Tania Konn. Guide to business information on Russia, the NIS and the Baltic States. 3rd ed. London: Aslib-IMI, 2000. 310 p. ISBN 0 85142 436 8. £35.
The title of the book reflects the complexity of the region selected by the author for coverage in this publication. It breaks the region into Russia, the NIS (new independent states), and the Baltic States. Each part is a mosaic of smaller or bigger states with their own histories, economic problems, and specific characteristics. That is most true of Russia - a single state with such diversity of cultures, ways of life, resources, as well as attractions and threats to business people, that filing relevant business information sources only about Russia would be a sufficient target for a much bigger reference guide.
The author, however, has found a coherent approach to present business information sources on this set of countries varying in natural resources, business practices, and legislation. The task was made easier as only sources in English language, whether produced inside the countries or abroad, were selected. This is the reason why the material from the USA and the UK is heavily dominates the publication, though local sources are by no means disregarded. Besides, the author remarks:
"Beyond a certain stage of investigation it is always sensible to exploit local language sources, if necessary through translation services." (p. 2)
The guide is constructed in a clear-cut and transparent way, which is explained in the introduction. Three chapters summarise the sources that are of a more universal character and deal with more than one country: general for the whole region, the Baltic States, and Central Asia and Transcaucasia. Each country is listed in alphabetical order. Business information sources inside each chapter are presented in a way that covers the main business interest areas: general situation, current state, and participants in the market, legislation, and organisations providing business information. Huge work was done to include printed, electronic (CD as well as Internet) and organisational sources. Each sub-chapter starts with the general characteristics of available sources; each entry is described in short, with contact details and price given. This is done with professional expertise and the information is first-hand and reliable. Besides, one can find sound advice how to use the items, like:
"Multi-country compilations can be used to good effect to supplement sparse, or absent, national sectoral sources." (p. 31)
"... there are frequent occasions when western and indigenous reporting cannot be reconciled; and when British and American sources view the same events differently. This situation should encourage the selection of sources to gain a balanced perspective." (p. 19)
However, I question the decision to unite Central Asia and Transcaucasia in one region much more than the inclusion of the Baltic States into the guide (which from the author's point of view is well justified). The states in the first two regions definitely fall into two major groups with common characteristics. It would have been better to keep Central Asia (which is diverse enough) apart from Transcaucasian states as they are attracting different interests. In the case of regions, the politically correct decision to keep the alphabetic listing of countries becomes awkward for the user, as it would be much more convenient to have an overview of a region and countries belonging to it in one piece and not scattered over the book.
In general the guide provides a quite complete range of sources for each country and it would be difficult to point out something missing. On the whole, I would have expected more references to Euromonitor International (www.euromonitor.com), and, of course, something more from Lithuania, like:
Directory of Lithuanian enterprises maintained by "Telenor Media"
The Lithuanian publishers directory. / edited by Dale T. Lukas. Medford, New Jersey (USA): Information today, inc., 1999. 209 p.
On the other hand, there is always a necessity to select one or another source in preference to some others for the lack of space and the author may have good reasons for excluding the missing ones.
Dr. Elena Macevičiūtė