary award was not among the winners. The 1st prize was not awarded to anyone, the second was awarded to N.V. Rukavishnikov’s project, and the third to G.K. Korobov.

    2. Forwarding Note to the letter above:
    Factory Director Fomin to the Chief Design Engineer I.V. Dolgushev.
    You will create all necessary conditions for Com. Kalashnikov’s work and will be personally responsible for the on-time completion of the task.


    3. Letter from Alexander Alexievich Zaitsev to D.N. Bolotin, the author of “History of the Soviet Firearms and Ammunition.

    Dear David Naumovich,
    All my pondering have brought me to write this letter today... My introduction to M.T Kalashnikov had happened in the office of the Chief Design Engineer of the Kirizh factory, where I was delegated to help MTK in the development of the technical data package (TDP) for 7.62 avtomat, based upon the pre approved design proposal. We were allotted a separate room by the military rep A.D. Evstratov, since the Chief Designer had no such facility available. It was September of 1946. After my familiarization with the Self-loading Carbine designed around the 7.62 intermediate cartridge and the general outlines of the proposed avtomat, MTK had given me a task of processing the project-related materials and developing a complete TDP for manufacturing the 7.62 avtomat prototype... Clearly, there would not be sufficient time for the range tests. After some consideration, the decision was made to work around the clock, and, as I was not tied down by a family, MTK and I were allotted a 2-meal daily ration at the (plant) cafeteria. After a month of intense labor over the drawings, the entire TDP was submitted to the prototype shop tasked to produce 3 units at once. Some of the complex components (barrel, receiver, bolt and bolt carrier) were made earlier. The rest of the parts were fabricated over the next month.
    The assembly of the first unit had began in November, followed by the first tests. The whole time our prototype-maker, Boris Pavlovich Marinichev, kept saying that we had luck on our side. The experimental units of 1946 were named AK-1 and AK-2 (with a socket-mounted stock). I’m positive they are still in the proofing grounds museum. Assembly of the 2 following prototypes as well the updates to the TDP for transfer to the test facility were also very time-consuming, so I worked the drawings and MTK with the builder were conducting the tests. At the end of 1946 all the difficulties were behind us and I was transferred to another project, but could not get the prototype improvements out of my mind. I began sketching some modifications. After the tests, AK-1 took the first place and made it into the second round of tests. Our competition were Dement’ev (Kovrov) and Bulkin (Tula). They had more component failures during the survivability tests and more stoppages during severe conditions tests. During the discussions of the test results and reviews of the potential enemy weapon samples, MTK was uncertain about implementing major improvements due to the time constrains. However, I was able to convince him to overhaul the prototype structurally (in order to improve its performance parameters) as well as improve its aesthetics.
    During these improvements, a special consideration was given to furthering avtomat’s reliability and manufacturability. Basically, we have agreed to a fundamental revamping of the avtomat and named it AK-47. Due to the volume of work and the lack of time, we have requested a second designer. That was Engineer V.P. Piskunov. He worked with me for 3 weeks, and developed the barrel assembly components, then I have rejected him as he could only work one shift and slowly at that. I worked around the clock, left the plant only for a bath or an occasional movie.
    Yep! These were good times. Somehow we worked with inspiration, with our whole sole. Everyone helped, from the upper brass to the last laborer. I sighed with relief when all the corrections and TDP for the launch of the limited production run and the plant tests were done. We selebrated this over a small banquette. After this everything went similarly to the AK-1. After the completion of the field tests and the approval for the series production in 1948, now at Izhevsk, we were assisted by V.I. Soloviev. He worked all the analytical calculations, which helped alot during the limited production run at Izhevsk. This is all that I could write after 45 years... That is all, with all due respect, A. Zaitsev.

    Note (from the website):
    It is important to point out that just as Kalashnikov, designer Zaitsev did not have formal weapons design education. He graduated Kovrov Railroad school. V.I. Soloviev was an experienced weapons designer, he led the prototype production at the plant for 12 years. Additionally, much credit is owed for significant contributions into the AK-47 development to process engineers V.I. Danilov and N.S. Goncharov. Among other things, they solved the cracking issue with the magazine and the top cover during the metal-stamping process. They selected the sweedish steel used in the production of “Pobeda” automobiles at the Gorkiy autoplant.

    Copyrights:
    All copyrights of this translation ant the original are reserved and shall not be published in any commercial publication.
    PA3 C ABTOMATOM, TO BCE KAK B CKA3KE!

  2. #2
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    Re: AK-47 history footnotes. For AK history buffs only.

    Good info! Thanks!
    WTB
    Polish NSP-3 Scope S/N R-59437
    Polish NSP-3 Scope S/N R-59170
    Polish NSP-3 Scope S/N L-90108
    Polish NSP-3 Scope S/N F-80598
    FN-49
    SVT-40

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    Re: AK-47 history footnotes. For AK history buffs only.

    Wow! I'm keeping a copy of this.
    “Generally speaking, the Way of the warrior is resolute acceptance of death” Miyamoto Musashi

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    Re: AK-47 history footnotes. For AK history buffs only.

    I vote for STICKY!

    Lots of good info here!
    WTB
    Polish NSP-3 Scope S/N R-59437
    Polish NSP-3 Scope S/N R-59170
    Polish NSP-3 Scope S/N L-90108
    Polish NSP-3 Scope S/N F-80598
    FN-49
    SVT-40

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    Re: AK-47 history footnotes. For AK history buffs only.

    Quote Originally Posted by stoyan79
    I vote for STICKY!

    Lots of good info here!
    +1

    Maybe a move to the REFERENCE forum?
    "Gold is the money of kings. Silver is the money of gentlemen.? Barter is the money of peasants and debt is the money of slaves."

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    Re: AK-47 history footnotes. For AK history buffs only.

    Great historical info. Thanks!

    I'd like to find and have translated the decree of producing the AK-47
    "A Man with One Gun Can Control 100 Men With None" -Vladimir Lenin

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    Re: AK-47 history footnotes. For AK history buffs only.

    That is good reading. It's interesting how, as time goes by, more information is revealed about the design and implementation of the Kalashnikov rifle was a group effort as opposed to the previous myth that it was mostly centered around M.T. Kalashnikov.

    Perhaps in more time, we'll learn that a great deal more folks were instrumental in its development.

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    Re: AK-47 history footnotes. For AK history buffs only.

    Wow, thanks. What a piece of history.

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    Re: AK-47 history footnotes. For AK history buffs only.

    Good read. Thanks for sharing.
    AKF # 2588
    K.C.A

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    Re: AK-47 history footnotes. For AK history buffs only.

    Quote Originally Posted by rayman1
    That is good reading. It's interesting how, as time goes by, more information is revealed about the design and implementation of the Kalashnikov rifle was a group effort as opposed to the previous myth that it was mostly centered around M.T. Kalashnikov.

    Perhaps in more time, we'll learn that a great deal more folks were instrumental in its development.
    Of course there is the propaganda saying he had nothing to do with it, but was picked as a good figure to place all the glory with. Like a war hero.
    Thank you kerbelgehause!

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    Re: AK-47 history footnotes. For AK history buffs only.

    Quote Originally Posted by rayman1
    That isPerhaps in more time, we'll learn that a great deal more folks were instrumental in its development.
    Soviet military designs are generally developed by design bureaus and teams of engineers. You have a chief designer, but he does not do everything on such an important project. i.e. he administates tasks and makes important decisons, but each area of technology is often farmed out to other specialists. Some people might be surprised to discover that many prominent engineers helped with the design, but this is typical, even in the West.

    There are some very good Russian books detailing these things, providing the names of key personnel who were instrumental within these teams. Not to take anything away from MTK, as he was certainly the head guy (within his own team) back in the day, but I think government PR and the mass media historically overlook the fact these things are developed by a great many people, thus putting too much enphasis on the chief designer who has his name on the firearm. I guess it's just human nature to pick one iconic figurehead and pin everything on them, good or bad stuff.
    "...a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist!"
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    Re: AK-47 history footnotes. For AK history buffs only.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tantal
    Quote Originally Posted by rayman1
    That isPerhaps in more time, we'll learn that a great deal more folks were instrumental in its development.
    All Soviet designs are generally developed by design bureaus and teams of engineers. You don't just have one guy doing everything on such an important project. i.e. one guy might theoreticlaly make the most critical decisions, but they generally split out each area of technology. There are some very good Russian books detailing these things, providing the names of key personnel who were instrumental within these teams. Not to take anything away from MTK, as he was certainly the head guy (within his own team) back in the day, but I think government PR and the mass media historically overlook the fact these things are developed by a great many people, thus putting too much enphasis on the chief designer who has his name on the firearm. I guess it's just human nature to pick one iconic figurehead and pin everything on them, good or bad stuff.
    Tantal, history does have a way of doing that. Which is rarely crediting where credit is due. It should be a sticky in a Historical Forum. Just my opinion of course.

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    Re: AK-47 history footnotes. For AK history buffs only.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tantal
    I guess it's just human nature to pick one iconic figurehead and pin everything on them, good or bad stuff.
    Yep, there was, no doubt, a cult of personality built up around MTK, and it sounds like that leaves his exact role, at least to the layman like me, kind of ambiguous. This is not only human nature, but a heavily used political tool of that era.

    I would love to learn more about the topic, as I have long suspected that the AK's success, regardless of any propaganda, was probably the result of a team of talented engineers, and a very rigorous testing regime. Although this particular piece doesn't seem to support the idea that the gun was subjected to an exceptional amount of testing and experimentation, at least regarding the time frame of development, which surprises me. It's hard to make decisions based on theory alone, even in controlled lab environments, so you would think that the only way to arrive at such a dependable design would be to repeatedly adjust and test the design until it is without flaws. Although that isn't to say that it's impossible to choose a nearly ideal design based on theory and only moderate testing. I would love to see an exhaustive and unbiased (read: skeptical) appraisal of the Russian literature finally make its way into a book printed in English!

    As interesting as this particular passage is, it goes with the territory of government weapons development that many facts were confidential, and even to this day, we really have no reason to believe that Alexander Alexievich Zaitsev is at liberty to discuss all the facts regarding the weapons development, especially where he might contradict certain aspects of official releases. Given that, we will probably have to accept that the facts will always be slightly ambiguous to all but the Soviet officials personally involved.

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    Re: AK-47 history footnotes. For AK history buffs only.

    Quote Originally Posted by nexus/mk.7
    As interesting as this particular passage is, it goes with the territory of government weapons development that many facts were confidential..
    Yes, this is very true. Disregarding poorly researched English language books on the subject, I think the secrecy of the Cold War had a great deal to do with this mistaken belief, since the development of the rifle would have been more or less a classified topic for quite some time. Details such as personnel involved and timelines on the creation and testing of subassemblies were certainly lacking during that period of time, but I don't think any gaps in the historical record were due to vanity, or a concerted effort to take credit away form other contributors to the development of the firearm. The fact that other designers played key roles is the AK project is not really a new revelation, or a controversial subject except to people with the mistaken idea that MTK sat in a garage someplace and machined the entire rifle from scratch.

    And of course the official recogniton of Kalashnikov, elevated to a hero of the state, put the contributions of his design team in a shadow by comparison. Some of this was no doubt part of a hero-building propaganda campaign, for both domestic and worldwide consumption. It makes for a good story, but that's how it always is, right? The head guy gets the raises and the glory while all the guys who worked for him and did the around the clock grunt work and subassembly engineering get what, a footnote in an obscure textbook, hehe? I guess the pedestal they put MTK on has naturally made some of the other people he worked with less that happy over the years, but today you can find accounts detailing the work of others, and plaques honoring these people in places like Izhmash.

    As far as how long the development took, it took several years. Zaitsev's letter was research for Bolotin's famous book, which was published many years ago (it is, BTW, a great resource). His words don't contradict the official historical account or the role MTK had in the project, and I think the only people who want to promote this as some sort of new evidence that MTK was only a figurehead are just stretching what was actually said, or are uninformed about what the Russians have always said about the development of the rifle, or they just get a kick out of trying to insinuate Kalashnikov does not deserve credit for his involvement. Kind of like the guys who like to say the rifle was designed by Schmeisser, hehe.

    AFA English references of note, there are a few. Even though I'm not an advocate for this rather anti-gun publication, I do believe in giving credit where credit is due, so I have to recommend you take a look at The Gun by Chivers. At least the first few chapters. Well written is an understatement in describing this book, and his well researched account of the multi-year development of the AK rifle is one of the best I have ever seen in an English publication, or maybe any publication. Of course, blaming MTK and the AK rifle for all the wars in the world conduced since the 1940's is simply ridiculous! Like they didn't have wars before firearms were even invented?
    "...a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist!"
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    Re: AK-47 history footnotes. For AK history buffs only.

    Thanks for that, Doug. I had discounted that book out-of-hand, but I might just pick up a copy if you think it contains the most reasonable English language account of at least that aspect of the topic. And if my post seemed to minimize MTK's involvement, then I didn't intend it, because like you say, the available history does indicate that he had a very significant leadership role, and also that it was a team effort. I guess I'd just like to know more, building upon the insights contained in the OP passage, which were new to me.

 

 
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