Russian Geo-targeting Series Week 2: Saint Petersburg

The Russian Geo-targeting Series continues this week with a visit to Russia’s second city, Saint Petersburg. Though occasionally overshadowed by foreign businesses in favor of Moscow, Saint Petersburg’s high population and its well-connected nature offer many of the same benefits to foreign businesses as Moscow. In fact, in some respects the city is even more attractive than the capital for business! We invite you to learn more about the Venice of the North below.

Introducing Saint Petersburg

Saint Petersburg is Russia’s second largest city, with a population estimated at roughly 5 million people. Compared to Moscow, Saint Petersburg has a considerably shorter history, having been founded in 1703 by Peter the Great as the new capital of the Russian Empire. The planned city was intended to help usher in a new era of Europeanization for Russia, and this trend has continued to present day, as Saint Petersburg is still considered to be the most Westernized city of Russia.

  • Population: 5 million
  • Location: North West Russia
  • Time zone: UTC +3
  • Climate: Humid continental climate
  • Informal names: Petersburg, Piter (Russian transliteration)

Though it is Russia’s second city, Saint Petersburg possesses many of the same advantages of Moscow. Direct flights are available to many EU capitals and other cities across the Middle East and Eurasia. The city is a major rail hub, with regular high-speed rail services to Moscow. The city’s location on the Baltic Sea allows Saint Petersburg to be home to a major port, and the city is an increasingly popular stop for Baltic cruise lines. The climate is similar to Moscow’s, though winters are actually somewhat warmer due to the moderating effect of the Gulf of Finland.

When learning about Russian culture and society, one is bound to quickly come across the rivalry between Saint Petersburg and Moscow. The cities have long been viewed as being in sharp comparison with one another, with Saint Petersburg regarded as Russia’s most “European” and progressive city and Moscow considered the base of traditional Russian culture. These ideas were perpetuated during the imperial period, when Saint Petersburg attracted Russia’s most renowned and talented writers and artists. The Soviet period and Moscow recovering the seat of government somewhat dulled the cultural dominance of Saint Petersburg, but the city is still widely considered the cultural capital and most Westernized city in modern Russia.

St. Petersburg, Russia - May 9, 2015: Crowd in the subway station Admiralteyskaya going to watch the parade celebrating the Victory in WWII. The station working only for exit but nevertheless it was overloaded

St. Petersburg, Russia – May 9, 2015: Crowd in the subway station Admiralteyskaya going to watch the parade celebrating the Victory in WWII. The station working only for exit but nevertheless it was overloaded

This reputation has made the city a popular tourist destination, with international visitors flocking to the city to view landmarks like the Hermitage Museum, which houses one of the world’s largest collections of art in the former official residence of the monarchy. Other destinations drawing tourists include the State Russian Museum, Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, the Church of the Savior on Blood, as well as a number of restored imperial palaces on the outskirts of the city.

The city’s imperial history hardly means Saint Petersburg is stuck in the past. Pulkovo Airport, Russia’s third busiest, recently completed construction on a new terminal and another is undergoing a major overhaul. In 2011, the city completed work on a beltway, with the final leg of the ring road being carried over a dam that functions as a flood control system. Expansion of the city’s metro system, Russia’s second largest, has continued well into the 21st century. The recent completion of a new cruise terminal means that Saint Petersburg is an increasingly popular stop for cruise lines in the Baltic Sea, allowing scores of Europeans to visit Russia for the first time in their lives.

Saint Petersburg and the Internet

Saint Petersburg is largely on par with Moscow when looking at most indexes of Internet use. The city had the same Internet penetration as Moscow in 2014, at 77%, and had one of the largest growth rates in Internet users in Russia in 2014. The share of those connecting to the Internet from their mobile devices was somewhat lower than it was in Moscow, but growth in 2014 was higher, leading to the reasonable assumption that the cities will soon be on par in this area as well. In some areas, Saint Petersburg actually outperforms the capital concerning Internet access. The minimum cost of mobile access per month was lower in Saint Petersburg in February 2015, and the average mobile traffic limit was higher.

St Petersburg Internet facts

Saint Petersburg’s Internet users are nearly as active in e-commerce as Muscovites, with 85% of Internet users shopping online. This area also presents another index where Saint Petersburg outperforms Moscow, with 5% more organizations having a website listed in the Yandex.Maps directory. This indicates room for growth, as more firms in Saint Petersburg have a presence on Yandex.Maps than in Moscow.

Saint Petersburg Industry Specific Fun Facts

The following industry related facts are compiled from market research reports prepared by Yandex analysts.

  • Saint Petersburg is the second most popular city in Russia for generic hotel queries, as well as generic queries for “flights”
  • Saint Petersburg is the most popular city in Russia for hostel searches
  • Moscow and St. Petersburg alone have over 30 million impressions per quarter for the fashion industry
  • Across all of Russia and CIS, Saint Petersburg is the second most popular locale for queries related to buying clothes

For more specific facts on these industries check out the reports!  Check in next week for the blog on the Central Region!