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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

At 100, She Likes Both the Tsar and Putin

Moi RayonAnna Gudkevich, seen in her St. Petersburg apartment, thinks highly of the tsar, Putin and Danielle Steel novels.
The memory of Tsar Nicholas II's "absolutely handsome" face lingers with Anna Gudkevich after she saw him and his wife at church as a girl.

Ninety years and 10 rulers later, he still ranks among her favorites, as does President Vladimir Putin.

On Monday, she and other retirees received flowers and congratulations from local authorities in celebration of the International Day of Older Persons. Intended to honor those over 65, the day has been celebrated worldwide since 1999.

Gudkevich is among several thousand Russian centenarians who lived under the tsar, the Communist regime and now Putin. The most recent census, in 2002, listed the number of centenarians nationwide at 6,652, with 5,685 women and 967 men.

Gudkevich, 100, spoke of the tsar's kindness in a telephone interview from St. Petersburg, where she shares a two-room apartment with her daughter. She told of how a friend once tried to appeal to Nicholas on behalf of a needy relative as the ruler traveled by carriage from Letny Sad, the summer garden laid out by Peter the Great in 1740. Nicholas ordered the driver to stop and step away so he could speak with the woman.

"Nicholas even gave her some money even though she didn't ask for any," Gudkevich said.

Putin, she said, is "young, good looking and can speak to people without notes," unlike Soviet-era leaders who were too old and "did not know ordinary words."

She likes to relax by reading Danielle Steel romance novels.

Maria Donets, 106, from Kuzbass, is proof that romance can last forever. At 102, she married Nikolai Naumov, 88. When he died a year later, she married a 70-year-old man. After his death, she moved to a monastery near Tomsk, Literaturnaya Gazeta reported.

Lyudmila Zinchenko / For MT
Nikolsky, holding his book "My 100 Years," prefers Stalin to Gorbachev.
Perhaps the most notable among Russia's centenarians is Sergei Nikolsky, 102, a mathematician who still gives lectures at the Russian Academy of Sciences. "Before dozing off to sleep, I think about how to prove a theorem," he said.

Both Stalin and Putin have given him medals for his work. Gorbachev once wanted to take him on a visit to Japan, but Nikolsky refused to accompany the person who, he said, destroyed his homeland. He is more forgiving of Stalin. "At least he paid scientists well," he said.

Of course, he said, scientists were afraid of Stalin, but in Nicholas' day, people dared not say much about the tsar either. "The more they opened their mouths, the closer we came to the revolution," he said. "At that time you could hear soldiers contemptuously calling him Tsar Nikolashka and making derogatory comments about his wife."

When Putin awarded him with a medal in 2005, Nikolsky asked the president to raise math standards in schools. Putin said nothing in response.

"I think he is a mysterious man," Nikolsky said.