A Chechen woman believed to be the oldest person in the world has died aged 129.
Koku Istambulova would have turned 130 in June, according to pension records in Russia.
Her grandson Iliyas Abubakarov said she had supper as usual on Sunday, January 27, at her village home in Chechnya. “She was joking, she was talking,” he said. “Then she suddenly felt unwell, she complained of a chest pain. We called the doctor, we were told that her blood pressure had dropped, and injections were made. But they failed to save her. She died in a quiet way, fully conscious, praying.”
Istambulova has been buried in her home village Bratskoe, survived by five grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren.
But it seems that she did not have a happy life. Last year she spoke emotionally of the day her native Chechen people were deported en masse by Stalin to the steppes of Kazakhstan 75 years ago.
She told how people died in the cattle-truck trains – and their bodies were thrown out of the carriages to be eaten by hungry dogs.
“It was a bad day, cold and gloomy,” she said of the February morning in 1944 when the entire entire nation was banished from their mountain homeland in the Trans-Causacus.
“We were put in a train and taken … no one knew where. Railway carriages were stuffed with people – dirt, rubbish, excrement was everywhere.”
She said young Caucasus girls died because from the rupturing of their bladders because they were ashamed to go to the toilet in crowded stinking the crowded trains. Older women tried to crowd round them to stop their embarrassment as they relieved themselves.
Stalin had alleged the Chechens were collaborating with the Nazis. “We were told that we were bad people and that’s why we had to leave,” she said.
She then suffered devastating personal bereavements in Kazakhstan – her two sons both perished in the harsh conditions.
“There were no doctors, no-one to treat them,” she said. “My younger boy came down with something and passed away really quickly. Such things happened in every family.
“When women gave birth children often died because there were no obstetricians, only neighbours and friends.”
She was exiled in Kazakhstan for 13 years then, after Stalin’s death, people were allowed to return to their homeland.
When she got back, many houses had been grabbed by incoming Russians – so she set to work building her own home.
Asked about the secret of going life, she previously said: “It was God’s will. I did nothing to make it happen. I see people going in for sports, eating something special, keeping themselves fit, but I have no idea how I lived until now.”