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Russian AK-47 Makers Attempt 'Peaceful' Image Rebrand

"The U.S. market was very important for us ... "

FILE- In this Wednesday, Oct. 29, 1997 file photo Mikhail Kalashnikov shows a model of his world-famous AK-47 assault rifle at home in the Ural Mountain city of Izhevsk, 1000 km (625 miles) east of Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Vladimir Vyatkin, File)

A Russian company that makes one of the most widely recognized rifles on the planet has decided to rebrand the infamous AK-47 as a "weapon of peace."

At a slick Moscow event, weapons manufacturer Kalishnikov said it hopes to make the new company, "Kalishnikov Concern," as internationally recognizable as Apple, according to the Verge.

Image courtesy Kalashnikov Kalashnikov kicked off its new branding with women clad in slinky black dresses carrying around ammunition cartridges printed with the new logo. (Image source: Kalashnikov)

The Kalashnikov is a wildly popular weapon with more than 100 million sold worldwide, according to some estimates. But as tensions between the West and the Kremlin reached a boiling point, sanctions on Russia stopped shipments of AK-47s to Canada and the United States, preventing a contract to ship 200,000 Kalashnikovs annually to both countries.

Industry experts say that's just one reason why the company has chosen to rebrand its classic killing instrument.

A marketing video boasts the weapon's influence on warfare worldwide and the company's vision for using it to force a "peaceful future."

"It precipitated not just a technological but a social revolution," the Russian narrator states, according to the Verge. "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."

The Kremlin-backed Russia Today noted there may have been a certain amount of ambiguity meant to linger with the new slogan:

In English [the logo means] “Protecting Peace,” but in Russian it translates as “Weapons of Peace” or “Weapons of the World,”depending on which meaning of the Russian word “mir” is used ... the ambiguity missed in the English version is meant to stress both the prevalence of Kalashnikov firearms in the world and its producer’s mission to provide nations and individuals with the means to protect themselves.

The manufacturer said this year it had sold 140,000 guns, taking the total sales from the previous year. CEO Alexei Krivoruchko said the company intends to reach 300,000 AK-47s sold annually by 2020 by modernizing its production line.

Before his death in 2013 at age 94, the rifle's inventor, Soviet Lt. Gen. Mikhail Kalashnikov, struggled with the success of his invention. According to the Verge, he wrote a letter in May 2012 to the Russian Orthodox Church explaining the complex "spiritual pain" he felt knowing how much death and destruction his invention brought into the world.

"I keep having the same unsolved question," Kalashnikov wrote, "If my rifle claimed people's lives, then can it be that I ... a Christian and an Orthodox believer, was to blame for their deaths?"

At the rebranding event, Krivoruchko said, "The U.S. market was very important for us," but Tina Kandelkai, a spokeswoman for the company, also said: “For our country Kalashnikov is one of the national symbols. That’s why we worked on rebranding the company with pride and realization of the responsibility we took upon us.”

(H/T: BBC)

Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter

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