ak 47 kalashnikov 2020

AK-47 Kalashnikov (2020 Film)

Published: June 22, 2021

AK-47 Kalashnikov (known as «Калашников» in Russian) is a Russian film which chronicles the rise of inventor Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov, creator of one the most infamous weapons of the modern era, the AK-47 assault rifle. The film is currently available on Amazon.

Released in February of 2020 by MPI Media Group and sponsored by the Russian Ministry of Culture, the film is directed by Konstantin Buslov, who previously directed 2019’s Небо измеряется милями (The Sky is Measured in Mils in English), about helicopter designer and pilot Mikhail Leontyevich Mil.

Synopsis of AK-47 Kalashnikov

AK-47 Kalashnikov opens with a precocious young village boy (Kalashnikov) fiddling away at a tool bench. Jumping ahead to 1941, we see a young Kalashnikov operating a tank while engaged in fierce conflict with German invaders during the Great Patriotic War. Following a severe shoulder injury, Kalashnikov is forced from the frontlines to the rear and ultimately sent to his home region to recoup. It is here, that by fate, Kalashnikov crosses paths with a local commander at the local train station and convinces the commander to commission him to develop his first rifle.

With the help of his local factory mates, Kalashnikov succeeds. After showing the product to the regional general, Kalashnikov and his design are sent to Moscow for entrance into a national weapon building competition. There, we learn that Kalashnikov, due to his limited formal education cannot draw complex designs. He is assigned an assistant to overcome this. This assistant, Ekaterina, is a smart, beautiful young widow, who Kalashnikov eventually marries.
Despite his obvious talent, Kalashnikov and fails multiple times to have his weapon selected for mass production. It is here, during the second act of the film that, despite dragging somewhat, the film displays well the perseverance of our hero as he fights to keep his dream alive, despite all the hurdles. Finally, after multiple failures and nearly getting arrested for an unauthorized practice firing session, Kalashnikov wins the firearms competition, sees his weapon manufactured, and is eventually awarded the Order of Stalin. The film closes with Kalashnikov with his wife and two children in tow, proudly returning to his home village in the Altai region, near the Kazakh border.

Watching AK-47 Kalashnikov as an Intermediate Student of Russian

In viewing the film as an intermediate Russian speaker, I would point out that the film provides various military related terms that can be of use to those learning Russian and interested in military history or issues. Examples of some of the following vocabulary can be seen as:

  • товарищ (comrade)
  • родная страна (homeland)
  • Великая Отечественная Война (Great Patriotic War)
  • винтовка (rifle)
  • автомат (machine gun)
  • танкист (tank driver)
  • приказывать (to order)
  • генерал армии (army general)
  • уважать (to respect)
  • День Победы (victory day)
  • стреляй (shoot – given as an order).

Additionally, considering the overwhelming role the military plays in the film, viewers are naturally subjected to many different uses of the imperative in Russian, as orders are given (such as the final Russian example above “стреляй”).
On a final cultural note, a basic knowledge of the history and timeline of the Great Patriotic War (the Russian fronts of WWII) is helpful when viewing this film. Most Russians are well acquainted with this timeline and film takes advantage of this to move the story along. However, for Americans who do not know the timeline, some confusion may arise in the jumps.

Analysis of AK-47 Kalashnikov for Students of Russian

AK-47 Kalashnikov is infused with all the nationalistic and jingoistic language that can be expected from a state sponsored war film. However, it is also a quality addition to its genre. Buoyed by a strong and even occasionally understated performance from Yuri Burisov (Kalashnikov), the film gives insight into the famed inventor’s early life and life as a part of the military industrial complex of the Soviet State.

AK-47 Kalashnikov currently scores a 6.6 on IMDB and a 67% positive review rate on Rotten Tomatoes, which are above-average scores for Russian popular market films. Furthermore, aforementioned lead man Yuri Burisov (Kalashnikov) went on to win the 2021 Russian Golden Eagle Award for Best Actor, a notable achievement for the 29 year-old actor. The film is currently available on Amazon.

About the author

Zack Johnson

A native of southern California, Zack Johnson, at the time he wrote for this site, was a graduate student going into his second year of study with the Center for Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian Studies (CREEES) at the University of Texas at Austin. With a specialization in contemporary Russian politics and policy, Zack was preparing a thesis on political mobilization and regional identity in the Russian Far East. Zack enjoys soccer, surfing, swimming, and diving. In addition to loving all things outdoors, Zack is a lifelong lover of political and Russian history.

Program attended: Online Internships

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