Mikhail Kalashnikov, the Soviet general who designed the ubiquitous automatic weapon that now bears his name, died Dec. 23 at the age of 94. A former Soviet tank gunner of humble Siberian origins, Kalashnikov submitted his prototype as part of a competition held to design a new Soviet infantry rifle in the waning moments of World War II. The AK-47 was born: a light-weight automated gun that was both easy to use and maintain. As C.J. Chivers, the New York Times journalist and author of a history of the AK-47, writes, Soviet infantry first wielded these rifles during the brutal crackdown on the Hungarian uprising in 1956. Use of the weapon first spread along ideological lines, proliferating among armies and militias that had common cause with the Soviet Union.