The inventor of the world’s most popular assault rifle, the AK-47, once claimed “I sleep soundly” at night, but in a letter he wrote shortly before his death Mikhail Kalashnikov admitted to feeling responsible for the deaths of millions.
Kalashnikov, who died in Dec. 23 at age 94, wrote a letter to the head of the Russian Othordox church in which he described feeling spiritual torment over the deadly invention.
"My spiritual pain is unbearable. I keep asking the same insoluble question. If my rifle deprived people of life then can it be that I … a Christian and an orthodox believer, was to blame for their deaths?" Kalashnikov wrote to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in April 2013.
"The longer I live," he wrote, "the more this question drills itself into my brain and the more I wonder why the Lord allowed man the devilish desires of envy, greed and aggression."
In previous interviews Kalashnikov said he felt no personal responsibility for the firearm, which he designed for Russia’s Red Army in 1947. He said deaths were caused by politics, not gun designers.
The letter was published Monday in the newspaper Izvestia. His daughter Elena said a local priest had probably helped her father to type the two-page correspondence.
The letter was signed in shaky hand, “Slave of God, designer Mikhail Kalashnikov.”
Patriarch Kirill reportedly wrote back to Kalashnikov with tidings of forgiveness.
"The church has a very definite position: when weapons serve to protect the Fatherland, the Church supports both its creators and the soldiers who use it," the patriarch's spokesman, Alexander Volkov said. "He designed this rifle to defend his country, not so terrorists could use it in Saudi Arabia."