The Imperiia Project: a spatial history of the Russian Empire

The legend of the fall

Söyembikä was mother to the last khan of Kazan. In 1551, Russian forces under Tsar Ivan IV ('the Terrible") captured her and confined her in Moscow until her death. Experts argue whether the tower named after her was built in the reign of Ivan IV (late sixteenth century) or in that of Peter I (early 18th century). Either way, a flaw in its foundation cause it to lean, much like the famous tower in Pisa. Repairs were made in the 1990s.

But legend has it that Ivan IV decided to marry Söyembikä upon completing his conquest of the Khanate of Kazan in 1552. Söyembikä sought a way out of the marriage by agreeing on condition that Ivan prove his worth by building a tower taller than she had ever seen. In one week's time - to Söyembikä's sorrow, one imagines - Ivan's men built the tower. Resigned, Söyembikä asked to climb it. And when she reached the top, she flung herself down rather than consent to marry the Orthodox tsar.

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