I know this thread is a bit late, but I wanted to say my piece about this larger-than-life man who has influenced the course of world events so greatly.
I've struggled to find words to express what Mikhail Timofeevich Kalashnikov meant to myself and the rest of the world. I'll start by what is readily apparent. We are at the twilight of an era. This man designed (initially at least) the Type-1 AK-47 from his hospital bed while recovering from wounds he suffered in battle. I doubt he knew how much he would change the world from that hospital bed. It is of note that the man never finished high school! He was surely a natural-born engineer.
People don't give his design enough credit. At first glance, the AK appears like a cheap, thrown-together, mass-produced, Russian pile of steaming bull mess to most western eyes that are used to the sleek lines of Stoner's AR platform among others. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every feature he designed into the rifle had one purpose: Work. That's it. It does just that despite mud, sand, snow, water, and pretty much anything else nature can throw at it in battle. Another myth is its accuracy. The AK is NOT an inaccurate weapon. It is designed for battlefield accuracy. Point it at something, you'll hit it somewhere and take it out of the fight. People often blame the short sight radius for its inherent inaccuracy. This too is a feature designed into the rifle on purpose. The short sight radius is made so you can engage targets with both eyes open so as to retain your peripheral vision. As we airsofters know, that is VERY important. Kalashnikov thought of this long before red-dot sights existed. Myriad optics abound to make the AK platform suitable for more accurate fire at greater ranges than the original 300yd effective range. The PSO-1 is an example. Most Russian optics with a degree of magnification allow the user to revert back to iron sights. A nice feature for going in and out of buildings. Even the optics designed far after the AK-47's adoption never strayed from Kalashnikov's original purpose. Simplicity.
Much talk has circulated in Kalashnikov's final years about his regret for designing the weapon. He found faith in his later years and wrote a letter expressing his regret to the Eastern Orthodox church. My personal opinion holds that the weapon was designed with the intent to defend his homeland. It was not Kalashnikov's responsibility to see to it that politicians kept it that way. He died at 94 years of age. A very full life if you ask me. Let him be remembered for his contribution to world history. Let him be remembered for his modesty. Hell, let him be remembered for his contribution (unwittingly) to airsoft. Without the AK platform, I wouldn't be so into the gear that sprang up around it, nevermind the platform itself. So raise a glass of your finest Vodka (only if it's legal for you to do so) and drink a few shots in remembrance of a truly great man!