The Cold War history

Soon after the Second World War it became clear that the world would face new hazardous times. The division of the World into two superpowers influenced almost any international political issue. This status quo situation became definite when the former Soviet Union succeeded in conducting their first atomic test in 1949. As the years passed on tensions between both ideologies grew. Perhaps there was no other place than Europe where the division of the world by both superpowers was so visible. When the Iron curtain was drawn down free travelling between both sides was no longer possible. The chances on a new war became more and more realistic during the Cuban crisis in 1962. Fortunately mankind was aware of the consequences of nuclear warfare. 

Apart from the nuclear arms race both superpowers invested heavily in conventional weapons. The Warsaw Pact was much more focused on standardization of their military equipment than NATO was. Productivity improvement and logistic advantages were the idea behind the Russian strategy. The Kalashnikov assault rifle was an important part of that plan. Pictured here on the right is a poster of the Warsaw Pact forces. It is just one of many interesting historical military promotion documents, the soldiers are all carrying a Kalashnikov assault rifle a small piece of evidence the weapon played a major role in the former Warsaw Pact. The lower right picture is promomtion material from China it marks that the AK play an imporant role in the Chinese army as well.

A Chinese military propaganda poster it shows a soldier with the Chinese copy of the Kalashnikov assault rifle. This Chinese copy is designated as the Type 56.

The Kalashnikov Encyclopaedia covers all Kalashnikov assault rifles from the former satelite states of the Warsaw Pact.


The world was changing, is changing           

Not more than 25 years ago innovative developments regarding the Kalashnikov assault rifle were highly secret. Especially during the first years of the Cold War Information about the weapon was scarce and mainly came from captured AK weapons from conflict regions. In almost every conflict after the Second World War the Kalashnikov assault rifle participated. Information about the Kalashnikov assault rifle would have been still highly secret for wasn't it that the situation changed rapidly during the late 1980s and early 1990s. 

April 1962, probably one of the first battlefield captures of an AK47 assault rifle by a Dutch soldier in western New Guinea. 

The Cold War divided Europe into two ideological regions.

After the Second World War when borders were rather closed than being opened no one could have ever believed then that this situation would change anyway. But the situation did change albeit that it would take another forty years. When Mikhail Gorbachev became secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985 the world would face a different Russia. Two words became so essential namely "perestroika" (“restructuring”) and "glasnost" (“openness”) that the world would never forget the immediate consequences. Mr. Gorbachev born in peasant family in 1931suffered famine, witnessed how both his grandfathers were arrested and experienced the German occupation. He was convinced that it became necessary for Russia to shake of bureaucracy and restructure the economy. Private business ownership was allowed for the first time in decades. Glasnost revealed the country’s problems and made it possible to speak about it. 

Also foreign policy changed dramatically. It was decided that the USSR would no longer inter fear in the affairs of East European Soviet satellite states. The result was that each of these former Soviet supported nations came in short turmoil situation resulting in collapse of the corresponding governments. In November 1989 the Berlin Wall felt the last real symbol of the Cold War no longer separated East and West Germany. Other steps quickly followed up like the fact that Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan while several arms controls treaties were achieved. In 1990 Mikhail Gorbachev was granted the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Two different worlds meet in October 1986 in Reykjavik. Both President Reagan and General Secretary of the Communist party Mikhail Gorbachev were suprised by the consessions that were spoken out during that meeting. The end of the Cold War was near. 

For Kalashnikov these new times also had consequences. For a long time being someone in the Western world without a 'face', being rather unknown and standing in a shadow of his weapon several people in Western countries invited him to pay a visit in their countries. Perhaps the most interesting and unique meeting ever, took place on behalf of the invitation of his personal friend Dr. Edward Clinton Ezell. He invited Mikhail Kalashnikov to come to the United States in the spring of 1990. He there met the inventor of American M16 Eugene Stoner. Once having their missions crossed in the rivalry of both their homelands now smiling and shaking hands. This probably must have been the most symbolic moment marking the end of the Cold War. 

A historical moment, the inventors of the Russian AK47 and American M16 met, holding each others weapons


Kalashnikov was granted several decorations not only during the Cold War period but certainly also by presidents of the Russian Federation. On the picture here above Kalashnikov is personally decorated by Boris Yeltsin with the Order "For Distinguished Services for the Motherland" Second Class. On his 75th birthday in 1994 he was promoted to Major-General. Despite estimates of some 100 million AK assault rifles circulating (as of 2007), General Kalashnikov has not profited financially from arms sales.