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My apologies to readers who normally receive this by email, or since apparently when published, for some odd reason, it did not go to you.  Breaking news prompted changes from the previous edition.

[If you are reading this on email, mobile device or tablet, for much better viewing with all features, please, click on the title of this piece thus allowing full screen viewing.]

Mikhail Kalashnikov is a familiar name to many around the world, or at least that surname.

KalashnikovWithHisRifle[Kalashnikov with the rifle he designed and created]

Kalashnikov was the former Soviet Red Army sergeant from truly grim, compromised, more-than-merely-humble-origins who led the design and manufacture of one of the world’s most omnipresent weapons: the AK-47.

This rifle, its variants and copies, are still used by national armies, terrorists, drugs gangs, bank robbers, revolutionaries and, of course, as sadly we see all too often every single day, Islam’s jihadists.

The always less-than-subtle-Soviets employed the AK47, set on its automatic ‘massacre-at-will’ mode, to squelch the both the 1953 riots in then-East Berlin and the revolution attempted by the Hungarians in 1956.

The then-Great Hope for Middle East peace, Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat, was martyred by a hail of bullets from a Kalashnikov in 1981.

Troops on both sides in the Iran-Iraq war carried it. Indeed, today it is still THE weapon-of-choice throughout the world.

Al-Qaeda’s founder and late leader, Osama bin Laden, used a modernized AK47 as a prop in his recruiting videos.

Days ago, one of bin Laden’s sons, Hamsa, has now picked up his Dear Old Dad’s weapon of choice. He’s urging new martyrs to collect their own shares of 72 perpetual virgins, each. [For more on this topic, see the Kids Free Section, below*].

Throughout ‘pop-culture’ (sic), a phrase I tend to loathe more than even barely accept, SGT Kalashnikov’s AK ‘brand’ was said to be a totem of ‘cool rebellion’. Or, was it ‘rebellious cool’?

Sylvester Stallone, the overly-muscled mumbling actor, toted an AK in the “Rambo” films.

Ditto the far more intelligible Nicolas Cage, Warren Beatty and tens of dozens of other ‘actors’ in other films.

The AK-47 was even ‘idolized’ in song by the ‘rapper’, Lil Wayne in his eponymously titled “AK-47”. (Sorry, this is not an album in my collection, but if it were, most assuredly, you could borrow it, ad aeternam!)

From its inception, the Kalashnikov has been judged a superior weapon because of its simplicity and reliability.

Why? In a compact, 10-pound (4.5kg) package, a single fighter holds the fully automatic firepower of a machine gun.

It has only eight (8) moving parts.

It can be broken down and re-assembled in 30 seconds. It will fire when very dirty. Yes, Virginia, dirty like it really gets in the middle of a war zone; any war zone.

During the American war in Vietnam, the AK was standard issue for not only the regular North Vietnamese Army (NVA) troops, but also, assuredly, by the Viet Cong (‘VC’) ‘insurgents’ (as I understand we are to call them now) though, sometimes also by U.S. forces.

Based upon on-scene reports via pals of mine from our 1st Infantry Division days, both the Army and the U.S. Marines would often put down their standard-issue M-16s and pick up AK-47s from fallen Viet Cong or North Vietnamese soldiers. Why? The AK was the far more reliable weapon.

Tales are many of American and allied troops walking through jungle swamps or falling into unseen holes in the thick undergrowth, submerging, and then having to hope there was no contact from the Viet Cong. Why?

One had to try to hurriedly break-down one’s M-16, wash it, and dry off all the moving parts so the darned thing would decide to fire when you pulled the trigger.

The AKs offered no such issue. Walk through a swamp, fall in it, come up for air. Fire at will.

Incredibly naïve members of the world press corps, who’ve never fired a grill much less a rifle, would regularly ask Sergeant Kalashnikov what he thought of the ‘damage and suffering his weapons had caused’, or some equally inane mantra.

Typically, he offered some variation of what he said in the Kremlin after a celebration of his 90th birthday in 2009:

“I sleep soundly,” he said. “I created a weapon to defend the motherland. It was not my fault that it was sometimes used where it should not have been. That is the fault of politicians.”

Which brings us to just that, one of the more lethally-powerful politicians on the planet. Awkwardly, or especially for many of this leader’s natural opponents (viz., America’s President Obama, Britain’s Prime Minister Cameron, et al.), somehow we’ve arrived at the stage where Vladimir Putin is the sole major nation’s political leader who has any personal military experience, much less that experience, as a forte, and in surfeit.

Ukrainian Artist Creates Putin Portrait With Spent Cartridges

PutinFaceofWarLARGE

PutinAFaceofWar PortraitOfBullets [Ukrainian artist Daria Marchenko works on a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin that is made out of 5,000 cartridges brought from the frontline in eastern Ukraine.]

A Ukrainian artist has used 5,000 spent cartridge cases to create a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin titled A Face Of War.

The work by Daria Marchenko, 33, is a remarkably realistic and politically tinged depiction of Putin in a dark suit and red tie. It stands more than 2 meters (6 feet, 7 inches) tall and dominates the artist’s studio apartment.

“Sleeping in the same room with him was a bit scary at first,” Marchenko said. “But I got used to it.”

“The war is full of human lives, which are like cartridge cases,” she explained. “If people remember this, if people who came to Ukrainian lands with aggression remember this, war will not begin.”

Marchenko says she uses light on the portrait to accentuate Putin‘s character and emotions.

“Depending on the lighting he gets accents on the cheekbones or eyes. Depending on the light, the emotions in the eyes change. This work has different facial expressions, different characters.”

The cartridge cases, mostly from Kalashnikov rifles, were collected by volunteers from sites near Donetsk airport in eastern Ukraine and other battlefields in the Donbas region.

DariaWithCartridgesLarge
—-###—-

One wonders what the former Sergeant Kalashnikov would have made of this most innovative artwork.

Kalashnikov&PutinTogehterSep2013

He died 23 December 2013, aged 94, at a hospital in Izhevsk, Russia.

Assuredly, his deadly legacy echoes with great noisiness and maximum lethality almost anywhere on the globe one cares to place the proverbial pin.

As to Mr. Putin?  That stare — the one that keeps his artist, Ms. Marchenko, awake — tells it all.

Sleeping on the same planet with him scares the Hell out of all too many, especially those who share a border with him, or who once did.

They know he wants, more than anything else, as he sees it, to restore those Soviet borders, status quo ante, and perhaps just as brutally as did his Soviet Commissar antecedents in Hungary.  BloombergView recently reported that Barack Obama intervened with the Ukrainians.  He urged them not to oppose what became Putin’s invasion of The Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.

Putin knows that, precisely as was the case in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the Baltics, et al., the Western ‘allies’ would likely bluster, maybe run to the United Nations, but still just sigh and look down at their collective shoes, but both knowingly and sympathetically, of course!

Might they yet again fail to recall that weakness in the face of evil is no virtue?

Years ago as a student at university in Vienna, an elderly Ukrainian refugee taught me a Ukrainian proverb which, as young men do, I treated as clever but not more seriously.

That all changed when, for the first of many times, I personally saw the fortified, huge, double-and triple-fences of both barbed wire and razor-concertina wire, automatic-firing machine guns up and down what would be a person’s body.

Anyone able to penetrate one fence would be, literally, minced like hamburger, bloodily sliced into jagged pieces of flesh by what trained military men everywhere know as ‘interlocking fields of fire’, and, hence, interlocking streams of hundreds to thousands of bullets applied to the ‘invader’ of space the Soviets deemed impassable.

Although back then the Russians could not manage to produce enough of anything to feed or clothe the populations of the vassal states of the USSR, they were exceptionally good at killing people, and on a brutally efficient, industrial scale.

From my current vantage point and many years of experience dealing with what we used to call the Eastern bloc, that elderly Ukrainian sage’s advice proves to be the timeless touchstone for understanding both the former Soviet Union’s and, now, Vladimir Putin’s Russian Federation, and indeed his greedy desires to restore The Ukraine into a new USSR, Opus 2.

Москаль тоді красти перестане, коли чорт молитися Богові стане, or, ‘The Russian man will stop pilfering only when the devil will start praying to God’.

In Memoriam to those both known and unknown and whose lives the Soviets and Sergeant Kalashnikov’s inspiration have reduced, ruined, or removed, nothing can be more restorative than a Russian-American’s sheer genius set to paper, the Hymn to the Mother of God from Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Vespers.


(If this fails to play, my apologies. Please click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPJ3wxBxjAo )

Heaven-elected Chieftain
of triumphant hosts,
since Thou hast saved us from evil,
hymns of glad thanksgiving do Thy servants
off unto Thee,
Thou who bearest God!
Do Thou, to whom God hath given might invincible,
deliver us from every ill;
then shall we cry:
Hail to Thee, O Bride and ever Maiden!

—###—
Hat-Tips:

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty http://www.rferl.org/content/ukrainian-artist-creates-putin-portrait-with-spent-cartridges/27178165.html Twitter: @RFERL

The truly gifted, mind-expanding artistic talents of Ms. Daria Marchenko, of the splendid city of Kiev (or, Kyiv), The Ukraine. Her website: http://www.dashart.com.ua Twitter: @DariaDashart

The version of the Russian-born, naturalised American citizen Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Vespers chosen here is sung by the USSR Ministry of Culture Chamber Choir. Conductor: Valeri Polyansky. Recording: 1986 in Smolensk, at the Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral, the most famous Romanian Orthodox church of Cluj-Napoca, Romania**.
A transliteration from the original Cyrillic (Russian) text is here:
Vzbrannoy voyevode pobeditel’naya,
yako izbavl’shesya ot zlykh,
blagodarstvennaya vospisuyem Ti rabi Tvoi,
bogoroditse!
No yako imushchaya derzhavu nepobedimuyu,
ot vsyakikh nas bed svobodi,
da zovyom Ti:
raduysya nevesto nenevestnaya!

If you select any of several versions of this wonderful piece, be very careful about whether the choir concerned can conquer the bass line.

The fifth movement, Nunc dimittis (Nyne otpushchayeshi), is notorious for its ending. The basso profundos (very low basses) are required to descend a scale that ends with a low B-flat (the third B-flat below middle C).

If you have any desire to visit this wonderfully sonorous church, the relevant tourism website for Cluj-Napoca (pronounced Kloozh’ Nah poh’ kah), Romania, is here: http://romaniatourism.com/cluj-napoca.html

The Rachmaninoff Network is a treasure trove for anyone interested in this great genius’ work.
Web: http://www.rachmaninoff.org Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rachmaninoffnetwork

UPDATE & DEVELOPING STORY:  An AK47-wielding Moroccan terrorist on a French train was overpowered by three unarmed US Marines on 21 August 2015, per The Daily Mail (London) http://dailym.ai/1E8DtbB 

Sylvester Stallone Website:http://www.stallonezone.com/ Twitter: @TheSlyStallone

Nicolas Cage Twitter: @NicolasCagest

Warren Beatty Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Warren-Beatty/109383742414579

1st Infantry Division, U.S. Army. Website: http://www.riley.army.mil/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/1stInfantryDivision
Twitter: @FightingFirst

The First Division’s Headquarters is located at historic Ft. Riley, Kansas.
Website: http://www.riley.army.mil/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FortRiley
Twitter: @FortRiley

‘U.S. Told Ukraine to Stand Down as Putin Invaded’, Bloomberg View, by Josh Rogin @JoshRogin & Eli Lake @EliLake, 21 August 2015 http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-08-21/u-s-told-ukraine-to-stand-down-as-putin-invaded

**In the Kids Free Zone, the source for the reference, above, to ‘Eternal Virgins’ is here:
Each time we sleep with a Houri we find her virgin. Besides, the penis of the Elected never softens. The erection is eternal; the sensation that you feel each time you make love is utterly delicious and out of this world and were you to experience it in this world you would faint. Each chosen one [i.e. Muslim] will marry seventy [sic] houris, besides the women he married on earth, and all will have appetizing vaginas.” – Al-Suyuti, Al-Itqan fi Ulum al-Qur’an, p. 351

Other Koranic sources cite 72 as the applicable number of virgins, and is thus most typically cited.