You don't have to be a gun-enthusiast to recognize the Avtomat Kalashnikova series of rifles. Indeed, since the late 1940s, the weapons have almost become ubiquitous as the de facto firearm of the late 20th century. It appears in the majority of modern action and war movies, it's been imitated all over the world, and it even appears on the flag of Mozambique.
So, spotting an AK is easy enough, but it's now about to become a whole lot easier thanks to Kalashnikov's corporate rebranding effort. The Russian gun manufacturer has turned its latest product release into a sleek and swanky business event, showing off a new name - Kalashnikov Concern - and a new paradoxical slogan.
Kalashnikov - whose AK-47 has been in countless conflicts all over the world - will now present itself as the "Protectors of Peace," while the newly redesigned assault rifle will be termed the "weapon of peace." As the Guardian states, this gives "a somewhat edited version of its history that glosses over the numerous messy civil wars in which it has been the main instrument of killing."
Kalashnikov's rebranding effort marks a stronger attempt by the arms manufacturer to enter the private market. It also released a new line of sporting firearms, as well as clothing, knives, and a new logo - a red K, which wouldn't look out of place on a budget supermarket. Sergei Chemezov, head of Russian Technologies, a state corporation with a controlling stake in Kalashnikov, claimed that he hoped the product would become as well known as Apple across the globe. Take a look at their new corporate commercial below:
For its part, Kalashnikov is eager to frame the AK-47 as a tool for social and human progression. The voiceover in the above video claims:
The gun was made for the defence of a country that was living through the cold war and had to be prepared for a major intervention. The simple and reliable AK was also in demand well beyond the borders of the Soviet Union. It precipitated not just a technological but a social revolution. Freedom movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America could at last fight back against professional colonial armies. The AK-47 gave them the chance to demand rights and achieve justice. This is a weapon which helped people defend their families and futures, and demand the right to a peaceful future.
But even Kalashnikov can't get away from the prime function of their product - blasting people to pieces. In another video, which looks almost like a trailer for the Call of Duty series of video games, we see some AK toting special forces "liquidating" a terrorist. The video ends with the statement: "Kalashnikov: promoting peace and calm."
For his part, the original inventor of the AK-47, Mikhail Kalashnikov, had a slight change of heart regarding his work later in his life. The self-taught peasant turned tank mechanic, who was twice made a Hero of Socialist Labor, reportedly wrote to the Orthodox Church before his death to ask for forgiveness for creating a weapon that has killed hundreds of thousands - if not millions - around the world. Before his death he stated:
I invented it for the protection of the Motherland. I have no regrets and bear no responsibility for how politicians have used it. I’m proud of my invention, but I’m sad that it is used by terrorists.
I would prefer to have invented a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work – for example a lawnmower.
Despite its attempt to appear like a glossy corporate brand, the Kalashnikov Group is one of the companies currently subject to sanctions by the US and EU. This is in response to the Russian attempt to annex the Crimean peninsula, as well as their on-going clandestine assistance to separatist rebels in the Donetsk region of east Ukraine.
With this in mind, they are currently unable to do business in the US. Instead, Kalashnikov claims it will extend its operations into the Asian market.
Is it tasteful for Kalashnikov to promote their weapons like this?
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