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Both Sharkova and Hardwick weigh in on why St. Petersburg's relative location will serve it well in the future.

SHARKOVA…the strongest factor that's working for St. Petersburg is its location. It was strategically located close to Europe and in the area that's easily accessed through the Baltic Sea. And now with the decline, particularly the decline of connections through Baltics, St. Petersburg plays even higher role again as a window to Europe in this sense or to the rest of the world. …its educated labor force that's there; its traditions of an educated and progressive, in many regards, progressive labor force; a lot of institutions of higher education and firms dealing with development of innovations are located in St. Petersburg as well. So I see that the city in general is very well-positioned for the future and probably even for the post-industrial development, to a larger extent than industrial development.

…Because it's not only, my sense, again, of informational economy will also, would include not only accessibility to computers but it also, presence of firms that generate knowledge; proximity of these firms, not only in the virtual space but in the real space, to each other as well as to their counterparts throughout, for example, Europe. It also makes a difference. Then the ease at which visitors from Europe could come to St. Petersburg, again, this depends on its location. But it also positions the city well in terms of bringing in opportunities for the future development, for example. …the location, on one hand, doesn't seem to be that important but yet it still is important. It still does play the role and maybe the role changes a little bit. But it still plays the role.

St. Petersburg has a number of well-known and well-respected institutions of higher education and has seen an increase in the private or new institutions as well. So there is a core of institutions such as St. Petersburg State University or several technological institutes of high quality and high caliber. And connections between these institutions, I guess, and the rest of the world are certainly very important. It's not only exchange of students; it's also exchange of ideas and faculty. And I'd say, again, probably St. Petersburg is slightly less-endowed in opportunities for such connections comparing to Moscow. But it is very important nevertheless and its place, its unique role in the connections within the Baltic region and, for example, Northern Europe and the rest of Europe, too.

HARDWICK: …[St. Petersburg is] so connected to the West. I mean, the people just bringing all the goods in from Finland and Sweden, from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Germany, they're bringing all this stuff in to sell. And so it, in a way, it's connected to the West, both in the terms of the old and the new Russia…

I think now we're in the next stage of edicts. Now we're in the privatization, post-Soviet era, of non-edict edicts, and I think that the industrial function is transitioning to more the kinds of economic support, as many of our cities in North America are, that it's less heavy industry now and more dependent on smaller cleaner industries…I sense that it's probably outgrown some of its industrial function because other parts of the Russian Federation are more dominant, more important in that, and it's, but at the same time, it's evolving into more tertiary and quaternary production. That's the next stage, the information age stage. The links with the outside world, the global market stage. So I don't think it's losing its importance. I don't think it ever will, because of its location, being the only port, now that the Black Sea is, you know, Ukraine dominates that port. So I still think it's going to keep the port function, the import/export function, but it's going to turn and face the West in a new way now. It already has, in the last ten years. …[N]ow the politics have opened up, the transportation linkages have improved, the Internet is on board, and so the connections with the West and the rest of the world in general are being enhanced by all these changes. So I think it's going to remain a really important city because of its geography.

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