Moscow (AFP) - More than a hundred Russian schoolchildren were taught to assemble AK-47s in a Moscow park on Saturday as the country this weekend celebrates the centenary of the birth of Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the legendary rifle.
On Sunday, the 100th anniversary of Kalashinkov's birth is to be marked by a number of events, including museum display, a biopic and patriotic lessons.
On Saturday, dozens of boys and girls, some clad in camouflage fatigues, took part in a competition that saw them play paintball and assemble mock-up Kalashnikov rifles in a park in southern Moscow.
"At least 100 people took apart the Kalashnikovs today," Andrei Starykh, a director at the youth organisation that organised the competition, Gvardia, proudly told AFP.
He said Gvardia regularly organises similar events and Saturday's get-together was not directly linked to Kalashnikov's anniversary.
He insisted however that children in Russia need to know "real life' and therefore have to know how to assemble the celebrated weapon.
"How can one not know?" asked instructor Roman Kuzmin.
"So much is happening around the country," he said, adding that boys are often mesmerised by the gun.
"There's nothing extra there, it is very beautiful."
Kalashnikov, who died in 2013 at the age of 94, is seen in Russia as a national hero and symbol of the country's proud military past.
His assault rifle has become a weapon of choice for both guerrillas and governments the world over.
It is also a staple of military education in Russia.
More than 100 million Kalashnikovs have been sold worldwide and about 50 armies use the AK-47 including those in Iraq and Somalia.