The Companies of Eastern Europe

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A recent informal poll of top European business information specialists revealed that most information specialists had difficulties locating information about Eastern Europe. The survey, taken during TFPL's prestigious European Business Information Conference (EBIC) held in Milan in March 1996, was not particularly lengthy. The question invited comment only about geographic gaps and did not query the specialists about what kinds of information were missing from the various geographic regions. In subsequent discussion sessions during the conference, there was general agreement that the lack revolved around Eastern European company information. Taking this as a challenge, I returned from Milan all fired up to investigate sources of Eastern European company information.

WHERE IN THE WORLD IS EASTERN EUROPE?

Before embarking on such an investigation, the geographic boundaries of Eastern Europe must be understood. And here we find some interesting linguistic and geopolitical issues.

First of all, as I have noted previously [1], Eastern Europe can also be phrased as East Europe. Some databases use regional codes in addition to country codes. Business & Industry, for example, uses Eastern Europe (coded as EAE with individual country codes linked to the "extra" code of EAEX) as does Reuter TextLine (coded as EEUR with the expanded code of EEURZ). Dow Jones News/Retrieval's regional code, EEU, is described as East Europe and restricts a search to publications emanating from Eastern Europe or solely devoted to Eastern European companies, industries and markets. IAC GlobalBASE shortens the region's name to East Europe (coded as 6EE).

Some files double post the region names with the extra, expanded codes but others do not. Reuter TextLine double-posts (all records coded with EEUR are also coded with EEURZ); Business & Industry rarely does (only ten records are coded both with EAE and EAEX).

When there is no regional designation, individual country names must be searched. This raises the question of which countries are actually in Eastern Europe. At one time, designations such as USSR, Comecon countries, or Warsaw Pact were synonymous with Eastern Europe. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the USSR came the concept of Commonwealth Independent States or CIS. But look at a map.

Many of the states that were part of the Soviet Union are not truly in Europe. Rather, they are more Asian or Middle Eastern than European. Places like Tajikstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Krygistan border China, Afghanistan, and Pakistanhardly part of the European sphere. Russia straddles two continents. As commentator Peter Millar writes, "Russia is the frayed edge [of Europe]: a country which, in terms of its landmass, exists primarily in Asia. In terms of its population, however, it is decidedly European, and exists in what is conventionally considered Europe west of the Urals...Russia, until the beginning of this century, behaved as a wholly European power, with attached Asian colonies" [2].

West of the Ural mountain range is a reasonable geographic definition for Europe. But not everything immediately west of the Urals is considered Eastern Europe. Some of it goes by the moniker of Central Europe. Countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary are frequently lumped together under the nomenclature of Central Europe rather than Eastern Europe.

From a database perspective, CAB International uses Central Europe to describe the region; Delphes, produced by the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has as its geographic term Central and Eastern Europe. Dun & Bradstreet ignores the entire issue. All of Eastern Europe and the ex-USSR countries are coded in International Dun's Market Identifiers with the continent Europe. The Wall Street Journal Europe publishes a monthly insert titled "Central European Economic Review" although its front-page column covering Central Europe is titled "Eastern Update: A Roundup of East European Business and Political Development. …