When walking through the streets of the posher, historical parts of the city centre, you are likely to encounter mostly stately façades and expensive boutiques. But psst! – real life is lived in the courtyards, away from prying eyes.
Vse Svobodny (Everyone Is Free) is a place you’ll have some trouble spotting unless you’re going there intentionally. I remember once (or twice, or even thrice) squeezing through the wrong entrance and rambling around claustrophobic connecting yards before locating the shop.
Inside, Vse Svobodny is a well chilled place, due to the relative lack of random clientèle that haunts more accessible bookshops. It’s brimming with mostly modernist literature, and their left-wing sympathies are evident in the pictures of Lennon, Mayakovsky or Uncle Ho on the walls, as well as on several shelves of carefully selected socialist and anarchist writers.
Sadly for those who don’t read Russian, there’s only an odd Terry Eagleton book here or a bilingual poetry tome there, but there are also postcards and calendars by local artists and photographers (infinitely more stylish than the ordinary tourist trash).
They shared the space with an ever-changing cast of other petty entrepreneurs, a record shop, a tea room (that one lasted a while), now it’s a hand-made design studio (which closes before the bookshop does).