By Lars Dalseide | January 10 2010 14:39

National Firearms Museum director Jim Supica This is Part 2 of a multiple series covering National Firearms Museum Director Jim Supica's trip to the Russian Republic of Udmurtia for Mikhail Kalashnikov's 90th birthday.

Guessing it was cold over there.

It was. Very cold outside. But they like it hot indoors in Russia. I would guess that most places were 80 degrees or better indoors. That was the case on the train too. It made for quite the shock whenever we went outside.

And the food?

We had some odd occurrences when it came to ordering food. Being Westerners, we’re not exactly use to everything on the Russian menu. There were a few occasions where what we thought we ordered and what we received were very different. But we usually found a few dishes that were quite agreeable. Once we arrived in Izhevsk, a place that didn't exist on any map of Russia until the Iron Curtain fell, we were greeted by our interpreter Anatoly. Although that isn't his official title. His official title is: Consultant, Department of International Relations and Protocol of the Administration of the President and the Government of the Udmurt Republic. That has to play havoc with business cards. But he was very helpful during our stay.

Was he your translator for the entire trip?

Most of it. They set us up with headphone for public events – kind of like what you see at the United Nations – so we could hear the translation instantly. Not a small task when it came to some of those speeches. And not just for us. They had the same system for the European, Asian, African, and Scandinavian contingents.

Where did you stay?

Nice place. An exclusive location about ten miles outside of the town. Now don't think Lives of the Rich and Famous exclusive, thing more along the lines of a place that few people have ever seen exclusive. Since we were so far outside of town, they suggested that we not wander past the gates at night because the forest was home to Siberian tigers and bears. Course, they could have just been having fun with me.

Well the nights sound like fun, how about the days?

Our days were very full. Everything was organized down to the last second. We’d wake in the morning, have breakfast, then be whisked away in a van to the day’s events. Once we arrived, they put us in front row center at all the festivities. They treated us like real VIPs. Behind us were the likes of three star generals, Bishops from the Church, and most of the President’s staff.

What sort of activities were there?

Everything was quite extravagant. There were special tours, a small arms conference with lecturers from around the world, a visit to the Kalashnikov museum that included the first arms he ever designed, and a number of interesting artifacts.

How is it that the NRA was invited to Kalashnikov’s 90th birthday party?

The connection I believe was a gentleman named Izel who help organize Kalashnikov’s first visit to the United States. The Virginia Gun Collectors and the NRA hosted his first public event here. Everybody knew the rifle but nobody knew the man.

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