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Like many ancient cities, Kazan abounds with legends. Among the many prominent structures featured in the city’s Kremlin is the Söyembikä Tower, named for the incredibly beautiful mother of the last Tatar Khan of Kazan. Even though she was in her 30s, Söyembikä captured the interest of Ivan the Terrible when he conquered the great city. Struck with her beauty, the Russian Tsar proposed a Christian marriage to her, a prospect that Söyembikä, a Muslim, became unhappy about even at the thought. To avoid invoking his wrath upon her people, she told Ivan that she would accept the proposal if he would build for her the tallest tower in Kazan in seven days. Ivan ordered his men to carry out the task, and they built a seven-tier structure, finishing one tier by the end of each day of construction. When Ivan completed the task, Söyembikä somberly climbed to the highest tier, looked out over her beloved city, and with tearful eyes, jumped to her death from it. Although the tower still stands, visitors today are not allowed to climb it because, rather like the leaning Tower of Pisa, the Söyembikä Tower has begun to tilt despite efforts to stabilize its foundations.
The future of Kazan appears to be equally strongly tied into its unique mixture of religious beliefs. Philanthropist Ildar Khanov began work on his Temple of All Religions in 1992 near the shores of the Volga River, and this unique building is still under construction. The Temple makes use of religious architecture from all over the world, including an Orthodox church dome, a minaret, synagogue-like fixtures, and other items representative of 16 of the world’s many faiths. Khanov, who is known for his work at treating alcoholism, drug addiction, and other social diseases, resides at the structure, which is used as a sort of cultural center. Many of his assistants in building the temple were at one time recipients of his treatments. Ultimately, Khanov hopes to create for his home city a beautifully decorated monument to “culture and truth,” a perfect symbol for such a cosmopolitan city.