Whether you’re wary of the Danai or not, gift-giving is an essential part of diplomacy. But, ever since the old story of Darius and the Scythians’ present of mouse, bird, frog and arrows, there’s been messages that miscarried – and this gun could be one of them.
As testified by the plaque, this MTs-8 was allegedly presented to U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower by Nikita Khruschev in September 1959.Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any American sources that confirm this story, and the images come from a Russian-Canadian blog myoutdoors.ca and a Urkainan hunters’ forum uoor.com.ua (update: since the story was written, I got confirmation that the gun was indeed given to Eisenhower by Khruschev – source).
Intended or not, the gun signifies Russian might. One side of the action represents a classic painting by Vasnetsov – Bogatyrs – with three heroes of traditional Russian epos standing guard over the country’s borders.
The other side shows the legendary duel of Russian and Mongol champions Peresvet and Chelubei before the seminal battle of Kulikovo, traditionally perceived as the turning point in Russia’s struggle for independence from the Golden Horde. According to the legend, both champions received mortal damage in the one-on-one, but Chelubei was thrown out of his saddle while dying Peresvet managed to ride back to Russian lines and claimed victory. The story was painted by Mikhail Avilov in 1943.
The choice of the model might seem questionable – MTs-11 is by all standards more of a “best” gun, and Mr. Eisenhower, perhaps, would’ve liked it better – he seemed to prefer side-by-sides. Yet, from the symbolic standpoint it was more than appropriate. All in all, MTs-11 was copy of the Beeseley self-opener, while MTs-8 was an original development, and a gun that would win many a medal for Soviet and Russian athletes.
Understanding hunting, the intended purpose of the gun, as a peaceful activity, and this gun as a symbol, there’s a perfect blend of peace and war, art and function, history and modernity. “We want peace now.” – it says – “But we’ve got deep fighting traditions, and we can make state-of-the art modern weapons. Don’t mess with us and we won’t mess with you”.
I wonder if Dwight could see this message.