Nicholas Cage como Yuri Orlov (Lord of War, 2005)
Even though he'll deny it, there are obvious similarities between the design of Kalashnikov's weapon and its predecessors, like the German Sturmgewehr 44 and the Italian Cei-Rigotti. But what sets the general's gun apart from other assault rifles (and makes it ingenious) is its simple design: the AK-47 consists of only eight parts. It can easily be put together in 60 seconds, even by a child who knows how to play with Lego blocks and it can be adapted to mass production, which optimizes its use, economically and strategically: in the middle of a conflict, a soldier can easily fix his rifle with parts from another person's rifle he may find in the field. It's also famous for being indestructible: resistent to sand, water, falls from high places, rolling in the mud, being kicked, after which it'll still be able to shoot 600 shots a minute. Add to it it's easy handling and you've got a star, not only for Stalin, but every warrior, dictator, religious radical, drugdealer, etc. from Asia to America.
In 1958, the Avtomat Kalashnikova 1947 was part of its first conflict away from home: with the support of the USSR, who provided the armament, North Vietnam invaded Laos and, over six years later, at the time the USA invaded South Vietnam, the AK-47 proved its strength in the muddy tropical rainforests against a series of inadequate M-16 (also developed with Kalashnikov's inspiration by the Americans). The latter, however, was known to be a demanding weapon, intolerant to dirt and other natural accidents of war.
"In the years following the Vietname war, the AK-17 spread all over the world, offering power and fame to drugdealers, murderers and terrorists, that would change face of the world.". The quote is by Lary Kahner, in his book AK-The Weapon that changed the face of war and helps us visualize the process that led the assault rifle to every corner of the world: with victory in the Asian fields, USSR decided to move in on Afghanistan, in order to spread communism into the Middle East. They supplied weapons to the country, that declared itself favourable to USSR in 1978, after the assassination of governor Sardar Daoud Khan (and his entire family) and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan rose to power. Ten years later, the regime came to an end with the expulsion of the Soviets by the mujahedin (troops trained and armed by the USA). However the AK-47 was already rooted in the Afghan memory. It's the consecrated Taliban weapon, with which Osama Bin Laden is always photographed.
With the fall of the Soviet Union, large stocks of tanks, helicopters and other armament were useless. But not for long: the ex-republic's military clandestinely negotiated the entire communist arsenal through people like Victor Bout, who inspired the movie "Lord of War"'s Yuri Orlov. This would incite African warriors and rebels and also governments established by them, like Charles Taylor's in Liberia. He would be later known as one of History's biggest psychopaths and the AK-47 would again be seen as an icon.