A woman officially believed by Russia to be the oldest person ever to live has died in the Caucasus Mountains.
Nanu Shaova, whose passport said she was 128, was born before the last Tsar Nicholas II took the throne, it is claimed.
She was registered two years ago in the Russia Book of Records as the oldest person in the country, a feat that, if true, would also make her the oldest person ever to have lived.
Nanu – reputed to be aged 27 at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution and 101 when the USSR collapsed – put her secret of longevity down to hard work and sour milk.
Nanu Shaova (pictured), officially believed by Russia to be the oldest person ever to live, has died in the Caucasus Mountains
Shaova (pictured), whose passport said she was 128, was born before the last Tsar Nicholas II took the throne, it is claimed
She credited local drink Ayran, a mixture of yoghurt and chilled or iced water, which she preferred to tea.
Twice married, she had eight children, 19 grandchildren, 33 great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren.
She dug trenches in her village in World War Two and during her long life worked on her local collective farm in the Zayukovo village of Kabardino-Balkaria republic.
Last year she was hailed as the oldest voter in Russia when she supported Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin presidential election.
She was 62 – already a pensioner – when Putin, now 66, was born, according to her chronology.
Her son Hussein said: ‘She did not have any kind of special diet. She only said that it is important to work a lot.
‘She said – the more and the better you work, the healthier you will be. There was something genetic in it too – her mother, my granny, lived for 117 years.’
A tribute from officials in her region after her death on Monday said: ‘Nanu Shaova, a centenarian from the village of Zayukovo, in Kabardino-Balkaria’s Baksan district, and Russia’s oldest woman, according to the Russia Book of Records, has died at the age of 128.
Shaova (pictured at home) was registered two years ago in the Russia Book of Records as the oldest person in the country, a feat that, if true, would also make her the oldest person ever to have lived
Shaova dug trenches in her village in World War Two and during her long life worked on her local collective farm in the Zayukovo village of Kabardino-Balkaria republic
‘She would have turned 129 in May.
‘The administration of Baksan district offers its most sincere condolences to her family.’
Yet doubts have been expressed about Nanu’s great age. Like for many elderly people in the Caucasus, the birth records no longer exist.
For this reason her passport showed her as being born on 00.00.1890 – because she remembered only the year of her birth, and not the day or month.
Her biography also suggests that her five children with her second husband were all born following the Second World War – when she was aged 55 or older.
‘This is quite an achievement, rather unbelievable,’ posted one sceptic.
Another wrote: ‘She surely added 20 or 30 years to her age in order to qualify for an early pension…
‘Many people claimed their documents were lost or burned, and did the same thing. She was certainly old, but not more than 95.’
Her son admitted, too, that while she had a clear recollection of the Second World War, she ‘hardly remembered’ World War One even though she would have been 28 when it ended.
Another puzzle is that Russia recognised Nanu as the country’s oldest citizen when another woman living in Chechnya, is currently shown to be 129 by her passport and pension documents.
Koku Istambulova, apparently born on June 1, 1889, gave lucid testimony on how she was deported with the entire Chechen population 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.
Last year she was hailed as the oldest voter in Russia when she supported Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin presidential election. She is pictured voting last year
‘We were put in a train and taken … no one knew where,’ she said.
‘Railway carriages were stuffed with people – dirt, rubbish, excrement was everywhere… Corpses were eaten by dogs.
‘My father-in-law was thrown out of the train in this way.’
She was 54 at the time, according to her story.
She recalled young Caucasus girls died from the rupturing of their bladders because they were ashamed to go to the toilet in the crowded trains.
Koku was quoted saying that she is the oldest person who ever lived – yet she has not had a single happy day in her life.
The Caucasus has a history of long living people yet the claims are usually impossible to verify.
The oldest documented human lifespan is Jeanne Calment, from France, who lived 122 years, 164 days, dying in 1997. As a girl she met Vincent van Gogh.