A statue of Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of the AK-47 assault rifle, has been unveiled in central Moscow in a controversial ceremony that merged military pomp with religious ritual.
The nine-metre (30ft) monument depicts Kalashnikov clutching his eponymous automatic weapon. Tuesday’s event was attended by high-ranking Russian officials including Vladimir Medinsky, the culture minister, and Petr Biryukov, Moscow’s deputy mayor.
“This is Russia’s cultural brand,” said Medinsky, before a Russian Orthodox priest blessed the statue.
“He created this weapon to defend his motherland,” said Father Konstantin, shrugging off suggestions that it was inappropriate to sprinkle holy water on a statue of a weapons designer. Some members of the crowd crossed themselves as the priest blessed the monument.
Deifying figures of martial prowess isn’t just a Russian thing, and the intersection of Christianity and rabid nationalism is well-known in the United States, but I still find the embrace of a Soviet-era weapons designer (really, project team leader) by members of the Russian Orthodox Church to be deeply interesting. Here’s a nice rundown of some reactions from Muscovites.