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Blunder Forces Rework To Remove Nazi Gun From Kalashnikov Memorial


MOSCOW -- A new Russian memorial to fabled gun maker Mikhail Kalashnikov unveiled with pomp this week is hurriedly being modified by its sculptor after a rifle depicted on the ensemble was found to be a likeness of a rifle developed by the Nazis.

The Russian Military History Society, which is chaired by Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, announced on September 22 that it would remove the offending section after it was identified online as a likeness of the German StG44 selective-fire rifle developed during World War II.

The monument to Kalashnikov, which features a towering statue of the Soviet gun maker cradling his eponymous assault rifle, was unveiled and christened with holy water at a September 19 ceremony in Moscow that included soldiers standing at attention.

At the opening, Medinsky dubbed Kalashnikov's AK-47 -- one of the world's most ubiquitous weapons --- a "Russian cultural brand," although the inventor himself in his later years was tormented by the thought that his brainchild had caused so many deaths. After his death in 2013, it emerged that Kalashnikov had addressed a long, emotional letter to the Russian Orthodox Church in which he complained of "spiritual pain."

'Kid-Sculptors'

The errant German rifle that was spotted only two days after the unveiling is not the one clasped by Kalashnikov on his pedestal but, rather one in a group of rifles embedded in a separate metalwork sculpture integral to the composition that stands behind the statue.

The mistake on the monument was spotted on September 21 by historian Yury Pasholok, who wrote on Facebook: "Just don't tell me they did this by accident. You should be beaten for this, hard and in front of people. These are kid-sculptors, dammit!"

Vladislav Kononov, executive director of the Russian Military History Society, told the Moskva news agency on September 22 that they were grateful to Pasholok for catching the error and said they had informed the monument's sculptor, Salavat Shcherbakov.

"He [Shcherbakov] is at the site and intends to take down the flagstone, as it is true that he and his studio have messed something up," Kononov said.

'Creative Fantasy'

He also said the Russian Military History Society only helped select the rifle in Kalashnikov's hands, seemingly washing its hands of the blunder. "Everything else is the sculptor's flight of creative fantasy and his aides, so let them sort it out, they will now correct this mistake," Kononov said.

Commenting on the mix-up earlier on September 22, Shcherbakov told the RIA Novosti state news agency that he had based his sculptures on weapon designs obtained from an unspecified museum. In subsequent comments to the BBC Russian Service, he said he also got some designs from the Internet, suggesting the mistake may have come from there.

It's not the first time Shcherbakov -- who specializes in war-themed monuments -- has mixed up Russian weapons with German ones.

In 2014, scandal marred Shcherbakov's Farewell Of The Slavic Woman monument at Moscow's Belorussky train station, which depicts a Soviet soldier bidding farewell to a woman before heading to the front during World War II (referred to by Russians as the Great Patriotic War). The sculpture was flanked by two shield-and-rifle compositions that mistakenly featured German Mauser 98k rifles. The rifles were subsequently taken down.

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