Armenian authorities have this week unveiled a monument to the Russian military-engineer Mikhail Kalashnikov in the northern town of Gyumri.
The full-length statue commemorates the work of one of Russia’s most influential military minds and was built alongside an official Kalashnikov-themed museum, which will open later this year.
Kalashnikov, who died in 2013, is a globally-recognised Russian icon best known for his design of the AK47, a weapon that has become synonymous with international conflict thanks to its widespread use throughout the world. The AK47 was designed in 1949 and is still in widely used in modern conflict. It is believed between 70 and 100 million AK-type weapons have been created since the rifle was first manufactured in the late 40s.
The statue joins a growing list of Russian icons who have been commemorated in Armenia. Thanks to the nation’s close ties to Russia and its former-soviet history many historical Russians have had monuments and statues dedicated to them.
News of the monument has already proved controversial among many Armenians for its subject and location. Some Armenians have already raised concerns over celebrating the life of a man whose work helped cause the death of many people across the world, while others see the monument as being anti-Armenia.
In 2013 a monument dedicated to former Russian leader Joseph Stalin was protested by a group of Armenians, who saw the subject matter as offensive to Armenians. Protesters demanded that the soviet-era statue be removed due to the legacy of Stalin and his treatment of Caucasian peoples.
Gyumri, the site of the statue’s location, is Armenia’s second largest city, with a population of around 150,000 and is the home of Russia’s only military base in the South Caucasus. Since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 Armenia has kept close ties with Russia and now relies on them for military and economic support and Russian culture is still widely celebrated in Armenia, especially in Gyumri where a joint Russian-Armenian military parade is held every year to mark Russian Victory Day.