Talk about odd couples. "The Sixth Continent" by Mark Frankland and "The Gorbachev Strategy" by Thomas Naylor, when read together, make the reader schizophrenic. Frankland's book, a conventional look at the Soviet Union by a two-term journalist for the London Observer in Moscow, provides a close-up and at times fascinating view of one of the most intriguing periods of transition in Soviet history. Frankland, who has developed a good feel for Soviet life and conditions, is particularly interesting on the Chernenko and Gorbachev eras. In contrast, Naylor, who says he is "recognized throughout the world for his expertise in business strategy and international business" and who openly disdains his lack of experience and training on the Soviet Union, has stitched together a misleading book about the Soviet Union. Unencumbered by Naylor's apparent need to provide detail, engage in research or use primary sources (except some of Mikhail Gorbachev's speeches), the book is notable for mistakes (over 50 and counting), misinterpretations and poor editing.
While reading the two books, I began to ask myself what would it be like if Frankland and Naylor had been asked to review each other's books. Naylor would take Frankland to task for being one-dimensional. The study of the Soviet Union, that sixth continent, has for too long been the preserve of a narrow band of Sovietologists. In fact, Naylor criticizes Sovietologists and their poor record in foretelling developments in the Soviet Union at least 13 times in his book. Naylor would argue that being in the Soviet Union for six years or so clouds Frankland's perspective. Sovietologists tend to concentrate too much on personalities and not enough on more general currents that tend to influence world events. Moreover, foreigners who live in the Soviet Union tend to become anti-Soviet.