World’s Oldest Woman, Aged 129, Who Survived Stalin’s Purges And Called Long Life A Curse, Dies

A woman waving a Russian flag
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A woman who is believed to be the oldest person to have ever lived and claimed to have only enjoyed one day of her entire life died while praying at the age of 129, according to the Daily Mail.

Koku Istambulova, who was from the Chechen region of Russia, was born in 1889 according to her official records which do not stipulate the exact date. She survived Stalin’s persecution of the Chechen people but claimed her long life was a curse rather than a blessing and said there was only one day in her entire life when she had been truly happy.

In an interview given last year, which went viral around the world, Istambulova said that the day she was able to return from exile in Kazakhstan to the home she built with her own hands in Chechnya was her happiest.

Her grandson, Iliyas Abubakarov, explained to the Daily Mail the circumstances of her death, which occurred on January 27 in her home village of Bratskoe.

“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 sometime later. She died in a quiet way, fully conscious, praying.”

Istambulova outlived all of her children, but she is survived by five grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. She was born before Tsar Nicholas II was crowned and lived through his overthrow and the decades of Communist oppression under the Soviet regime.

Last year, she spoke powerfully of the devastating effect of Stalin’s mass deportations of people from Chechnya to the Kazakh steppes. She spoke of people being forced onto cattle trucks in huge numbers and said that when someone died, their body was thrown off for feral dogs to eat.

“It was a bad day, cold and gloomy,” she said about the morning in February 1944 when the Soviet troops arrived in her village. She would have been 54 at the time. “We were put in a train and taken … no one knew where. Railway carriages were stuffed with people – dirt, rubbish, excrement was everywhere.”

“On the way to our exile, dead bodies were just thrown out of the train,” she continued. ”Nobody was allowed to bury the dead. Corpses were eaten by dogs. My father-in-law was thrown out of the train in this way. We were told that we were bad people and that’s why we had to leave. I don’t know what we suffered for… I felt no guilt.”

Stalin’s purges against the Chechens were a result of his unfounded suspicions that they were collaborating with the Nazis against him.