Anna Akimovna Nozadze (née Borodinova) ~ 1895-1979

Anna A Borodinova

Anna A Borodinova (Click to enlarge)

Anna (Anya) Akimovna Borodinova (aka Balia) was born on December 13, 1895, in Odessa but I don’t know what her mother’s name was as she died when Anya was very young.

What they were doing in Odessa is also a mystery as Anya’s father, Akim, was a very successful businessman who was either a builder of pipelines, or an engineer who built pipelines. Perhaps that was where he first made his fortune before he transferred his family to Baku, when the oil boom started there.

Akim was known as a «hereditary honorary citizen» (Russian: потомственный почетный гражданин), which was a special category of people in between nobility and the merchant class and was given to non-gentry individuals as a reward for achievement or for attaining a certain level of education. The title also applied to his wife and all his children.
[Source: Social estates in the Russian Empire]


Click to enlarge

In 1860 there were more than 20,000 honorary citizens in the Russian Empire and I *think* they had the initials “PPG” (Russian: п.п.гр. – for potomstvennyy pochetnyy grazhdanin) written before, or maybe after, their names to show their status.

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Unfortunately I don’t know what her mother’s name was. She died when Anya was very young and Akim remarried to a lady called Maria and they had a daughter called Lydia (Lida).

They were a very close and happy family and Anya and her siblings had a very privileged life when they were growing up 😀

Anya grew up in Baku and the family used to holiday in a number of places in the Caucasus, like Kislovodsk, a spa city in Terek province, in the northern Caucasus.


The bridge in the park near the Concert Hall in Kislovodsk - 1910

The bridge in the park near the Concert Hall in Kislovodsk – 1910

Kislovodsk is situated fairly high up at 819.9m (2690 feet) in a deep caldron-shaped valley. The limestone hills which surround the town rise by successive steps or terraces and contain numerous caves. The mineral waters are strongly impregnated with carbonic acid gas and have a temperature of 10.5° C (51° F). The principal spring is known as Narsan, and its water is called the «drink of heroes» by the Circassians.
[Source: 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Kislovodsk]

It must have been quite a journey to get to a place like Kislovodsk, high up in the mountains. I don’t know if they had many cars driving on those roads so the Borodinoffs would probably have travelled by horse and coach. The roads would have been narrow and pretty dangerous, especially the higher up the mountains you travelled 😮

You can see what the roads were like from the two photos below. They were taken at the Bagatski Ravine but I honestly don’t if it’s close to Kislovodsk or not, however I’m sure all the roads up the mountains were similar in those days. Totally terrifying 😮

Near the Bagatski Bridge

Near the Bagatski Bridge

Bagatski Ravine

Bagatski Ravine


Lida in her choka

Lida in her choka (Click to enlarge)


The outfit that Anya and Lida were wearing in those two photos is a Georgian garb called a «chokha». It was mainly worn by men but in some parts of the country women also wore it so obviously that included Kislovodsk.

As you can see, Lida was holding a sword which was called the «khanjali», the Georgian national weapon; Anya had hers on her belt.  They had the «masrebi» (bullets) on their chokhas and both wore the high fur hat called the «nabdis kudi».

Two other places which I know Anya and her family used to holiday in were Sukhum, a beautiful old city, the capital of Abkhazia in western Georgia, and Sochi which is situated near the border between Georgia/Abkhazia and Russia.


Sochi’s history dates back to Ancient Greek and Roman times and from the 6th century onwards, Sochi was a part of various Georgian kingdoms and clans until 1829, when the coastline region was ceded to Russia after the Caucasian and Russo-Turkish Wars.

Sochi was famous for supplying Russia with tea when the first plantations were established at the beginning of the 20th Century, and it also had several TB sanitoriums (sanitoria? 😉 ) which people used to go to.

Pictures of Sochi in the 1900s

Pictures of Sochi in the 1900s

However I know that Sukhum was the favourite place for the Borodinoff family.


Back in the early 1900s, it was called Sukhum-Kaleh and was called Sukhum in Russian until 1936, when it became Sukhumi. Since it was known as Sukhum when the Borodinoffs visited, I will refer to it by the name.

The town is situated on the east coast of the Black Sea, sheltered by mountains on three sides so was never freezing cold in winter.

Sukhum stands on the site of the ancient Greek colony of Dioskurias and back in those days it boasted a cathedral and a botanical garden. It has a semi-tropical climate and was home to exotic floral varieties unknown elsewhere in the Russian Empire.

The entrace to the Botanical Gardens in Sukhumi

The entrance to the Botanical Gardens in Sukhum

1910 - Cotton growing in Sukhumi's Botanical Gardens. Photo by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

1910 – Cotton growing in the Botanical Gardens. Photo by SM Prokudin-Gorskii








With Sochi being the place for people with TB to go, it seems that Sukhum was the place doctors recommended if their patients were suffering from heart and lung problems. It had a great climate and was surrounded by springs which brought forth marvellously healthy mineral water 🙂





St Petersburg

Am very hazy about what Anya did during her childhood and teen years but I do know that she was a student at a private girls’ college in St Petersburg.

According to my aunt she was a very intelligent and diligent student who won a gold medal in her final year and her grades were good enough for her to attend university if she’d wanted to go. Certainly her father was wealthy enough to pay for her advanced education.

Most of the girls would have been of noble birth or, like Anya, hereditary honorary citizens, and I do know that the Smolny Institute for Noble Women had girls who were not noble so perhaps Anya went there.

A moot point, since we will never know unless we find a list of students from her time. However I will describe how the Institute worked since it’s the only one I can find any information about.

The Smolny Institute of Noble Ladies was opened on May 5, 1764, after Tsar Peter (the Great) was inspired by the Saint Cyr Girl’s Institute in Versailles started by Madame de Maintenon.

Originally Tsar Peter set up secular private schools for young orphan girls to learn grammar and domestic science. However the Smolny Institute flowered under Catherine the Great. She decreed that only young ladies from the best families would be accepted and the education was provided free of charge.

It seems that the girls who were accepted spent their entire lives from 6-18 years there, not going back to their families until they graduated and were ready for marriage.

Smolny was referred to as «a greenhouse for raising delicate and beautiful flowers» – how cute was that!! LOL!! 😀

However, on a more serious note, Tsarina Catherine realised that the nation owed a lot to mothers and how they brought up their families. A cultured and moral mother would raise children who would follow her example.

I read a rather remarkable piece about the loyalty these Smolny graduates had for their husbands, which I’ll quote here :

«Girls were under the very careful control of the Headmistress and their teachers. Unlike the typical schools of the day, no corporal punishment or abuse of any kind was allowed in Smolny. Girls were raised in respect, high self-esteem and great spiritual and traditional values. They were considered to be the “gems of Russia,” its future and great hope. And, there was a reason for this.

The girls were prepared not only to be excellent wives, but also the wise and devoted mothers of their children. These young women were isolated in the school from bad influences of any kind and were taught to be “pure and honest in their hearts, devoted and faithful, joyful and polite, modest and kind.” They were raised in Christian values.

Noble young women were taught to be helpers for their husbands and were prepared not only for the good times, but for the worst times, as well. They all learned to be survivors – to never give up. The rules and discipline in the school were very strict. Girls came out of gymnastics to a cold shower and often took baths in the cold Neva River. They slept on hard beds and lived a very Spartan life.

Aside from the high education these girls received, they were also trained to become real survivors. Many of these girls of Smolny were wives of the famous “Decembrists,” who attempted a revolt against Czar Nicholas I in 1825. After the revolt failed, the Czar offered these Smolny wives the opportunity to divorce their husbands, remain in St. Petersburg and retain their high social status. Of the eleven surviving Russian officers who were not executed after the revolt and were exiled to a harsh life in Siberia, all eleven wives spurned the Czar’s offer and followed their husbands into exile. Most of these girls were not much older than 20 and had been raised up in refined privilege and luxury. Their loyalty and devotion to their husbands is a powerful testament to the training these girls received at Smolny.»
[Source: The Traditional Women of Russia]

Private girls’ academies (or gymnasia as they were called) were opened in St Petersburg from the end of the 1870s. For the first few years, only one or two opened each year but by 1917, there were 56 girls’ schools available.

There were four “grades” for these schools:

The first grade was for girls aged 6-9 years old. They were taught Religious Instruction (God’s Law), Russian, French, German, Italian, arithmatic, drawing, crafts and dance. Girls in the first grade wore coffee-coloured dresses as uniforms.

Anya in her school uniform

Anya in her school uniform Click to enlarge

Girls aged 9-12 years were in the second grade and their subjects included everything from the first grade, plus history, geography and practical knowledge for home duties. Their uniforms were blue.

The third grade had girls aged 12-15 years. They too studied the same subjects as they had in the second grade but had additional subjects which were philology, experimental physics, architecture and heraldry. These girls had grey-coloured uniforms.

The girls in the fourth grade wore white uniforms, like the one Anya was wearing in the above photo. These girls were 15-18 years old and they were taught the power of repetition and practical classes on home economics, needlework and bookkeeping. The older girls learned geometry.
[Source: “Friend of Mankind,” Ivan Ivanovich Betskoi]

The young ladies were also taught «to pass their education, traditions, moral values and the purity of their hearts to their children and grandchildren». Not only that but the main purpose of the school was to prepare excellent wives for noble gentlemen. All girls learned housekeeping and domestic management, cooking, sewing, knitting, a general knowledge of medicine, and much more, and it helped those girls to become real survivors.
[Source: Smolny Institute (The Traditional Women of Russia)]

From what I’ve been told about the Nozadzes’ life in Shanghai, it seems that all the instruction that Anya got when she was at her gymnasium helped to keep her family together in Shanghai after the Revolution!

Anya went to the St Isaac Cathedral often when she was in St Petersburg and even after decades had passed, she still remembered its majesty!

The stunning interior of St Isaac Cathedral

The stunning interior of St Isaac Cathedral

The floor, walls, arches and the huge pillars were decorated with 14 kinds of marble, as well as jasper, malachite, lazurite, porphyry, gilded stucco, frescoes and metres of mosaics.  More than 400kg of gold, 1000 tons of bronze and 16 tons of malachite were used in the interior of the cathedral.

The huge central dome could be seen from all over the city and it could be said that the cathedral was extravagant in the extreme. It was consecrated on May 30, 1858.

St Isaac Cathedral

St Isaac Cathedral (Click to enlarge)



Could this have been Anya’s graduation photo? (Click to enlarge)

According to my aunt, Joseph Nozadze first set eyes on Anya at a hotel in St Petersburg. He’d gone there to join a group who was gambling and lost a lot of money.  As he walked into the foyer, he saw her standing on the wide, winding staircase. He decided then and there that she was the girl he was going to marry.

He asked his second cousin, Ucha Dadiani to find out who this girl was and introduce her to him  🙂

I don’t think Anya was as enamoured with Joseph as he was with her.  Lindy told me a story that Joseph went to see Anya, pulled out his service revolver and threatened to shoot himself if she refused to marry him!  😮

I seem to remember hearing that Anya was 20 when she got married, so that would have been in 1915 but which month?



Places where Anya vacationed

Photos of places in Georgia Anya visited with her family when she was young

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Home » Anna Akimovna Nozadze (née Borodinova) ~ 1895-1979 » Smolny Institute and St Petersburg

Smolny Institute and St Petersburg

Photos showing the Smolny Institute for Noble Ladies and scenes of St Petersburg during the time when Anya might have been there

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Anya and her family

Pictures of Anya and her family when she was growing up

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