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Magazine Helps Firms Test Russian Waters

ESTABLISHING a business foothold in Russia has proven to be rough going for many Western companies.

Fast-changing regulations, difficult logistics, and the lack of an established business culture have frustrated early expectations. But opportunities still abound.

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A new magazine, Russian Trade Express, aims to capitalize on persistent interest in investment in Russia.

``Russia is one of the last great frontiers,'' says David Norwood, publisher of Russian Trade Express. ``It's not very often in a lifetime that you have a whole country open up to business the way that Russia has. We hope to help companies answer some of their questions.''

About 400 Western companies have set up offices in Moscow, Mr. Norwood says. ``Companies with offices there are a list of the Who's Who of the business world,'' he adds, ``including Fruit of the Loom, Boeing, Westinghouse, and Mitsubishi.'' Yet many firms are in the ``initial feeler'' stage of their involvement.

Russian Trade Express was launched by a Russian editorial staff about 20 months ago. For the past six months, it has been printed in the US by Norwood and his partner, Pamela Smisek, in Moulton, Ala. The magazine is produced in St. Petersburg by a staff of between 15 and 20 full-time Russian and expatriate American writers. The magazine examines both the ``good stuff and bad stuff'' of Russian business.

A recent issue described how a St. Petersburg brokerage firm discovered that safety documents accompanying a shipment had been forged using a regular photocopier. Warnings about this kind of deception can be useful for a company without experience in Russia.

Given the need for practical logistical information, Russian Trade Express focuses on providing the names, addresses, and contact numbers of business associations in Russia. ``It's an educational tool,'' Norwood says.

Russian Trade Express could be useful for executives who are just beginning to think about investing in Russia, says Vladimir Kvint, a lecturer at Fordham University and an Arthur Andersen consultant. But ``if a person has had a business transaction or several business trips to Russia, this magazine is not for him,'' Dr. Kvint says. Kvint recommends as more practical and current two publications: Delovyi Lude [Businessman], or Commersant [Merchant].

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