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Great expectations: Russia’s best independent bookshops

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Great expectations: Russia’s best independent bookshops

Poryadok Slov (Word Order)
Founders: Anna Izakar and Konstantin Shavlovsky
Location: St Petersburg
Founded: 2010

The 2008 financial crisis took its toll on independent bookshops in St Petersburg. Feeling their loss, Anna Izakar and Konstantin Shavlovsky decided to open their own store, specialising in non-fiction covering cinema, theatre, philosophy and more as well as Russian and foreign magazines. “Our main idea is to encourage self-education,” says Izakar. “We have created a place where it’s possible to acquire knowledge just by buying one of our books or going to one of our free events. We organise lectures on on literature, art, sociology and philosophy as well as book readings and film screenings. If I may be so bold, I think we’ve created a unique little community.”

Like so many other bookshops to have opened in recent years, Poryadok Slov, which means ”word order” in English, offers up not only books for sale but also a cultural space. “We’ve drawn on the experience of foreign bookshops such as Shakespeare and Company where depending on when you visited you could have bumped into T.S. Eliot, Henry Miller, Aleister Crowley or Jacques Lacan.” Although other independent bookshops have since opened in St Petersburg, Izakar is unconcerned. “An independent bookshop is a completely subjective concept,” she explains, “where the selection of titles and placement of books within the shop depends entirely on the owners’ tastes and values. As such, each such place has its own personality and its own regular customers.”